The positive approach to dealing with tantrums
Tantrums can drive parents a little crazy, so we ask educational psychologist and parenting author Dr Linda Mallory to offer her top tips on how to handle a raging toddler
Let's face it, toddlers certainly know the completely wrong time to throw a tantrum, when you're in the middle of a busy supermarket, rushing to get to nursery or the classic, bedtime. Not only can it be frustrating, but can be down right embarrassing too.
Dr Linda believes parents need to take a positive approach to dealing with tantrums and to park our frustrations aside. Hey, anything's worth a go.
Here is Dr Linda's five-step that she swears by to help stop tantrums and arguments in their tracks and supports developing a more loving connection with children.
1. Get to the source
When an argument flares up it's natural to want to sort it as quickly as possible. But this can mean we overlook trying to understand why it started in the first place. We need to recognise our own frustrations but not react.
Look at the situation as objectively as possible. Our children sense when we are trying to understand the situation rather than judging them.
2. Positive phrasing
Using phrases such as 'I noticed that.....' 'I am wondering if......' help to engage our children rather than label what our child did. Avoiding 'you' messages such as 'you caused this mess.....you are being disrespectful' will only lead to our children feeling judged and labeled as 'messy' 'lazy' 'naughty' or 'disrespectful' and they will live up to the label and the language that we use.
Give your child space to feel their emotions. When our children feel accepted and their emotions are valued they begin to feel safe to share what they are really feeling. Acceptance rather than judgment usually diffuses and takes the energy from the situation.
3. Clarify what caused the tantrum
Asking closed questions such as 'why are you shouting?' 'why don't you want to .....' and offering quick fixes will result in your child shutting down rather than opening up.
It helps to ask questions, which are open and allow deeper thought. Asking open questions such as 'what would help?' or 'what do you need?' facilitates children clarifying the issue from their perspective. Just giving space to listen to their responses helps to explore the situation and focus on what is really important to them.
4. Give them time to think
Some children may find it hard to say that they are 'angry' or 'frustrated' and might be more able to articulate 'I think you are not being fair.'
Giving space for children to express their thinking is healthy and gives them permission to have emotions and feelings without feeling guilt or shame. It is useful to validate their thinking and feelings by using phrases such as 'it is ok to be frustrated and think it is not fair.' When parents say 'stop crying' 'why are you so angry' 'stop screaming' it makes our children feel guilty for having feelings and thoughts.
5. Find a solution together
As a parent you can be in a coaching position rather than 'fix' or dish out advice. This helps to look for finding a solution rather than dwelling on the problem from your perspective.
Making comments such as 'It sounds like you might be feeling ...' 'what can we do to solve this?' 'what do you need?' will help collaboration. If your child finds it difficult to express their ideas it could be they need some suggestions and a choice of a couple of solutions by using 'What would happen if...?'
Ideally it is more powerful if our children come up with their ideas to solve the argument. If our children articulate a solution the strategy they are more likely to follow through.