GrowMama is pleased to share some real life advice from a mom deep in the trenches. GrowMama contributor and mother of three, Hala Amer, shares her tried and true tips to help diffuse and deactivate temper tantrums in this week’s two part series. Tune in on Thursday, February 21st for the remainder of her tips.
When fellow mothers tell me about a child’s violent temper tantrum, I feel a flood of heat surge through my body as I am reminded of my own experiences with my boys. It was often scary, lonely, and made me feel like a failure as a parent. While some children are more easy-going than others, many are sensitive to outside circumstances and stimuli. This, coupled with a limited ability to communicate, can leave a child with only one option to fully express themselves – the ever dreaded tantrum.
Here are a list of possible methods I have compiled over the years that have helped me to ease the struggle.
1. Disregard others around you.
Kids will embarrass you in public and it’s not a reflection of you as a parent. Stick to your guns. Avoid eye contact with others while you do what you need to do. Many a time, I’ve walked out of the mall with a kid kicking and screaming under my arms, or strapping them in a stroller kicking and screaming while I (try) to ignore onlookers.
2. Don’t be scared of them!
I used to be scared of the screaming/tantrums. So here is your assignment: Wake up every morning, look in the mirror and say, “I’m the adult, I’m in charge and I dictate the rules.” I use this affirmation each morning to prepare for those harder times. I don’t always stick to it, but the reminder helps reaffirm my intention.
Much frustration comes from children’s inability to express their wants/needs. Gestures and pictures can be helpful to establish routine and identify things they don’t yet have words for. Pick major parts of your day, and create a picture schedule or create a little board or picture book that you can run through any time they seem to want something you’re not understanding. The concept is similar to sign language without having to teach specific signs. It also helps build vocabulary.
4. Check for signs of illness or pain.
Something may be bothering them. Teeth, ears, stomach ache, etc. Try to make sure you’ve explored these options when coping with a tantrum. Not doing so may just result in a longer, more unpleasant tantrum, and a very unhappy child.
5. Help them transition.
Give your child notice before any transitions. Let them know how much time they have left (even if their concept of time isn’t fully developed) and what activity is coming up next. “Ten more minutes, and we have to leave.” It helps them mentally prepare to stop doing something they are in the middle of and introduces them to what is to come.
When they would tantrum at home, I would put them in a playpen, crib, highchair, etc. and walk away. It’s really important that you leave them in a safe place where they can’t hurt themselves, but not indulge the spectacle by being a spectator. After three or four days, the ignoring really starts to work. At first, it would get worse than usual, like “Oh, she’s not hearing me; I need to be louder, crazier, etc!” and then it eventually went from worse to a lot better.
Hala is a full-time mom of 3 boys, homeschooler, occasional blogger, avid reader, closet superhero junkie, tea-enthusiast, chocolate-eater, aspiring foodie and founder of the Muslim Mom Network. She resides with her family in NJ.