Children have tantrums for several reasons, but they often resort to tantrums when they have lost control and want to regain it. The different techniques they use depend on the type of control issue and usually deal with waiting, transitioning, or denial. Kids don’t like to wait for long or short periods of time, they do not like being told to leave a place when they are not ready to leave, and they most definitely do not like being told “no”. For each of these different types of tantrums there is a different approach to take or technique to use in order to
defuse the situation. Dr. Amy Baxter, inventor of Buzzy(R) for pain relief and DistrACTION(R) cards, offers these five tips on managing tantrums.
1. Provide a distraction
Distracting children is the easiest way to tame a waiting tantrum, especially when you are stuck in a car in traffic or in a waiting room at the doctor’s office. You can think of a verbal game to play or story to tell your kids. Bring books or games that they can play with. Better yet, use Bee-Stractors DistrACTION(R) cards that have pre-made find and seek questions that kids love.
2. Offer a choice
Transition tantrums and doctor’s office type tantrums are best tamed with offering choice: “We are going to go. Would you like to go now or play for 5 more minutes?” or “We are going to go. Would you like to swing one more time or finish playing with the truck?” At the doctor’s office, where shots are non-negotiable, you may need to offer multiple options for control for during, along with a carrot for after: “You are going to get some medicine to keep you healthy. Would you like to use Buzzy(R) or read a book with me while you get it? When you’re done, would you like to go get lunch or have one of mommy’s special candies?”
3. Make a deal
Tantrums that take place in stores over buying things are a whole different issue; these tantrums are a weapon rather than a logical extension of being overtired or feeling frustrated from lack of power over the world around the toddler. Never give in to your child or you will reward the bad behavior and he or she will have more tantrums, more often. Set parameters before you go into a store and do not deviate at all: “We’re going to get cereal, and you can pick one box.” When they ask for something else, remind them of the deal: “No, silly, remember? Your special treat today is to pick the cereal. Do you want to go back and pick a different one?” You laid the ground rules so do not negotiate!
4. Provide a consequence
If you’re already in the vicious cycle of store tantrums, set the expectations up front and give your child a consequence: “I wasn’t happy with your behavior last time; going to a store is not to get treats. We have X reward at home, and if you go to the store and don’t pitch a fit, you can have that when we go home. If you pitch a fit, you can’t have your normal dessert [or better yet, some more immediate consequence.]”
5. Offer to help achieve a reward
With an old enough child (5+), you can offer to help them achieve a reward: “Not asking at the store is new grown-up thing for you, and it might be hard to remember at first. So you can earn your X, do you want me to have a code word to remind you that you’re not supposed to ask for things? What word?” Let the child help you pick the word “booger” or “pinkiepie” or some other silly word, then help when the child asks for something: slyly glance over and say “booger!” to help them earn a prize.