Toddlers and their constant tantrums aren’t a rare site, ask any parent!
Waiting at the doctor’s, I once saw a 3-year-old throwing a tantrum asking her mom to give her the car keys. But mom was wise enough to say ‘NO’, mom wasn’t going to fall in that trap (again) she had lost her keys plenty of times (courtesy of you know who!).
The ‘I want the keys’, ‘You can’t have them’ squabble ensued for a while and when the little one saw that mom isn’t caving in, she knew it was time for a TANTRUM – and so it began, the wailing, the yelling, the ‘I hate you’ followed by lying on the floor and throwing arms and legs around (with, of course, a lot of screaming). Mom tried to hold her ground, but when the receptionist at the doctors asked her to control her child (high expectations!) She had to give up. The car keys were now in the hands of the 3-year-old queen-of-meltdowns. The battle was won, and mommy sat there wide-eyed, wondering “How can I get her to stop tantruming?”
I stood up and offered her some water, and she said “I wish I knew how to stop all this.” I answered in response – “Why, why do you want the meltdowns to stop?” Not only did she give me a blank stare upon hearing this, she also gave me a bit of stink eye!
She said – “Because, it’s embarrassing, it makes me feel like I am at my wits end and most importantly because I don’t want my daughter to develop this habit as an adult, she can’t survive in the real world if she doesn’t change her behavior.”
There’s no argument about the fact that as parents, no none wants their child to blackmail them with bouts of tears and wailing every time they don’t have things their way. To start off, I reminded her that I have never seen any adult lying on the floor and throwing his or her arms and legs because they wanted something, so her worry of her child growing into a tantruming adult was a big waste of time.
I also told her that the occasional meltdowns are inevitable and inconsequential; what is of consequence is how she deals with it. Now, for a mom who is under the nuclear-tantrum attack, she was handling the situation rather well. She tried her best to stay calm but didn’t employ a stern and commanding tone and that’s where she went astray.
Raising a 5-year-old myself I had quite a few meltdown antidotes under my belt (learnt from experience), some may seem inane, some downright genius, but rest assured they all work (every time). And here are few that I shared with a fellow working mom, sitting with me at the doctor’s waiting lounge.
- You may be supermom but at the end of the day you are human and as much as you’d want to stay in control, you can’t see your little one upset, and at times you may lose your temper. The key here is to avoid yelling or spanking, rather the wise thing to do is breathe, take a walk (inside the house is also good), call your mom or a friend to get some emotional support.
- Remember the emotional outburst is often a cry for help, you need to understand what is bothering your child and you must make every possible effort to acknowledge your toddler’s feelings (can’t stress this enough).
- Set and hold boundaries early on, if the boundaries are clearly established and communicated then you can handle the meltdown-drama calmly and unswervingly.
- Your child comes first, embarrassment later (easier said than done – yet crucial!) When your child is in the middle of a temper tantrum don’t be embarrassed or afraid of what other people might be thinking about your child or about your parenting skills, rather help your child in this problematic situation by keeping your calm and having a discussion.
- Don’t hold a grudge. After the tantrum episode has been done and dealt with don’t hold your child’s actions against him or her. After all, if they knew any better they won’t behave this way.
What not to do in the middle of a meltdown:
- Don’t throw in the towel. If junior is making a big scene over a bag of chips, don’t buy the bag of chips. No matter how much you want to get it over with – DON’T. When you throw in the towel you practically give out a message that tells your child what he needs to do to have his way with you.
- Ignorance and punishment in response to tantrums won’t help so don’t rely on them. Both approaches would hurt an already upset and baffled child. So instead of helping your little one these approaches might make things even worse.
- A child in the middle of a meltdown surely isn’t in a listening mode, so you can keep a lid on the how-to-behave-in-a-public-place speech. No point asking ‘Why are you behaving like this?’, ‘What’s gotten into you?’ ‘Do you know how much trouble you are in?’ The ‘let’s solve this right-here-right-now’ approach would only elongate the tantrum. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk to child – you should, by all means. But only to calm him down not to solve this right away. The solving part is a continuous process which takes time and effort from both the parents and the child.