When your child is in the middle of a tantrum, it can be difficult to keep yourself from having one of your own….Here’s MM’s guides to minor meltdowns….
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? One minute you’re calmly walking through a shopping centre with your darling little child by the hand; the next you’re the centre of attention in the mall as your tiny terror is throwing the mother of all tantrums and is lying prostrate, screaming at the top of his voice and pummelling the ground for all he’s worth…
Don’t worry…..the simple fact is that tantrums are a feature of childhood for most children. Young kids, particularly those between the ages of one and four, haven’t yet developed their coping skills and, as a result, will throw a tantrum if or when they don’t get what they want.
While very young children – say, those between one and two – will usually go off on one because they don’t yet have the ability to communicate a need, such as wanting their nappy changed or having more milk, by the ages of three and four, it’s more likely to be as a result of ‘I want’.
So, what are the best ways of attempting to stave off or deal with a mini meltdown?
Well, it’s easier said than done, but, when your child is having a temper tantrum, the best thing that you can do is to remain calm. Yes….it IS at times almost impossible – particularly if you’re feeling frazzled yourself – but it’s important to avoid reinforcing your child’s behaviour. Let’s face it – you can hardly talk to him about not having a tantrum if he has watched you doing the same thing, can you? If your emotions escalate, then so will your child’s. So try to remain calm, and, once the tantrum is over, speak to your child in a relaxed manner. This will teach him how to express his feelings in a positive way, rather than becoming frustrated and stressed.
Similarly, reasoning with your child may seem like a sensible idea, but until children are around three years of age, their ability to fully understand your instructions about keeping calm will not have fully developed.
‘Just ignore him!‘ Ah yes, that old chestnut….with the best will in the world, when your child is causing a major scene in the local supermarket and you’re the focus of attention for hundreds of pairs of eyes, it’s pretty difficult to simply ignore what’s happening, isn’t it? The key to dealing with the situation is to respond, but not react. Speak quietly to your child, take him firmly by the hand and walk on. Becoming stressed and over-emotional will enable your child to feed off your emotions and the situation will simply escalate!
If your child is prone to throwing tantrums in public, then it can be a good idea to offer him an incentive to behave. Very young children can find it difficult to sit through a long meal at a restaurant or to sit quietly in church, so a little pre-emptive incentive – OK, bribe – may do the trick. Try telling him that if he sits really well he can watch his favourite video when he gets home. This type of bribery is fine because it’s done on your terms and before the event – not thrown out as an offer during the middle of a tantrum, when it’s just reactive.
Prevention, as they always say, is better than cure, so it might be an idea, when you see your child becoming overwhelmed through hunger or tiredness, to try and distract him before the inevitable occurs. Offering him a snack or settling him down for a nap may be all he needs.
So there you go….a few helpful hints that you can try. Sometimes, however, the only thing that will calm your child is reassurance so, if nothing else works, try working your mummy magic with a big hug!