Your little one, an otherwise pleasant and a happy child, suddenly turns into a little monster, screaming at the peak of his voice, eyes shut, jumping up and down, then rolling on the floor, legs in the air moving like some exercise steps while you stand there wondering, what went wrong? And how does all this energy fit into such a tiny being? Oh right, that’s why he’s exploding!!
Only a child has the most ridiculous possible reasons:
You put a straw in the milk; he wanted to do it himself
You washed his night suit; he likes to wear the dirty one
Mom and dad have the same jackets; she can’t stand the matching
You gave her an extra round, carrying her at bedtime; she didn’t ask for it
You parked in the spot he doesn’t like
Why did the taxi driver take the service road? That’s not the route home!
The best thing about a tantrum is that once the storm has passed, you have a hilarious story to tell and if you keep a diary or a journal, you might actually look forward to the next one. At least a good laugh in the future is guaranteed! However, as long as you’re in the moment, there’s no escaping it.
Contrary to the general belief, a child throwing a fit doesn’t indicate bad parenting. Still, the frequency of the temper tantrums and the duration of each one can be minimized with good parenting which includes preventing the triggers (sleep deprivation, hunger, exhaustion, surprises or changes in the daily routine) and pre-discussion about probable issues, how to avoid the fuss and ways to help settle the child’s anger.
Involve the child in the discussion and respect his opinion. He might expect you to get his approval before you throw his pajamas in the laundry or start picking up his toys.
But despite all the precautions, the nightmare can still come. So, following are the tips to deal with one.
Don’t judge or take it personally. How dare he shout at me or hit me!
Don’t say anything that means ‘so what?’ It must be important to the child for him to make so much fuss about.
Don’t lecture about the lack of logic behind his frenzy. It’s even more difficult for him to understand in the current moment.
Don’t force him to stop screaming or crying by raising your own voice. You can’t teach a child to talk politely by doing just the opposite.
Don’t rush through the whole process. The more you try to hurry, the more your child will drag you
Don’t leave him or make him leave the room until he’s ready to listen – to YOU. This is never the right way to help a child reflect on what he’s doing. Your goal should be to instill understanding instead of guilt and shame.
Don’t be stubborn yourself and fear that if you give in right now, the child will think he won and would continue the same behaviour in future.
Empathize: Look into his eyes and remind yourself that he is just an innocent child having a really difficult time, overwhelmed by emotions he doesn’t even recognize and has no idea how to handle. This is effective in dispensing any anger you’re feeling at the moment
Respect, understand and help the child calm down: Use active listening: Initially, the child may be screaming too loud to listen. Try to calm him down by sitting at his eye level, offer to come closer so you can talk, or just hold him, hug him. If he’s being too aggressive, just wait. Stay calm and keep your tone soft and loving. He needs to be sure before he can fully trust you. You can throw in a question to confirm, ‘Is this what’s bothering you?’ or ‘You’re upset because you wanted that?’ or ‘when I did that without asking you, it made you very angry?’ The chances are, you will get a response. An angry Yes!! Or a frustrated No! Followed by correctly stating what it was. That’s the first achievement. You’ve got his attention.
Be patient: Listen more. Allow him to cry it out if that’s what he wants. Stay with the child until he feels better. The whole interaction should leave the child feeling loved and having a reliable parent.
Be genuinely concerned: Doing it mechanically is not going to work and might even make the matters worse. Children are very good judge of authenticity.
Give in: If it’s not a matter of principle, let the child have his way for now. It’s not going to spoil your child. And if it’s something that can’t be done or undone, tell him politely but firmly that sorry you can’t do that. He may cry a little more about that as well but just soothe him, repeating you understand how upset he is, until he is ready to consider the possible options.
It might seem like a long process requiring ample time and energy which is definitely true for the first few incidents, but as you stay on the right path, it will be worth all the effort. No amount of lecturing or scolding or disciplining will produce the result that a living example would do where the child watches the parents keeping their angry emotions in check, treating him with love and respect no matter what. But remember, the parents are humans too. Even they lose their temper. However, the children are more understanding and willing to forgive if they have seen their parents doing the same. Pat yourself every time you successfully handle a tantrum and when you have one of your own, your child will be there to offer a glass of water for you to cool down! Trust me!