We just spent the last few days on a mini family getaway to Universal Studios! We had lots of fun but we also had tantrums & meltdowns! While I know this is normal (I saw lots of it going on around the park) - it is still hard to deal with.
To be honest, tantrums and meltdown have been running rampant in my house recently. Most of them come from my almost 5 yr. old. I honestly thought we were past that phase with her. She had been doing so great then about 2 months ago - the tantrums and meltdowns came back full force.
Dealing with them is a work in progress. I am trying to teach her to control her emotions and use her words instead of just giving in to tears and yells. I am also working on my own reactions to them.
As I said, I know we are not the only ones dealing with this issue so I have decided to share our trials and tribulations with you. I am hoping we can help some parents out there and maybe some can help us in return!
When I realized the tantrums were at an all time high and that I was being pulled in and reacting to them - I knew we were in trouble. I had to step back and take stock of the situation because quite frankly the way I was handling things was NOT working!
1. I knew I had to figure out what was causing the tantrums. Quite simply, I had to understand the problem before I could begin to find an appropriate solution.
In our case there are a few factors that contribute to the tantrums.
a.) The Lil Diva has begun to give up her afternoon nap. She fights me when I tell her to lay down and will stay in her bed awake and playing. She thinks she doesn't need the nap but I can tell you that she does. By about 5pm she is cranky, tired and well out of sorts. So of course any little thing that doesn't go her way - leads to a meltdown. I know she is overtired and at this point she simply can't deal with anything.
b.) The Lil Diva is getting older and she wants to be treated like a big girl yet she is still just a lil girl in many respects. This is a conflict. She wants me to treat her like a big girl and is proud of being able to do things for herself but then she sees me do things for her lil sister and she wants that too. She will act like a baby - i.e. want me to feed her, talk in a baby voice, etc. I realize that she needs some "mommy" time just for herself. They both do. I have been trying to ensure they both get that so that sharing me isn't so hard.
c.) The Lil Diva gets very frustrated with her younger sister who wants to be like her big sis so much that she causes nothing but trouble. She wants to do everything her sister does, wants to play with whatever she is playing with, etc... I have been working with my youngest daughter on this but it's been a hard road. She simply doesn't understand that her big sister needs her own space and things sometimes. That is for another day and another post, lol!
2. Once I realized where the tantrums were stemming from I had to decide on a course of action that would work for both of us.
This has by far been the hardest part! Though I am not an expert, I am a mom and a teacher and I am pulling my resources from those 2 aspects in dealing with the tanrum situation in my house. Here I will share my stratgey with you in the hope that we can all help each other tackle this problem.
a. Stay Calm! I knew I wasn't handling things well because I was getting beyond frustrated by the frequency of the tantrums and reacting in anger which just seemed to escalate things. I have since realized that my anger and anxiety was reinforcing the behavior I wanted to eliminate. When I remain calm things go much smoother and the tantrums do not last as long. This has required work on my part but I find that reminding myself of the reason for the meltdown has really helped me. i.e. She did not nap after a long day so she is tired and she has been working hard on the picture she is coloring so when little sister passed by and hit her arm accidently and it messed up the drawing - it threw her into a tailspin! It's important to remember that these little things are BIG things to them!
b.) Do Not Engage! Trying to reason with a screaming and crying child is simply wasted time and energy! They can not hear you! They can not process what you are saying! Yes, you need to discuss what happened but pick the time appropriately - wait until the calm after the storm. You get much better results that way.
c.) Get the child alone and in a quiet/safe place - Yes, this means I have abandoned shopping carts and gone to the bathroom or even my car while eating out. A screaming child in a public place is no one's idea of a good time but the commotion really does make things worse. They know people are looking, you know people are looking and things go quickly from bad to worse.
d.) Get down to eye level - Once in a quiet place, away from all the other eyes, get down to their level! When I force the Lil Diva to look at me and acknowledge me - wonder of wonders, she forgets to scream so loud!
e.) Encourage Alternative Behavior/Self-Control - Once she is calmer, I can then acknowledge that she is upset and remind her it's best to use her words to tell me what's wrong or what she is feeling so that I can help her. I remind her that I can not understand her when she is screaming and carrying on and that I simply will not listen. Without an audience - tantrums do tend to die down (for the most part!)
f.) Discuss what happened when everyone is calm - take the time to hear them out - that is what the tantrum was about afterall! They wanted to be heard about something. Of course this does not mean they get their way if they wanted something you said no to but you can come up with alternatives that work for both of you.
g.) Explain the Consequences of such Behavior - In order to eliminate tantrums kids have to know they are not acceptable and they can not be used to get what they want. I do not give in to tantrums.
Both my Lil Divas know that if they continue to scream and holler after I have tried to calm them down and talk to them - I will walk away and not entertain it. They have to sit in a brief "Time Out" away from me and everyone else. I do not return until they have collected themsleves and are calm and are ready to talk to me.
I also do not give in to something I have said no to simply because they have thrown a tantrum. I explain the reason I said no - maybe it's almost dinner time and not the appropriate time for a snack or we are getting ready to head out to school and they don't have time to take out a toy and play. I can offer reasonable alternatives such as playing the game after school or eating the snack after dinner if they have eaten all their food.
h.) Anticipate Beahvior & Set Expectations for Behavior Before You Go Out - I always remind my girls of what I expect from them before we head out! Whether it's quiet voices in the library, staying near me at the store, listening when I say it's time to head home from a playdate, etc... We go over what they should do and I remind them that if they do not cooperate they will miss out on my next trip to the library, store or an upcoming playdate. If the need arises I remind them of what we discussed and agreed upon before heading out and what they will lose if they do not cooperate.
i.) Notice and Compliment Appropriate Behavior - It's easy to focus on the "bad" behavior but it is so important to put a spotlight on appropriate/good behavior to encourage and foster them in our kids!
On top of verbal reinforcements I have a marble jar for each of my girls at home. They earn marbles for jobs well done, whether it's sharing with each other, tidying up after playing without reminders, doing a helpful task at home, or anything that we might be working on that I see them put real effort into. Once they earn a set amount of marbles they get to pick a treat as a way to say "job well done". I have little odds and ends that I collect on sale, etc that I keep stashed away just for this purpose. This serves 2 purposes for me. It gives them something tangible to strive for while it also reinforces the behaviors I want/expect. This helps me because the more they do something appropriate the more it becomes learned/conditioned until it's just part of how they react - which is what I want to reinforce.
j.) Don't beat yourself up - I found myself feeling dejected when dealing with these tantrums. What was I doing wrong? Am I not a good parent? Well, I knew I could be handling things better but I am a good parent. Am I perfect? No, but who is? If you know please point me in their direction! We all make mistakes - we are flawed and we are human. In the end I realized that beating myself up for the tantrums was not helping! That was when I resolved to stop, think things through and do something to change the situation!
So that brings me to this point - where I am giving you a sneak peek into our lives and sharing my journey with you!
Are our tanrums over? NO! I told you at the onset of this post that it's a work in progress.
Do I have all the answers - Heck, NO! I forwarned you that I am NOT an EXPERT - this is simply 1 mom sharing what is working for me and my Lil Divas with other parents.
To be honest, this is not a quick fix kind of problem. It takes time, patience, understanding and growing for all parties involved to deal with tanrums.
I can tell you that since employing the above methods - the frequency, length and severity of our tantrums has really improved! We are taking steps in the right direction and for that I am very grateful. There is light at the end of the tantrum tunnel - I can see it now, can you?
Do you have tantrum troubles at your house?
What tactics do you employ to deal with them?