Crazyhippiemom’s Weblog

Just an urban hippie with a kid in tow, sharing a little eco-friendly, holistic info with the world.

Temper Tantrums – No Not Yours, Your Child’s! March 5, 2008

I know you dread it… walking down the snack food isle in the grocery store, one hand on the shopping cart, the other, ready for the quick drawn if and when your toddler decides he wants yet another bag of Chips Ahoy!  It plays out like a drama on the Broadway stage.  He’ll see the bag, he’ll look at you, then back at the bag, then back at you… he’ll think to himself, “Hmmm, maybe if I pick it up and put it in the cart fast enough, she won’t notice.”  Ah, don’t you just love the simple minds of the toddler-kind?  But of course, you notice.  You attempt to pick it up and put it back on the shelf.  Then ensues the climactic struggle.  He grabs it, you pull it from him.  He screams bloody murder.  You look around to see who’s looking at you.  He continues to scream, louder with much more physical expression.  You continue to look around to see who’s looking at you.  You are now convinced they all think you’re abusing your child.  Now, the entire store is glaring at you as you try to avoid eye contact.  You glide through the store with lightning bolt quickness, forgetting the dargone toilet paper and maxi-pads – and why?  All because you refused to purchase a bag of juvenile diabetes for your son and he threw a tantrum, causing you mass embarrassment and loss of memory.  Yeah, it’s like Broadway alright.The tantrum thing is about as old as, well, babies.  Just imagine back in caveman times, a cave-toddler screaming his head off because cave-mommy or cave-daddy won’t pick up that cool pet “what-ever-a-sourous”.  It’s the same everywhere.    Kids throw tantrums for a number of reasons:

  1. They don’t know how to express themselves accurately.  They experience a wide range of emotions, yet are unable to communicate them to mom or dad.  So the only other option, apparently, is to… you guessed it, scream their heads off.  
  2. They’re crying for independence.  They want to do things themselves but are physically unable to negotiate a pair of pants, with a zipper and button closure for example.  They become frustrated with their own limitations.
What can we do to cultivate a tantrum-less household
  1. Engage your child regularly throughout the day (if you can).  This keeps the communication open and wards off any unwanted outbursts.
  2. Set limits.  Your child needs to understand the rules of your home.  You need to set clear guidelines with consequences for breaking such guidelines.
  3. Treat your child with respect.  He/She’s a person with feelings and needs that must be acknowledged and in most cases satisfied.
  4. Teach your child to express frustration or anger in ways other than tantrums.  This is a lesson best taught before the tantrum begins.  You may suggest a scripted sentence, “This makes me mad” or “I don’t want to do that”.
What to do when the terror strikes
  1. First and foremost, keep your cool.  If you’re in public, losing it will only make a bad situation worse.  If you’re at home, losing it teaches your child how you expect him to handle stressful situations of his own.  He will approach situations the way he sees you approaching situations.
  2. Ignore the behavior.  Listen but don’t pay attention to the actions.
  3. Do not make eye contact with the child.  You know yourself, if you look at him, you’ll get sucked in.  Stay strong.
  4. The child may need to be physically removed from the situation.
  5. Redirect his interest elsewhere.
  6. Do not give in to the child’s demands.
Once the tantrum is over, help your toddler regroup.  Perhaps you can both clean up the mess she made during the tantrum.  It’s imperative that she does not regard your actions as, in any way, condoning her previous behavior.  Don’t say things like, “Don’t worry, mommy will get that for you when she has the money.” or “I know daddy said ‘no’, but mommy will get it for you anyway.”  More damning words have not been said!  
Remember the scenario in the top of the post? He’s screaming, you’re squirming.  It can be awful, but every single mom you know has, undoubtedly, had to endure such an embarrassing experience.  It happens.  However, you are the gatekeeper, so to speak.  It may take some time if your child is already on the road to tantrum-ville, but it can be done.  In fact, it must be done… for all of our sakes. 

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