For Family Fridays I thought I would talk a little about a problem that most of us have or will have in the near future! If you have kids you probably know about temper tantrums. They’re normal and a part of kids learning to manage their emotions, but never the less they are still really hard to deal with sometimes. Here are some things that really work for me to minimize them – notice I didn’t say to make them disappear! They’ll still creep up but these practices really do help:
- Have a routine and make sure your kids are fed and well rested before venturing out! The routine is critical. If everyday is different kids don’t know what to expect and are more prone to melting down. If you plan a bath each night before they go to bed, for example, they know to expect it and are less likely to fight it. If you need to take the kids with you out to the grocery store make sure they aren’t hungry and tired – two major contributors to tantrums. I have been known to break open a box of Cheerios in the grocery store in order to keep the peace!!
- Tell them what the expectations are beforehand. This one is huge for my eight year old. While her meltdowns are different from those of a two year old, they still happen if I surprise her with information that she’s not ready to process yet. If I can remember to tell her how I expect her to behave when I come to pick her up from the playdate (no whining, no begging for more time, no running and hiding!) then she’s far more apt to get ready to go when I show up at the door.
- Distraction is your best friend. I can’t stress this one enough for little kids! It stops working once they get to a certain age and can’t figure out what you’re doing, but for my two year old it’s perfect! When you feel that they are starting to throw that tantrum quickly distract them with something else. I don’t care if it’s a bird flying by the window outside, anything will do if you can just get their mind off of their previous disappointment!
- Make sure your children know the family rules. Set your kids up for success by really communicating with them on what rules your family lives by. It doesn’t mean they’re going to always follow them, but it does make disciplining a lot easier when your kids know they broke the rules as opposed to them learning a new rule while you’re in the midst of the conflict.
Ok, so now what happens if you’ve done everything but the tantrum happens anyways?
- Well, above all – don’t give in! I don’t care how embarrassed you are or how many people are staring at you at the grocery store, you will do yourself (and your kids) a disservice if you give in to their tantrums. That lets your kids know that if they elevate it to that level they will get what they want. Whenever I happen to be out running errands by myself and I see a mom dealing with a tantrum and looking really uncomfortable I know she’s probably thinking that I and everyone around her is judging her, but what I really want to say to her is “I know what you’re going through!” Maybe I will next time!
- Ignore it, but make it safe. If you can, it’s often best to just ignore the tantrum. Take away anything that might hurt them if they are falling on the floor mad, but ignore it. This lets them know that their tantrum is not going to get any results from you. Once they’ve stopped screaming you can calmly say “Mommy will talk to you when you stop yelling and are calm.” It’s amazing how fast a child will calm down if they know you’re not going to engage them.
- Quiet Time – for calming. We started doing this instead of time outs. I’ll be honest, it works sometimes and not as much other times, but it’s worth a try. Time outs can be punitive and just make your child more angry where as the point of “quiet time” is to still put your child in a place where they can sit and calm down, but it’s their choice as to where their quiet time spot is (should be the same place every time) and how long they sit there. You tell them they need to go to their quiet place to calm down and they can come out of it when they are ready to speak to you nicely. It takes away a lot of the power struggle but I have certainly had my daughters refuse to go to their quiet place. It that happens you need to lead them there and then reiterate what they need to do.
- Finally, try to stay calm yourself… Sometimes much easier said than done, especially if you’re dealing with a lot of defiance, etc!! Temper tantrums can really test your patience, that is for sure, but what I know for sure is that when I am able to stay calm it always goes much better for me.
Experts say not to bribe your kids to get them to stop the tantrum (i.e. Mommy will give you a special treat if you stop yelling!) I’ll admit it, I’ve done this before, especially when it’s a public display! It’s always best not to, though, since you’re not really teaching your children anything by doing that. It really just gives them another reason to throw a tantrum because they learn they’ll get something from it.
If your children’s tantrums are really severe, i.e. your child is hurting themselves or others, they go on for a really long period of time, they happen on a regular basis – talk to your doctor. There are a lot of resources available to you.
Good luck and let us know if you have any great tips for minimizing tantrums in the comments!