Take a moment to realize which of the following situations are the ones most often resulting in your child having a tantrum:
- Going to the market
- The dinner table
- Going to a restaurant
- A birthday party
- Guests arriving, etc.
Learning to eliminate tantrums can be done by helping your child cope with certain anxieties he or she may feel due to unfamiliar situations. We, adults, must understand that children often feel helpless and powerless (yes, especially the ones that seem most stubborn and assertive), and any opportunity that hands them power (like a tantrum) is a moment of victory. Alas, it is a false sense of power and therefore does not serve the appropriate purpose. Knowledge, on the other hand, is a true power; a stable relationship, one that is built on mutual respect, is one as well.
Though going to the market may seem like an ordinary, and sometimes daily event in a child's life, neglecting to realize that your child needs guidelines and boundaries each and every time, is usually the result of all tantrum we experience right by the checkout line…
Here are some guidelines that can change most anxiety related situations into a pretty smooth ride:
- Discuss: with your child the upcoming events, as small as a dinner or a trip to the market, and as big and demanding as a birthday party.
- State your expectation: not as a condition: "if you behave… I will get you…" but rather as a plan: "We're going to the market and this is what we need to buy today." This gives the child the sense of being included and makes them feel important (that's positive power);
- Be their teacher: "You can help me put the milk in the cart, count the apples, find the pasta aisle…" which offers an opportunity of learning;
- Set boundaries: "you may get yourself…" This is for you only to decide what choices you're giving them: a favorite cereal, a pack of gum, a box of cookies or ice cream for desert after dinner, one candy bar or a lollypop of their choice. Allowing your child to chose one thing in advance let's them experience an exciting, positive sense of anticipation, as well as have clear boundaries.
- You may use the exact same approach before having a family dinner that might generate confrontation; going to a restaurant or a birthday party; having guests arrive; etc.
- State the plan: "in half an hour we will all have dinner (be going to a birthday party) together.
- Make them feel included: You know what's for dinner today…? You know what are we're going to do there? (excitingly) What would you like to order?
- Set boundaries: We will eat for 15 minutes and we can talk about… We'll be there for two hours, you can play with… you will eat… you can bring…
- Clarify your expectations: You will need to finish your whole dinner and then you can have…(a choice of desert); you can sit with me… you can color… I can read you a story…
Think of your child as a person with very little say in this world, and one that sees us adults holding all the control (little do they know…). And as much as we associate surprises with fun, most children don't like surprises and don't have enough experience to make appropriate judgments (i.e. a tantrum in the middle of the market). Obviously most us understand it is not appropriate simply because we are able to make that kind of judgment. Since our children simply cannot, we need to be there for them. Allowing them to get familiarize with a situation ahead of time offers them comfort. Stating clear expectation permits them to rely on us for guidance. Discussing plans with them in advance makes them feel respected.
Any person, an adult; or as little as our children, that gets to feel comfortable, safe, and respected, is unlikely the person who will throw a tantrum…