Written by: Olivia (Certified ScreamFree Leader) on February 15, 2012 @ 1:23 pm
If I wanted to stick one label on my daughter right now it would be this: controlling. However, I don’t want to label her as anything. I want more than anything for her controlling behavior to be a phase. Maybe it does have something to do with her personality, but I know for sure that this sudden onslaught of tantrums is definitely characterstic of two year olds (and gives me horrid flashbacks of her older sister). Either way, anybody can change at any time, and I want this chaos to have the opportunity to subside. If I tell her she’s controlling enough, she may believe it and then be controlling just because I keep saying it—voila, the self-fulfilling prophecy.
My previous child, whose birth coincided with my commitment to being Screamfree, had only a handful of tantrums, none of which reached the epic proportions that my girls’ have. My first child had some horrible tantrums, but that was before I found ScreamFee and was a very frustrated first-time mother. Thus, this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to face tantrums in a more calm, rational way.
This proved a very good skill-set to have when she melted down in Safeway last weekend, our local grocery store. I had to buy some cupcakes for my son’s Qur’an-class party, and she insisted on carrying the tray of 20 mini cupcakes to the check-out, which of course I refused. This was not the first tantrum she had had that day, so meltdown was imminent. So there I stood while my two year old rolled around on the floor, arching her back and screaming between the soups and the Starbucks. For time’s sake I had to eventually pick her up by the front of her jacket, suitcase style, and take her to the check-out, where the lady behind me had to give us quite a wide berth with her shopping cart as my daughter continued her tantrum next to the conveyor belt. Even the nice lady who gave us balloons outside did absolutely nothing to pacify her.
Of course, I took her straight home to her father. I mean, I was going to take her with me to the party, but only on the condition that she was manageable. At home she could roll and scream to her heart’s content. And what do you know, as soon as dad came and got her she chilled out any way.
So here’s a little self-learned ScreamFree advice in how I handled my two year old’s tantrums differently this time around then how I did with my first child five years previously.
1.No matter, what stay calm.
In the midst of a tantrum, your child is begging you to either lose it just like her or give in and pacify her with whatever it is she’s crying about. Of course, the latter is preferable, but if not then it’s like the old adage goes, misery loves company. Sometimes if our kids know that they won’t get their way, then the next best thing is a good fight with mom or dad. Why? Because as soon as you lose it with them and yell, your own bad behavior has given them justification for acting upset or angry. Now the tantrum may be about you yelling at them rather than the actual catalyst, and you’re 10 times more likely to cave in because of your own guilt.
2. Identify your own part in this ongoing behavior pattern and change it.
For many parents, it’s giving in to what they want. Obviously, this will only let the cycle continue and reinforce the behavior. You’ve just cemented in their minds that if they cry and scream long enough, you’ll cave. Then maybe next time if you hold out, they’ll go even longer. If you give in routinely, expect tantrums to only get bigger and uglier. Other parents may yell or try to intimidate their kids, which as we mentioned earlier it only makes them cry harder and feel justified. In my case, I wasn’t giving in to her, but I was rushing to comfort her. Then she would erupt again five minutes later when I said no again. As hard as it was for me, I didn’t immediately respond to her by initiating affection when she was upset because I knew this was my part in our ongoing pattern. Once she felt a bit dejected by mom, she was faced with either choosing to continue her tantrum or calming herself down and coming to me on her own, after which I received her warmly. Once I made this change, her tantrums decreased both in frequency and duration. Some may wonder if tantrums are then just about wanting Mom’s attention, so isn’t that sort of bad to “jilt” them by not giving them the “love and attention” they’re crying for? In those guilt-inducing words, it may seem that way. But sometimes our kids want our constant attention or want it when they know they can’t have it (when you’re on the phone, computer, walking out the door) so while they may have “loving” intentions, the tantrum is just a means to control Mom or Dad. If you give your child loving attention at other times, then it’s okay to say no when you have other things to do. A parent who is not insecure will have the ability to do this without regrets.
3. Accept that this is your child’s choice.
You can’t choose for them, and if they want to meltdown at an inconvenient time, they will. Can you make him not cry, or make him not make his body rigid, or not slam his head back? Maybe you can manage the affect that this has on his bodily safety or on other people’s sanity by moving him to another area, but the tantrum may just continue for a solid 20 minutes. Accept and feel the liberation that you are not responsible for his behavior. Stay calm and ride it out if you can’t leave, no matter what dirty looks or (un)helpful advice others may give you. This isn’t about them and your image as a parent. You know you’re a good parent, and you have nothing to prove to a mall/party/playground/masjid full of strangers/friends/family/acquaintances.
4. Even though you aren’t responsible for your child’s behavior, you are responsible to them.
Meaning here, that in my own situation, I should’ve sensed this coming and left her at home in the first place. She was ripe for an explosion, and taking her to the grocery store was the perfect place for it. Taking kids with on long rides or while you run errands is usually setting yourself up for the perfect disaster. Do you really need to run that errand now? Can your hubby do it for you later? Can you plan your child’s nap around the time you’re planning on taking a long drive some place? If you want to get out of the house yourself, don’t take your child with you! Get some real time away by leaving him/her with your husband, relative, or friend. You know what triggers who child’s tantrums, you are responsible to them for at least making your best attempt at minimizing those triggers without wildly inconveniencing yourself.
5. Don’t feel like a crappy parent.
It’s easy for other people to pass judgment on you when they see you standing “helplessly” by while your child flips out. Other people may offer you unwanted advice which only makes you feel inadequate. Give a positive demeanor and if some well-meaning Auntie wants to offer you her two cents, don’t be hostile but at the same time you can politely thank her and close the door to further conversation. While I was standing in the check out, the neighboring cashier said questioningly, “You don’t talk to her when she’s upset?” As if anything I had to say would even be heard over her shrill screams! I knew from past experience that if I tried to “talk her out of crying” or offer her consoling words, she would see this as one of Mom’s cheap tricks and just dig her toenails in even harder and scream louder. I knew I had to let her go for a little bit before she would be receptive. So I smiled and said, “No, no. We’ve been through this before so I know just how to handle it.” Suddenly I came off as the knowing and unruffled parent rather than the desperate and flustered parent she assumed me to be (or the defensive parent I could’ve been had I let her comment get under my skin). It also shut down the conversation. Also, don’t be tempted to give in to your kid, just to get other people to stop staring at you (or her). That’s a short-term gain with a long-term loss for you. Plus, it’s like your parenting for the sake of your self-image rather than for the sake of your child.
6. Get some time away from a tantrum-y kid.
We need alone time regularly to be able to parent with a positive attitude and in a calm, ScreamFree way. If you’re a martyr mom/dad, you’re just setting yourself up for frustration and resentment. If you’re having a particularly hard time with one of your kids, this time is even more essential for your sanity and your ability to maintain a calm connection with them. Don’t be shy to tell your spouse that you need to get out for a while and don’t feel bad if you have to leave your tantrumming toddler behind with a sitter from social events so that you can enjoy them.
Happy tantrum-ing! =)Catogories: Uncategorized