Be mindful of your tone while you try to calm down your child and refrain from yelling, shouting, or hitting, advises Asha Vaghasia, founder, We Positive Parenting.
You have been at work all day or maybe you just finished doing household chores and want some time off. But your little one comes to you and demands to go to the garden and play with her/his friends.
You agree since you also want to spend quality time with your daughter/son since you are always caught up with work.
When you reach the garden, you see that none of her/his friends are there, but there are other kids playing.
Your child becomes upset and s/he is not ready to mingle with other children.
You try your best to make them understand that s/he can still play with others but your child is really upset. That’s when s/he starts crying. Loudly.
You now feel that things might go out of control very soon as other mothers and children are staring at you and your child. You don’t know what to do next.
Has it ever happened to you?
Well, it would be safe to say that it’s every parent’s nightmare — a toddler temper tantrum in public.
But it’s also not impossible to deal with it.
Let us try to understand toddler temper tantrums and some ways to deal with them.
Understanding your child’s temper tantrums
Usually, you may feel that your child is throwing a tantrum just out of the blue but in most cases, there’s always a reason behind it.
Before we jump to the reasons behind the tantrums, let us first understand the types of tantrums.
Well, this is new, isn’t it? Who knew that tantrums also have types!
They do, according to Daniel Seigel, a neuropsychiatrist, and Tina Seigel, a parenting expert.
In their book, The Whole-Brain Child, they have written about 2 basic types of temper tantrums- an upstairs tantrum and a downstairs tantrum.
An upstairs tantrum is the one where the child decides to throw a tantrum to get her/his wants to be met.
For example, when your child won’t come leave the toy store in the mall and screams because they want to take a toy home, s/he is throwing an upstairs tantrum.
On the other hand, a downstairs tantrum is the one where your child is genuinely upset or uncomfortable due to some reason which is causing them to behave in this manner.
For example, you have been shopping for an hour and your toddler is really hungry and tired due to which they start crying immensely.
If you now recall the example given at the beginning of this article, you may conclude that it was probably a downstairs tantrum where the little girl was upset because her friends did not come.
The best way to understand your child’s temper tantrum is to understand the reasons behind it. Some of the most common reasons might be:
- Feeling hungry/an upset stomach
- Feeling tired
- Feeling uncomfortable because it’s a completely new place for them
- Feeling too overwhelmed in presence of a lot of strange faces/a lot of relatives
- When they haven’t got enough sleep the previous day
Okay, now to the problem-solving part!
Now that we have some idea regarding the types of tantrums, let us get to some tips and tricks that will make your life easier.
1. Know the triggers
Understanding the possible triggers of your child is crucial to be prepared and take action in the event of a meltdown.
Try to recall some of your toddler’s tantrums in public, do you notice something common?
It may be that your child usually throws a fit whenever you take them shopping.
What do they complain about? If they constantly cry telling you that they want to go home, they are probably tired or bored.
Knowing this piece of information will help you the next time you have to take them to the mall. Keep them well-fed and rested before you take them.
2. Set clear expectations
It’s always better to be prepared than to regret it later.
Before taking your child to a new place, talk about where you are taking them, and what you expect out of them.
Make them understand how they can and cannot behave at that place.
If you are taking them to the mall, you can say “We are going to the mall and you might see a lot of toys and chocolates but you are only allowed to look at them and not bring them home, okay?”
This also helps the child to understand the code of conduct of that particular setting.
Sometimes the best way to take your toddler’s mind off the tantrum is to distract them.
If they are crying in the middle of a restaurant and not letting you eat, hand them their favourite toy (yes, keep it with yourself when you take your child out).
It might help control the crying.
Another way to distract them is to ask them to pay attention to their surroundings.
Tell them to look at how pretty the sky is or what other people are doing around.
4. Change the setting
It is difficult to control a tantrum when it occurs in a place where there are too many people.
You may also feel the pressure to control your child’s tantrum because Everyone. Is. Watching.
Thus, the best thing to do here is to remove yourself and your child from that place and go somewhere quieter where you can talk.
For example, if you are at a family gathering and your child starts crying, take them to a corner where there are fewer people.
Once you are there, you can calmly ask your child what they want.
5. Attend and respond
When your child is throwing a tantrum, they are practically seeking your attention.
Being cold or dismissing them may not be the best idea.
There are times when parents are so engaged on their phones that they don’t listen when their child is trying to communicate.
If you are on an important or urgent call, tell them that it’s important and that you will get back to them after you finish talking.
Make them understand that you are there for them.
Be warm and responsive by gently stroking their arm or hugging them. This may help them to calm down and communicate what is bothering them.
This may be a good strategy to try before a tantrum.
You can keep your child busy when you take them out so that they don’t get bored and would enjoy it rather than dread it.
For example, if you are out for a family dinner, keep them engaged by reading out the menu to them, and showing them pictures of the food (if any).
You can make them understand different types of dishes and ask them to order what they want.
This will also teach them decision-making.
For younger kids, give them paper and some crayons to engage them.
Sometimes, the quickest way to resolve a tantrum situation is to negotiate.
This is in case of an upstairs tantrum where the child is demanding something and won’t get quite until his demands are met.
In such situations, you can offer them an alternative. For example: “I cannot get you this toy, but if you promise to stop crying right now, I will take you out to eat ice cream this evening.”
One important thing to remember here is to make sure that you stick to your words and do what you promise to do.
If you don’t, your child won’t believe you the next time and the tantrums will continue.
This strategy is effective in most cases, but is cautious to not overuse it.
It may signal to the child that they will always get something in return if they throw a tantrum.
8. Cool down
A tantrum is a heated situation, both for you and your child.
One thing you can do here is to try deep breathing.
Small children are great observers and they usually mimic their parents.
Do it yourself first and then ask your child to do it.
If your child is very small, ask them to look at their tummy. Ask them to observe how it rises and falls, this will automatically engage them in deep breathing.
You can also ask them to follow your lead.
9. Give them notice
This is a great way to remind your child of the rules you have set for them.
If you take them to the garden and you know that they won’t easily agree to go home, give them notice.
For example, you may tell your child, “You can play for 10 more minutes with your friends, and then we will go home.”
Show them your watch and say: “Can you see this minute hand on 12? We will go when it comes at 2, okay?”
This gives them a sense of time and will keep them prepared mentally that they are supposed to leave.
10. Be patient
Easier said than done, being patient is the most important thing to keep yourself sane during a tantrum.
A tantrum in public may give you the feeling that you are losing control, plus there’s this added pressure of ‘handling’ your kid and his/her tantrum.
However, it is important to remember here that you are only human and it does not mean that you are a ‘bad’ parent if you are unable to control your child.
The key here is to be patient.
Take a few deep breaths, and remind yourself that it’s your child and you know how to handle them.
Be mindful of your tone while you try to calm down your child and refrain from yelling, shouting, or hitting.
Also, take care that you don’t label your child in the middle of a tantrum. For example, don’t use words like ‘Drama queen’, ‘Cry-baby’ or other such words that may hurt your child.
Be soft-spoken and let them know that you want to know what is bothering them.
Phew! Seems like a task, doesn’t it?
At least now we know some tips to deal with it!
However, remember that each child is unique and not all strategies would work with all children.
It all depends on the type of the tantrum and your child’s way of reacting to it.
Asha Vaghasia is a Mrs India Earth 2018 finalist who lives in Ahmedabad. The model turned entrepreneur is also an athlete, parenting coach and a loving mother.
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