Thursday, 15 December 2011

Tantrums

The Little One is starting to assert himself by throwing tantrums when he does not get his way. Usually over having to leave the playground, or me needing to be somewhere but in the same room with him – mostly the kitchen.
Occasionally, he is hungry, or simply over-tired. Those are easy to deal with. Feed him regularly, make sure he has his naps, just being sensitive to his rhythms and routines.
However, it is the tantrums over him not getting what he wants that are a little tougher for me to handle. Some are still ok -he can be distracted out of a tantrum if, for example, he wants to go out *now* but we are not ready to leave yet.
The ones that are especially tough for me to handle are him wanting me to carry him, and him wanting me beside him all the time. I tell him that I’ve got to go to the kitchen, and he starts protesting. Or he comes in after me and pushes me away from the sink or stove. I find it easier to give in to him because it stops him from crying, but I know that that is not the solution. In fact, it is teaching him to throw tantrums to get his way.
I’ve looked into it, and there are several suggestions to deal with tantrums:
1) Ignore it. (Much easier said than done for me.)
As long as the child is safe and is not in danger of harming himself, the advice is to simply ignore the tantrums as they show the child that such behaviour is not acceptable. In the meantime, neither reward nor punish the child. Most importantly, be calm.
If the child is very physical and is likely to hurt himself, hug him firmly and lovingly and say “You’re angry and you’ve lost control. I’m holding you because I love you.” This teaches the child that you are there for him, even though you do not condone the behaviour. (See No. 2)
2) Teach the child alternatives to tantrum
After the tantrum has passed, talk to the child about the tantrum. There is no need to get into the ‘whys’ of the tantrum, but descibe the feeling and the behaviour. “You were angry/frustrated and were throwing a tantrum. You were throwing things and crying.”
Then explain that such behaviour is unacceptable, and give the child an alternative to expressing the feeling. Using words if the child is verbal, sign language is the child is not.
Follow up with what the child should do /should not do next time. ” (What will you do next time? Should you ___?”)
3) Let your child know what will happen ahead of time
Give ample warning, such as “We’ll be leaving in 5 minutes’ time.” “We’re going to the supermarket to buy some groceries.”
Follow up with what the expected behaviour is. “
I do let my son know when I’m going to another room. However, he still gets upset when I actually leave. Maybe I should give him more of a warning that I’ll be leaving, and explain to him how I expect him to behave when I’m away.
4) Give choices
This gives the child a sense of control, which may avert a tantrum.
5) Distract
when you see a tantrum coming. Although it may not be possible all the time.
6) Be consistent
Do not give in sometimes and hold firm sometimes. If you do so, your child may view screaming as a legitimate way of getting his way. This is difficult for me, especially in public, but I guess I just have to remind myself that everytime I give in, I’m actually teaching him to throw tantrums, and that teaching my child to behave properly is more important than the perceived embarrassment.
7) Be calm
Remember that toddlers throwing tantrums are a normal! It is a typical stage of development. Toddlers are not trying to embarrass or anger you. They simply want certain things/ things done a certain way, but do not have impulse control, the verbal skills to communicate their wants and desires or frustrations, nor the mental ability to handle not getting their way yet.
Frustration tantrums
Most of the strategies mentioned apply to tantrums thrown to manipulate. Sometimes, toddlers throw tantrums out of frustration. Of not being able to communicate, or of not having the motor skills necessary to do certain things. In such cases, the advice is not to ignore these tantrums, but to emphathise and to offer a helping hand. Perhaps breaking down the task into more manageable parts and encouraging the child to communicate what he wants.
Most importantly, Be Calm. Do not start screaming at the child, because that only teaches that it is ok to scream to get what you want, i.e. it is ok to throw a tantrum to get your way, because look, it is what Mum and Dad do too.
Best of luck to all at this stage in their parenthood journey.

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