I still vividly remember the incident when my daughter threw a full-blown tantrum in a shopping mall seven years ago. She was three years old at that time. She had happened to see a candy store in the mall and wanted me to buy a few for her. I simply refused or rather politely declined because she already had eaten one fat slice of cake that morning and giving more sweets would have upset her stomach and mealtime. God knows what happened, she freed herself from my arms, started howling at the top of her voice and even began to bang her head against the floor. This went on for a good ten minutes before I had to give in to her demand to avoid creating a public scene.
Sounds familiar? Well, tantrums, meltdowns or emotional outbreaks are common among children, especially in the age group 1-5 years. However, these events are nothing less than a parenting nightmare! So, next time your kid throws a tantrum, here is how you can deal with it.
Understand the Reason Behind Tantrum
A tantrum is a child’s way of expressing anger, frustration or any other kind of emotion/feeling. The kid will shout, cry, throw things, bang head or hit parents/siblings during the tantrum episode. Sometimes you know the reason (like in my daughter’s case, she wanted candies) and sometimes you don’t know (for example, the kid may be going through an emotional turmoil or needs your attention but not able to put into words). Honestly, it is easier to deal if you know the reason. But, if you don’t know, you will have to find a way to find out the reason.
Keep Yourself Calm and Patient
While there is nothing more you want to do than pulling your hair out and commanding your kids to behave (if only, it was that simple!) in a stern voice, this is something that will not work for tantrums. Rather, it will only frighten your kids or make them withdraw in their shell. You have to stay calm and patient – take a few deep breaths if required to bring your emotions under control.
Be Compassionate to the Child
Being compassionate doesn’t mean that you will give the children what they want or encourage this behaviour further. Here, compassion translates into acknowledging your children’s feelings, listening patiently, talking gently and responding with composure. This kind of parenting response will give a sense of comfort and security to your children, even if their behaviour is inappropriate. You need to remember that you are the adult in this situation. A kid is a kid after all.
Some parents tend to punish their children to ensure that they do not repeat tantrums. They may lock the child in the room or stop talking to the child. This could lead to two situations – either the child won’t care anymore and keep throwing the tantrum or the child would stop tantrums in the future, but grow up with a deep sense of insecurity, trauma or anger towards parents. So, punishment should never be an option to deal with tantrums.
Try to Negotiate or Distract
Negotiation and distraction are two ideal techniques to get your kid and yourself out of this tantrum situation. For example, if the kid wants pizza for the dinner, you could negotiate that s/he won’t eat any other junk food that week or month. Alternatively, you could take the kid out in the park, sing his or her favourite song, offer to watch his or her favourite movie together or do anything that could distract the kid from the tantrum.
Tantrums are pretty much normal part of the growing up years. However, if you feel that the tantrums are become quite frequent or going out of control to handle your way, you could meet a parent-child counsellor or child behaviour therapist.