It is a pretty common situation: parents struggling to calm down their loud angry kids and feeling embarrassed in public places. Sometimes without a clear reason apart from some strong desire from little bosses. If your children have temper tantrum don’t worry – it’s quite common at young ages. That happens because they will find themselves having emotions they don’t know how to deal with, like anger, frustration and fear.
Children don’t understand what these emotions are, the reasons, possible ways to resolve and consequences of their choices. They never had that experience before, or had very little experience. Not knowing what happens next, they normally rely on adults to guide them through. Based on their portfolio of resources, tantrum is normally the first (and sometimes more convenient) choice.
What really matters is how parents deal with it, ideally coaching them to expand their resources. There are more effective ways to deal with emotions then tantrum, and it is a learning process that starts very early. The good news is that there are ways to help our children in this difficult journey. Here are some recommendations from specialists about what you can do:
- Be empathetic – acknowledge that something for them painful for them is going on and that they may be feeling a bit confuse.
- Help them work their feelings out – first say that you know that they sad, then explain what you expect from them, then divert their attention to something else.
- Have a chat before going out – tell where they are going, what will do, how is going to be, and what you expect. This way they will be prepared and will not get caught by surprise.
- Keep your word – never say something if you do not really mean just for the sake of stopping the cry, as that will damage the trust on you. If you say something, you must do it.
- Avoid questions that allow an undesired behaviour – instead of asking “let’s eat?”, to give a choice ask “do you want to eat in the green or yellow plate?”
- Be firm in your position – say “I’m sorry you are sad, but this is the final answer”.
- Inform in advance – a few minutes before the time to go, inform that it’s almost time to go so that they will get ready.
- Speak at the child’s level – when speaking to them, bend your knees and look them in the eyes at their level, so that they will feel respected.
- Listen to what they have to say – even if the answer is no.
- Help them calm down – suggest them to breath and say that you are there but they will have to calm down before talking.
- Do not take aggression – make clear that you will not back away or negotiate based on aggressiveness and treats. And don’t be aggressive yourself!
- Do not just ignore – that would make them feel not considered and impact their self-esteem. Instead, help them deal with the emotions.
- Recap the day – before bed, talk about the good and bad things that happened during the day. That’s the best time to consolidate lessons learned. Suggest how they could have responded differently to the situations.
- Invent stories – tell a story related to a situation happened during the day, using fictitious characters. They will make the connection and learn with the metaphoric elements.
- Impose consequences, not punishment – if they had a fight they should say sorry, if they made a mess they should clean up, if they missed homework they should not play. These are logical consequences. Punishment is not necessarily educative.
- Build a routine – make sure they follow consistent sleeping and eating hours to avoid unnecessary stress.
- Make time for them – parents absence impacts self-esteem and trust.
Education requires balance between care and a strong hand – not being too much condescending but not turning a blind eye to kids’ emotions. It can be challenging for parents as well and certainly requires continuous learning. Stick to your values and don’t act on strong emotions – be in control and use a fair balance of limits and relaxation. When choosing a nanny or child care service, also make sure you get someone prepared to deal with your kid’s emotions in an appropriate way. Prefer professionals vetted, recommended and tested, such as the ones you can find at My Service Menu.