If you are a parent who’s had the unpleasant and mortifying experience of trying to tame a toddler temper tantrum in public with little success, you will be pleased to know that there are a variety of effective discipline methods you can try with your child to stop tantrums, and prevent them from ever occurring in the first place.
Here are four tips for stopping tantrums:
Express What Your Toddler Is Feeling, Not What You are Feeling
As adults we want people to listen to us, want to be understood, and we want to receive a relevant response. Children aren’t any different. So rather than explaining to your toddler what YOU are thinking, try expressing what your toddler is thinking to show them that you are listening and that you understand how he or she feels.
For example, if your toddler starts to throw a tantrum when you say it’s time to leave the park, instead of saying something like: “We’ve been here for hours, it’s time to go; Come on let’s go, I have to go home and cook dinner now; Let’s go, it’s starting to get dark and I’m getting cold” etc. try saying something like: “Luke is angry! He wants to stay at the park. He’s really mad! No Mommy, I don’t want to go home, I want to stay at the park and play!”
Express what YOUR CHILD is feeling to show them that you understand. The result is likely to be that your toddler will calm down enough for you to pick them up, carry them to the car, and offer them something as a distraction if still needed.
You may feel a bit silly doing this the first few times (especially in public), but this technique works very well with many toddlers, so it’s well worth giving a try.
Give Your Toddler A Special Job To Do
It may seem hard to believe if you are dealing with a difficult-to-manage child right now, but the reality is that all children enter this world programmed to be helpful and cooperative. All you have to do is take advantage of this natural tendency by giving your toddler a special “job” to do that will prevent or defuse a tantrum.
For example, if your toddler refuses to get into his or her car seat, try making them the “boss of the seatbelts” with the special job of making sure that everyone is safely buckled in before the car can start. At the grocery store you could give your child the job of being your “lookout” to help you find certain items on the shelves, or try pretending to be lost and in need of their help to find your way to another food item, or to the checkout.
Not only is asking your child for help a great way to take their mind off disruptive behaviour and stop tantrums, it also makes them feel important and does wonders for their self-esteem.
Never Give In To Your Toddler’s Demands During A Temper Tantrum
Giving in to your toddler’s demands during a temper tantrum is especially tempting in public as a way of swiftly ending the attention-attracting episode. But doing so is a HUGE mistake, because if you give in to your toddler when they are whining, crying or having a temper tantrum, you are teaching them that this type of behavior is the way to get what they want. And they will learn to repeat this behavior knowing that there’s a chance you might eventually give in to them. This is the case even if you only give in every so often.
On the other hand, if you are firm, stick to your guns, and are consistently unwavering, your toddler will quickly learn that there’s absolutely no point in throwing a tantrum to try and get their own way, or in fighting what he or she is eventually going to have to do anyway.
Ignore Your Toddler While They Are Throwing A Tantrum
It’s important to realize that even scolding and yelling are forms of attention, and children would rather have unpleasant attention from you than no attention at all. Therefore, when you pay attention to your toddler when they are behaving badly, you may actually be teaching them to do the very things you don’t want them to do.
When your toddler is throwing temper tantrums, giving any kind of attention at all to the bad behavior serves as a reinforcer. That’s why one of the best ways to handle a temper tantrum is to ignore it; simply pretend that the behavior is not occurring. Don’t look at, talk to, or respond to your toddler until the tantrum stops. Then be sure to recognize them as soon as the inappropriate behavior ceases to send a clear message that good behavior is the best way to get your attention.