Sidestepping Temper Tantrums
Every new parent or teacher of children ages 1-4 years old can expect to see some temper tantrums. And, there are predictable events that trigger these outbursts: bath time, bedtime, car rides, dinner time, getting dressed, interactions with siblings or peers, getting up, instructions to do something, guests, a parent on a phone call and being denied something that they want but can’t have.
The smallest things can set off young children, from asking them to take a bath while they're in the middle of watching Sesame Street to requesting that they share a favorite stuffed animal with a younger sibling. Any situation that involves change may spawn a tantrum. Add fatigue or hunger to the equation, and children are even more likely to throw a tantrum.
Here are some tips to help you out:
· Announce something that children must do—instead of making a request that requires a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Say, “It’s dinner time!” instead of asking “Are you eat dinner?”
· Make a game out of what they must do and lighten up the mood. “Can you be the first one to get to the car?”
· Keep calm and keep a sense of humor to distract and redirect the child’s attention. You can laugh, turn the lights in the room off and on several times, make a funny face, pretend to throw your own temper tantrum, or say, “Wow! What’s making all that noise?”
· Keep off-limit temptations out of sight - avoid the toy/candy aisle in the grocery store, keep scissors out of reach.
· Give you child a sense of control over little things by offering choices. “Which do you want to do first…brush your teeth or put on your pajamas?”
· "Instead of making a request that requires a 'yes' or 'no,' try rewording it to pull the response you're looking for." Don't ask, "Ready to brush your teeth?" Instead, say, "It's tooth brushing time. Will this be a red-brush day or a yellow-brush day?"
· Signal children before you reach the end of an activity so that they can get prepared for the transition. Say, “When the timer goes off 5 minutes from now it will be time to turn off the TV and go to bed.”
· Change environments, thus removing the child from the source of the temper tantrum. Say, “Let’s go to the park.”
· Try to keep your daily routines as consistent as possible and give your child a five-minute warning before changing activities.
· Allow your child to take a toy or snack with them while you run errands. It may help them stay busy.
· Teach your child other ways of dealing with frustration. Remind children who are old enough to talk to use their words instead of screaming. Teach them how to make a request without a temper tantrum and honor that request. “Try asking for the raisins nicely and I’ll get them for you.”
Do praise your child when they remain calm in a situation that would have normally set off a temper tantrum. As you will see, stepping in and preventing the outbreak of a temper tantrum is just another milestone in learning to be a proactive parent.