It never fails. Right in the middle of your weekly grocery shopping trip, your toddler decides to throw the biggest temper tantrum of the century…and you’re almost done. Or, you’re at a friend’s house for their annual barbeque and your child decides that they aren’t going to behave unless you give them the volleyball that is being used for the backyard volleyball tournament that all of the adults at the party are playing. How do you keep your sanity and your child in check?
You have to keep in mind that toddlers are demonstrating their independence, and trying to take control of their little lives when they throw a temper tantrum. While you may think they are acting out to get attention, in reality, what they are looking for is control. So, what is it that they want control over? Quite often, they don’t even know. So, you have to keep your cool and figure out how you can give them the control that they want without igniting the fire. This doesn’t mean that you have to give them the volleyball in the middle of the tournament, but it does mean that you can think about another way to let them feel like they have control.
One thing toddlers have not quite caught onto is the concept of distraction. Right in the middle of the worst temper tantrum on Earth, you could probably yell out, “Look! A bear!” and your child will stop the waterworks for a quick moment to see what you’re yelling about. Sometimes, it only takes a replacement basketball (instead of the volleyball) and an offer to play with them over near the basketball hoop. And, sometimes, just sometimes, it might be worth it to distract your child with a favorite snack or treat.
You’re at your wit’s end, and so is your child. When you start the downwards countdown, your child is going to wonder why you’re counting and what comes after the countdown. Once you’ve made it down to 1, if you have your child’s attention, you could explain that when you get upset, you calm down by counting down numbers, and that your child could try it, too when they’re upset.
On the same level as counting down, you have to pay attention to your breathing when your child is pushing your buttons. Staying calm can be as simple as breathing in and out slowly. This is yet another technique that can be taught to younger children when they have lost control of their emotions.
Sometimes, you are going to find that you have to pack up the child, right in the middle of the grocery store or the best barbecue party in the world, and take them home. While your sanity might be tried, your child will learn that their actions will not get them what they want. On the contrary, bad behavior will get them quickly removed from where they are making a scene, and sooner or later, they will learn that this is not what they really want.
Lisa Bruce is a mother first and foremost to her 2 wonderful kids, wife, Placement Manager and owner of the newest Nannies on Call branch in the Okanagan.