4. Reassure & move on: It is essential that your child understands that her tantrum or emotional blowout changes nothing one way or the other. She needs to know that you expect her to learn to manage her very strong feelings in an appropriate manner and that you think no worse of her for going through this learning phase. Your calm confidence and ability to quickly get back to normal as soon as the tantrum is over are all that is needed to let your toddler know that her tantrum is not all-powerful and can’t destroy either of you. It can be really difficult not to simmer for ages afterwards and return for a fresh nag or dig – we are, after all, only human, but we want to show our children how to manage those unsavoury feelings. Share the feelings with your partner or a friend.
If your child is older and has had a major blowout during which he called you names, then you are into disciplining territory and rule setting so you may feel it appropriate to keep a distance before re-connecting. Then it will be sensible to insist that you sit down and restate the rules and more appropriate ways of dealing with anger. But don’t then keep bringing up the subject. Hugs and “I love you”s are really needed after a fall-out. Just don’t then fall into apologizing or allowing your child to get the impression that YOU were the one behaving unreasonably! Moving on means not reminding your child about yesterday’s tantrum, even in a good way, “You haven’t thrown as many tantrums today as yesterday! Crikey, you were a cross-puss yesterday!” She doesn’t need reminding of yesterday’s issues.
Remember that children have acute hearing so don’t go talking about your child at all within his earshot. You know how horrid it is to catch someone talking about you! Don’t regale your partner with a run-down of today’s tantrums and misdemeanours over supper with her there either – you have dealt with it so there is nothing to be said (at least, not until she is asleep!) Shame is a really uncomfortable feeling and there is no place for it here.
5. Praise: As with all aspects of child rearing, use praise (well-timed, specific and appropriate) to your advantage. The very second a tantrum has passed, look for an opportunity to praise. Ignore the tantrum, so try not to say, “Well done, you handled that tantrum well!” although it might be nice to say something like, “That’s better, big hug and then let’s go and hang the washing out.” Just be extra vigilant and take the first chance to give praise. This is just as important with an older child. All of us love praise, even for the smallest things, but try not to qualify it, ie -“That was a lovely cup of tea, thank-you. Such a shame we had to have the nonsense before it!”
Lastly: None of these ideas and strategies will “cure” your child of having tantrums. They are developmental and pass with time. All you are trying to do is to handle them in a way that keeps you both safe, preserves dignity all round, keeps them to a minimum, keeps each one as short as possible and most of all, does not create a situation where tantrums are kept in your child’s strategy box as an ongoing weapon of mass destruction!
Next week we will look at the 5 techniques for handling a tantrum.
Rachel Fitz-Desorgher offers “Confident Parenting” courses comprising six
2½ hour workshops designed to equip parents with tried and trusted strategies that leave both children and parents feeling empowered and capable. For more information, or to contact Rachel, you can visit her website – Rachel Fitz-D