Temper tantrums are a dreaded part of parenting. The battle of the wills and complete hysterics often don’t even seem to make sense. End the headache, heartache, and exhaustion by learning how to redirect these moments to teach your kids powerful life lessons.
When the focus shifts from seeing a tantrum as a power struggle to understanding the important role these outbursts play in child development, you and your child begin to play on the same team.
A tantrum is a child’s attempt to assert their independence. Adults that know how to assert themselves appropriately usually get pretty far in life, and are often admired by others. As parents we have the opportunity to teach our children these same powerful life skills during those oh so frustrating moments!
Here are three tips to add to your tool kit for preventing temper tantrums, and using them as an opportunity for teaching some of life’s most valuable skills to the ones you love the most.
You can take that one step further by practicing offering choices throughout the day before conflict even arises.
One simple idea for applying this is allowing your child to pick what they want to wear each day, but within your bounds. Let them pick their outfit, but if it matters to you, set some rules for how you want to teach them about dressing. For example, you could teach that it has to be appropriate for the weather, it has to match, it has to be clean, or it must be appropriate for the occasion.
Giving your child freedom within appropriate bounds shows them you respect their free will and independence, and are there to help and teach. As an adult, your child will feel more empowered and have more clarity in setting goals if you’ve allowed them to practice making choices at home.
Offering appropriate choices allows your child to assert their free will often. Something as simple as asking “would you like to walk or ride in the stroller?” when a child refuses to cross the street surprisingly can diffuse a tantrum pretty quickly.
Provide An Explanation
Why? Why, why, why? This seems to be one of kids’ favorite questions, doesn’t it?
When a child asks “why”, they are trying to understand the meaning behind something. What is the purpose of this? What do you want me to learn?
It’s also important to build a relationship of trust when this question is asked. We can help them understand that we love them and that we have boundaries for them to help them and keep them safe.
Think about the reasons behind a limit you are giving your child other than wanting your child to be obedient. If you’re at Target, and your child is dying to get a new toy, what is your reason for saying no?
For example, do you want them to learn to wait for things they really want instead of learning instant gratification? In this situation, you could say “No, not today. If that is something you are still thinking about later, let’s talk about how you can save up your money to get it.”
Even at very young ages, this question can be an opportunity to teach your children important life lessons. Most importantly, you can teach that you set boundaries because you love them. In the long run, this builds trust between you and the child, they understand that you love them even when you say no, and in my experience, tantrums often decrease.
Work To Eliminate The Word “Can’t” From Your Home
I learned this one from a smart mom I used to nanny for. She used to tell her children “I don’t know the word can’t. You can do anything you set your mind to.” I personally didn’t understand what she was trying to teach at first. I felt that the kids were simply expressing themselves.
However, one day I stood in a playroom with a frustrated two year old throwing a tantrum at my feet. She said: “I can’t reach the toy.”
Without thinking about what I was saying, I said the same thing her mom would always say: “You can do anything you set your mind to.”
Then I looked down at her. I looked up at the top shelf where the toy was. I could barely reach it myself. I thought: “She’s right. She is not tall enough to reach that toy.”
For a minute, I wasn’t sure what to do next. Then I realized I could help her reach the toy. So I asked her: “Do you mean that you need help?” She calmed down a little and agreed she wanted help.
Over time, we had many instances like this one. When she declared she “can’t” do something, I consistently asked her if she meant she needed help. Soon enough the tantrums stopped, and she came to me for help often.
I think we all tend to feel this way this little girl felt at times. There are things that seem too big and too difficult for us to conquer.
Wouldn’t it be a powerful thing if we learned to look for solutions before submitting to defeat? Wouldn’t it be powerful to teach our kids to express that they are frustrated because they don’t know how, rather than cry in defeat until they just get over it?
Take a Deep Breath
Tantrums can be a difficult part of parenting. No parent likes to see their child appear to be in distress. It gets our emotions going, and can make us feel distressed as well.
Remember to take a deep breath. When you’re calm, it’s easier for your child to stay calm.
Remind yourself that these episodes can really be directed in such a positive way as we teach our kids positive ways to deal with these powerful emotions and desires that they have.