Nearly all children experiment with temper tantrums at some point in their development. Some children are successful at getting parents to cave in to their demands and learn to use tantrums on a regular basis when they meet with resistance. If this sounds familiar to you, the approach below can help you stop the use of the misbehavior for your child.
On the occasions when you have set a limit for your child, or have said no to her, be prepared to stick to your position. For example, your child asks you if she can paint. You have explained you have company coming over so you cannot set up painting but she is welcome to play with toys in her room or play outside. Your child then decides to scream and flop down on the floor in an attempt to get her way. She is banking on her theatrics to get you to let her have her way. Say nothing, do nothing. Be active. Go about what you were doing. If need be, step over her. Go to another room, moving targets are hard to hit. The tantrum may escalate. Do not be alarmed if your child screams more loudly than usual, or if she throws something. Remember, the goal of her behavior is to get you to cave in to her demands. If screaming louder or throwing things gets you to meet your child’s demands, then all you have taught her is that her tantrums will have to be more severe. Stand firm and ignore the tantrum. Let your child discover that once you have said no, you mean it. Let her discover that her tantrums will not get you to change your position.
If your child decides to have a temper tantrum in a public place be prepared to pick her up and leave the place. For example, you and your child want to eat at a fast food place. Prior to going out to eat, say to your child, “Sweetheart, I would like to take you out to eat tomorrow. In the past when we have gone out, you sometimes decide to get angry and scream. If that happens, I will get our food and we will go home. Other people are at the restaurant and it is not polite to ruin their dinner with your screaming. I do not think this will happen, but I wanted you to know that we will have to leave if you forget and decide to get angry.” Having stated your position, be prepared to take action. If your child decides to have a temper tantrum when you do not get her a milkshake, be ready to act. With no words at all, take your food and your child and leave the restaurant. The food can be eaten at home. Allow your child to learn that if she wants to go out in public, she must be willing to cooperate and follow the rules that you set.
©Cindy Walton-McCawley, M.Ed & Kathleen A. Walton. The Courageous Parent. Columbia, SC: Adlerian Child Care Books, 2009.
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