Ah, the joys of tantrums. It’s a milestone experience every family moves through. On one hand, your child is finding their voice and expressing thoughts and feelings innate to the person they are ultimately becoming. But, on the other hand, you basically want to smash your head against the wall out of total frustration and lost patience. Just remember – this too shall pass. Stay strong and use these quick tips to help.
Keep calm and carry on
So much of child behavior (and adult behavior for that matter) is for the sake of garnering attention, consciously or unconsciously. Kiddos do not differentiate between positive and negative attention as an adult would assume. This means that any attention, whether your intent is praise or admonishment, is satisfying to your child. It is so important to put on your game face and consistently show a child, either by ignoring poor behavior or simply maintaining your same calm disposition, tone, and attitude, that a tantrum is rewarded with no positive OR negative attention. It’s the fastest way for them to choose a different way to express their feelings on their own since a tantrum will be met with a boring and uninvolved lack of response.
Provide a safe space for all the feels
Let’s say my toddler wants to eat cookies for breakfast and I say no. She may freak out and totally lose her mind over this. It’s not an entirely appropriate response certainly, but deep down sometimes I think, “Girl I get it; I want cookies for breakfast, too”. However, as a mom, I need to teach her to move through her feelings more appropriately. But, it shouldn’t negate the fact that her feelings, however ridiculous, are real. So, when my daughter launches into the depths of wails, I calmly kneel by her side and remind her that’s it’s too loud to yell like that in the family room because it hurts my ears, but she is welcome to stand in her room and yell and rejoin us when she is ready. If she doesn’t move on her own I gently pick her up and place her in her room. Mind you, this scenario usually involves my child losing her mind in a tear and snot-filled rage. But I still talk to her in a calm, quiet, and generally inaudible volume (where I’m positive I look fully crazy). The point is to move quickly out of the scenario by respecting her feelings enough to let her scream but offer no audience or extra attention for her outburst. She quickly determines on her own that this charade is boring and exhausting (and she looks sort of hilarious yelling at the futon in her bedroom for a solid 20 seconds).
Prepare to make good
It’s all fun and games and manageable chaos until you are out and about in the real world. If your kiddo throws a fit at your much-looked-forward-to brunch day date with friends or at the crowded playground, be prepared to leave if their behavior is not up to par. Give a clear, calm heads up that if “x” behavior persists, you’ll have to leave… and if they persist, as much as possible, you should make good and leave. A couple botched brunches suck, but a lifetime of throwing forks off restaurant tables and purposely knocking over water is worse. Put in the work immediately and frequently to save yourself the extended hassle of constant course correction down the line.
Disapprove of the behavior, not the kiddo
No matter what insane, disrespectful, downright vile behavior your kiddo chooses to display, your plan of action should always address their bad behavior, not their being “bad”. People tend to live up to their labels and expectations, even kids. Moreover, it’s important to remember that the reason you expect more from your kids is because you respect them, and the reason you discipline them is because you love them. This is the throughline to your disciplinary course of action that empowers you to stay strong in these moments, and it’s the undercurrent to support that your child will ultimately feel, even when they hear “no”. Stay calm, even grateful, at the strides you are helping your child make. And never forget that they will eventually go to bed that night and you can consume all the wine you desire (or need).