Could You Be Making Their Tantrums Worse?
Don’t Make These 3 Mistakes
Children of all ages – toddlers and pre-schoolers thru tweens and teens – throw tantrums. It may be a bedtime battle, disagreement over your food selection or a fight over homework. It may be a tantrum in public or the “quiet” of you home. How parents respond will determine if the tantrum escalates and how often the tantrums reappear.
1. Reasoning with a child who’s in the midst of a tantrum. I call this, “Talking him down off the ledge”. We all have done at one time or another. It sounds something like this…”It’s okay, everything will be alright, calm down, stop crying, let’s go play with your train, let me help you, let’s get a drink of water, etc.”
The problem with this is a tantrum-throwing child is in a state of high-emotion and is not in a position to rationally consider your suggestions. Further, the ongoing verbal feedback you provide only reinforces the behavior and reassures the child that a tantrum is a very effective strategy to get attention!
2. Being firm and then giving in. Sometimes, we just can’t tolerate it any longer. The wailing, the thrashing, the unhappiness. While you know you should remain firm, sometimes parents just don’t have the stomach for an Oscar-winning tantrum and eventually give in. Unfortunately, this proves to the child that with some persistence on their part, you’ll eventually cave if she continues the tantrum long enough.
3. Adding fuel to the fire. A temper tantrum is a power-seeking behavior. When parents respond with a “power reprimand”, they add fuel to the fire and the tantrum continues and even escalates. When we lose our temper, physically try to stop the tantrum or spank the child, it proves to him that his tantrum is a great way to upset us, thus exerting his power. While he may not like the “power reprimand” response on your part, it does serve his goal for seeking power – even if it’s negative power.