In the first part, I wrote about the temper tantrums as an inevitable element of growing up for children as well as parents. The first strategy to deal with temper tantrums is to try that they do not occur in the first place. However, they are bound to happen. So, how to deal with them?
Temper Tantrums Don’ts and Do’s
Basis first-hand experience as a hands-on and stay-at-home parent, I have a laundry list of Don’ts to deal with temper tantrums. The Do’s list consists of just one.
Don’t focus on the surroundings.
The child is throwing up in public. The child is bad behaviour personified. Everybody is looking in the direction of the child and the parent. A parent is feeling ashamed, wants to run away from the scene, wants the earth to open up below the feet.
What should a parent do? Just forget about the people around. Believe me, everybody has only sympathy for the parent facing the child. Each parent in the audience has gone through this ordeal herself/himself. Why should they look down on anyone who is going through what they have endured themselves? For the others, either they do not have children or they had children so long ago that they have forgotten how it was way back then.
The child in rage deserves the sole attention from the parent, and not the notion of being a cool parent. It is fine. Simply put, everybody understands a parent’s position.
2. Don’t distract the child. If the distraction would have worked, temper tantrums would not have happened in the first place. It has failed, do not repeat it. It will make matters worse.
3. Don’t reward/punish the child to get rid of the situation. Even under normal circumstances, rewards and punishment are not the suggested parenting tools. When the storm is at the peak, they are not going to deliver. It will be further detrimental to the situation.
4. Don’t give in to the child. Once a parent does this, temper tantrums become a part of the learned behaviour of the child.
It is a split-second decision. If the parent wants to give in, do it before the explosion. Not as an afterthought.
5. Don’t reason with the child. Again, this could and would have been done earlier to avoid the situation. But, the fact that it has happened means either the reasoning has failed or the moment has gone to engage in a dialogue.
Come to think of it. When an adult is in a fury, s/he would not listen to anyone. How does one expect a child to do this? Not a worthwhile proposition.
6. Don’t leave the child alone. When the child is angry, s/he is the most vulnerable and needs emotional support. How can anyone be left alone at the moment of crisis?
Again, consider an adult in a child’s shoe of being infuriated. The adult needs a venting out, more so for a child. A child’s healing can never happen in isolation. But, only with a helping hand, body and soul of a parent.
7. Don’t trivialize and laugh out. It is a matter of life and death for the child that s/he is in a rage. Belittling and playing down his/her emotions is only going to make the hurt ingrained further.
8. Don’t remind the child of the previous temper tantrums. This will be adding fuel to the fire.
9. Don’t show and give examples of other children. How would an aggrieved adult feel when given an example of an irrelevant another adult? It is a foot in the mouth, with the additional negative of damaging the self-image of the child.
10. Don’t hit the child. A non-negotiable.
The simple way of arriving at all the don’ts is to think of what an adult would not want to be done to herself/himself when mad with anger. One cannot do with a child, what one does not want to be done to one’s self.
So, what to do with a furious and rampant child? I have only one suggestion.
Hug the child. Keep hugging the child till the moment passes through. Keep comforting the child. That’s it. Basis self-experience, this is the only mechanism I have to deal with temper tantrums of my twin daughters.
To be honest, it is easier said than done. I just keep telling myself that whatever else I do is going to worsen the situation, so keep quiet and just hug the girl throwing up.
The objective is to help the child identify, know and manage her/his emotions better. It is essential learning for children and also, the parents in growing up together.
What would be your suggestions to deal with temper tantrums?
PS: I also try and remember the trigger of the temper tantrums to avoid the history repeating itself.