Let’s face it – parenting is hard. Raising kids is the toughest job there is, and a major reason is kids have BIG emotions. When they are happy, they are ecstatic. When they are sad, they are weepy. When they are angry, they are livid. Teaching children how to effectively manage negative emotions is one of the most important things a parent can do. Figuring out how to do that without also having an emotional meltdown of your own is critical.
I’m not sure how many times I’ve lost my cool when my child has had a tantrum. Every time I look back, there was always a better way to handle it and it always has to start with me. When your child is on level 10, you can’t meet them there, you need to meet them with a level 1. And I’m trying, I strive to do this better each day.
1. Get to the root of the emotion.
What is causing your little one to throw a fit? Chances are good there is more than meets the eye. Is he hungry? Tired? Overstimulated? If you can identify the underlying cause of the behavior, you will be able to more quickly put a stop to it.
2. Identify patterns.
Does your child tantrum every day when you get home from day care just as you’re starting to make dinner? Maybe he needs to spend 5-10 minutes cuddling with you before you move on to the next task. Once you identify patterns to the behaviors, it is easier to come up with solutions.
3. Create routines.
Children thrive on routine, and surprises are usually a big no-no. Before you head out for Saturday morning errands, tell your child what the morning holds. “Jenny, we are going to stop at the post office, then the bank, then the grocery store. You may pick out a snack at the grocery store to eat on the way home, if you’d like.” Pictures can help reinforce the schedule, especially for younger kids. Also don’t overdo it. The rule of 3 is a good one – no more than 3 things on your list before playing or going home for a rest.
4. Create rules, and stick to them.
Having and enforcing household rules helps children learn what is expected of them. It also gives you an easy response when your child is behaving badly. Come up with a list of your top 4-5 rules, such as “We keep our hands and feet to ourselves.” Then, if Jenny kicks her brother, you can remind her of the rule and ask her if she needs a quiet break so she can remember the rule.
5. Lead with love.
This one is tricky. When your child is tantruming, the first reaction is often to raise your voice. Unfortunately, that will only fuel the emotions your child is experiencing. Calmly explain that is not the way we act, and if your child is safe, walk away. When he comes to find you (which he will – his tantrum is an attention-seeking behavior), simply open your arms for a hug. Showing him love will almost always diffuse the situation, and it will give you the opportunity to help him talk through his feelings. Plus, it will reinforce that you are always there for him, no matter what.
Staying calm when your child is not may be a struggle at first. Start with the tips listed here, and give yourself a goal of one day without raising your voice. Then two days, then a week, and so on. You will see that in time, the frequency of tantrums will decrease, and you’ll all be the happier for it.