There is no situation more frustrating than a child whining, screaming, lying on the floor, throwing arms and legs around. It is heart-breaking. It is mind-blowing, quite literally.
The usual response of a parent in such situations is full of desperation, exasperation, irritation, anger, embarrassment, pity, and all that is enough to make us take an immediate step in an attempt to put a stop to it. At that point of time, we are willing to do all that we haven’t learnt in our parenting books, as the sight is too unbearable.
Some of the usual steps we take when the child is throwing a tantrum are:
1. Punishing the child: most of us scream, hit, or lock up the child who is questioning our parenting gyaan by doing the opposite of a desired behavior. The feeling of helplessness evokes tremendous anger in us and we end up punishing a child, who is already feeling devastated for some other reason. Punishing may sort out the issue at that point of time, as the child gives in, out of fear, but it has tremendous side effects in the long run. The child may become very meek, submissive or defiant, aggressive. The feeling of not being understood by parents is also carried heavily for life.
2. Rationalizing the issue: many of us have a habit of start giving explanations when faced with a problem. We end up doing the same when we see an undesirable behavior in the only heir of our values and goodness. He screams, we preach. The louder he cries, the harder we try to teach. After a while, we leave the child alone with a note in his mind that he ‘shouldn’t be doing like this’. Not effective. Because the child knows that he shouldn’t be doing like this. He knows all that we are teaching at that point of time. In fact, he is totally closed to a good-behavior lesson at that point of time. This often makes parents feel very helpless to see the child not listening to them.
3. Giving in: many indulgent parents, who don’t believe in punishing, and who don’t have the time and patience to impart the wisdom, often follow what the child crying on the floor is demanding for, no matter how inconvenient or unhealthy. They believe in giving, and giving in, without thinking of the consequences. The child gets things done his ways, so he is happy. He feels victorious. The child is happy, so the parents feel they have won the battle. No one wins here actually. Both lose, without realizing. The only thing that the child gains is one dangerous idea; things should happen in the way he wants. This one lesson learnt brings more monstrous moments and experiences in life of these parents later.
4. Giving up: sometimes, we don’t know what to do. So we just give up. We give up not without telling the child how disappointed we are in him, and how ashamed we are feeling about ourselves that we are not parenting enough. We leave the cranky child on the floor, lock up ourselves in a room, cry it over. The child, who was crying for something else few moments ago, starts crying for a new reason, i.e. upset parents. The cry continues, without telling the parents that the reason has changed, so the parents continue to feel wretched. The child feels a tremendous pressure of 3 things together- the problem which unsettled him to begin with, the feeling of not being supported by the parents and the feelings of the upset parents.
If our usual ways are doing more harm than good, then how do we handle a tantrum?
Answer lies in few simple steps. It’s called hot-spot management.
1. Remove the child from the hot-spot and take him gently to another room for a private conversation
2. Seat him in your lap and stroke his back
3. Let him say first
4. Don’t interrupt. Don’t defend yourself or offend him. Just keep saying hmmms, ohhhs
5. Acknowledge how upset he is. Reframe his feelings into an appropriate sentence. (“oh, you are angry because you want to watch your favorite cartoon and your T.V time is up”)
6. Wait for his response. Do not rationalize, defend or offend.
7. When he has released his feelings, stroke his back and comfort him (“ I know it can be very frustrating when you are not able to do what you really want to do. The point is that we all need to learn to express our anger without getting angry. Only then we can think of a solution. Right now, I am very upset with this behavior. I love you a lot and I would want to talk to you nicely about this. I am sure we can sort it out”)
8. Discuss the solutions with him. Do not cut his points, do not put your points over his.
At the end of the talk, your child should be able to:
1. Feel loved and accepted by you
2. Feel that he is good, but the behavior he did was bad
The steps mentioned above are quite simple to follow. There are 3 tricky points to keep in mind, though
1. Expressing your anger without getting angry yourself
2. Showing love and acceptance
When the going gets tough, the love gets going!!