Ever wondered what your toddler is thinking as he or she has a temper tantrum in public? Well, nothing much is going on in the brain except that there are emotions like frustration and anger. This is the only way she knows of trying to get what she wants!
Now contrast that with you. You are the one who is rational, reasonable, sensible and you have it all thought out! You are going to give several reasons why this behavior is unacceptable and you may throw in a few threats and consequences as well. You are also keenly aware of how people in the vicinity might be judging you and that is going to also determine your behavior!
As we can see, these two approaches are worlds apart and they are light years away from resolving the problem. So, how can we approach this enormous gap in attitude, thinking, maturity and the way each of the protagonists sees the world.
Four tips to help with temper tantrums in public
1. Long speeches and tiresome explanations are out! First, the child has no way of taking all that in and even if he or she could, he has not got the mental capacity to respond to it. I like the rule where you use as many words as the child’s age. So for a two year old, it is ‘No hitting’ and a for a five year old is ‘We don’t throw toys around’.
2. Allow your child to make choices beforehand. So, if there is a daily battle about what to wear at school you can do a bit of forward planning. Involve the child in getting the clothes ready the night before and ask him what he wants to wear. Saves time and hassle the morning after, provided he does not change his mind! We are building a certain amount of autonomy in a pretty well structured environment and that is fine.
3. Set limits. OK, it is great giving choices and allowing a certain amount of flexibility but this can go too far when the child wants and decides about everything. A good approach is to say what the procedure is for getting up or going to bed. The photo shows that pretty well and is a great reminder of how parents should be dealing with this routine.
4. Keep calm. There is no screaming match because this ruins everything. Take him away to his room and explain using the ‘age/number of words ratio’ what is acceptable and not acceptable. Remember never to give reasons or start on the ‘because’ list. It does not work. Rationality is not yet part of the child’s world.
So, there you have it. We can more confidently deal with temper tantrums before bed and in public by following these simple steps. Learn more about temper tantrums for no reason.
Watch the video on tips for child anger management