Parenting is bliss and fulfilment. Parenting is joy and happiness. It is, of course, much more than what words can describe. Along with all these, parenting is also frustration and anguish. Parenting is misery and distress. You do not believe me? Ask a parent who has just endured temper tantrums.
Temper tantrums come in all shapes and sizes. It can strike at any time and any place. A child is at the best behaviour possible, you are marvelling at your parenting skills, everything is so peaceful and serene, and suddenly, out of nowhere, the lightning, I mean the temper tantrum, strikes. The effects leave the parent’s world turned upside down for the foreseeable future of half an hour.
After all, what is this temper tantrum of a child? Why does this have to happen? How to deal with it? Is there an easy way out? I qualify as being a stay-at-home father to twin daughters. Basis of my fair share of the goodies, below are my views on the subject.
Temper tantrums as fait accompli
First and foremost, a parent has to admit and accept that the temper tantrums are bound to happen. It is a part and parcel of the child’s growing up process. No childhood, and hence no parenting will ever be complete without the temper tantrums. Being in denial about its existence will only lead to poor preparations to deal with it. Better to admit and train yourself for the inevitable.
Secondly, temper tantrums are not a statement about a parent or the child. The meltdown is a part of the growing up process of the child and the parent, too. An occurrence that helps to build on the emotional capabilities of the child and the parent cannot be looked down upon. Of course, it is not an event to look forward to; but an event, once it happens, to be taken learning from and move on.
Once the parent has accepted the temper tantrums as a predestined and a non-judgemental affair, it will be a tad easier to deal with it. We can focus our energies on dealing with the issue and not refute that the sun rises in the east.
Prevention is better than cure
We might feel that the temper tantrums of the kid have reared out of nowhere, for no reasons. However, there will always be an underlying cause. There will always be a trigger. There will be ominous signs of the storm. The crux is to identify these warning signals and address them before they turn into a full-fledged eruption.
A. Keep the child well-fed and well-rested. Ideally, the kid should say when s/he is hungry/thirsty/tired. But, the child, many times, will not know his/her physical state. A parent has to keep a tab on the time and quantity of the earlier meal/snacks/nap to ensure that at least for these avoidable reasons, nobody loses peace of mind.
Our daughters love to play these 5 ageless games. They can go on and on playing them, without a sense of time. We would also love to let them keep playing. However, basis past experiences, we have realized the optimal time for them to play physical games and then, to take rest. Same goes for food and water.
B. Have a time-table, avoid surprises and give advance intimation of the changes to the schedule. Even an adult has a limit to what s/he can process, absorb and execute. Here, we have kids who have just started on their exploration and learning journey. The more the predictable, the more the usual set of events will not stretch their cognitive capabilities. It will lead them to remain more in control of the narrative and not be yanked out of their comfort zone.
Having a time-table is doing activities within a broad time-limit of an hour, and not with clock-work precision. Avoiding surprises is about not to make them leave the activities, they are occupied with. Giving advance intimation is about respecting a child as an individual, let her/him have a view on the proposed change to the schedule and make the child feel a part of the decision-making process.
It is fine if I am not going to buy yoghurt for my daughters every time we visit a supermarket, as long as I tell them before leaving home. It is fine if they are not going to be bought new toys, as long as they are told, beforehand, that they already have toys to play with.
C. Let the children decide and take ownership within pre-defined boundaries. The children cannot be expected to follow instructions all the time. Period. So, what do we do? Let them choose the mode of transport, route and speed, as long as the destination does not change.
My daughters decide on the colour of the cup in which to drink milk. It makes them feel empowered to choose between white and brown cups and I am at peace that they drink milk daily. One temper tantrum root-cause addressed.
D. Communicate with the children. This is often the most under-estimated aspect of parenting. We might feel that what these young kids will understand. Believe me; they understand a lot, much more than what we think that they understand.
My daughters used to create a ruckus about having medicines. It was a pain for my wife before I became a stay-at-home father. I explained to them about the need for medicines. I do not know what was the trick, my explanation or my luck. Till this date, they take all their medications without a whimper.
Ok, fine. I have tried to prevent temper tantrums as much as possible. But, as said earlier, they are bound to happen. So, how to deal with them? Here we go.