What is the reason our children throw tantrums? It is because they want something now and often because the parent has not agreed to provide it. If a child throws a tantrum and the parent gives in to their performance they are setting themselves up for ongoing problems as the child simply learns that if I get angry and loud, they don’t like it and give me what I want.
Children should know at a very early age, by 24 months at least, what is acceptable behaviour and what consequences will occur if unacceptable behaviour occurs. Saying this however creates another issue, clarity on your boundaries. Telling a young child to be good, to not misbehave means nothing. While we may understand what it means, they can’t. I ask parents to simply advise what it is you are requesting from your child such as ‘when we are out sweetheart mummy (or daddy) would like it if you use your inside voice please, stay very close to me when we are walking and not ask for anything. I have some items (treats, play things, games) with me and you can have them during the afternoon. Do you understand what it is I would like you to do today’?
This is much clearer and simpler for a child to understand instead of ‘be good’.
If your child decides that they want something else and want it now, use the yes word to deflate their escalation and continue. The more children are informed of their boundaries and consequences, the better they are. If however your child does throw a tantrum, separation is often the best remedy. Where possible, separate the child from the situation and you if you can. When at home place them into their room or another area away from you. If out at the shopping centre, sometimes the baby change room area can be a safe place to allow them time to regain some control. Going down to the carpark or even sitting you child in their car seat can help. I usually advise the parent to remain outside the car so they don’t hear the full blown tantrum as it is the sound that affects us considerably. If we remove our child to somewhere like the car, their room or change area, they are safer as they can’t run or injure themselves which sometimes can happen with an aggressive tantrum. No need to speak to the child while this behaviour is occurring as they have no control at this time, wait until it passes, do not give in, then continue with your outing. If at home you can leave them in their room for a time until they and you are ready to reconnect.
Find out more from Karen about stopping tantrums in children: