Monday, October 24, 2005

How to Put a Stop to Your Child's Tantrums

How to Put a Stop to Tantrums
Dr. John Schinnerer
Guide To Self

The tantrum is the child’s best friend and your worst enemy. It’s a funny sort of behavior because on the face of it, during a tantrum, the child apparently loses all control, yet in throwing the tantrum, actually is gaining some control.

When a youngster throws a tantrum, he is taking control from the parent. When he is screaming, flailing around, and crying, he is assuming a position of power by making you feel helpless. The longer it goes, the louder it gets, the more control the child has. I mean, how many other situations does the child get this type of power?

To understand how to deal with this sort of behavior, you have to understand these underlying dynamics. Your goal is to take the control away from the child if you want to stop the tantrums. The hard part is figuring out HOW.

Here are some common mistakes parents make when dealing with tantrums or whining.

You don’t want to argue with your child. They don’t have the right disagree AND be defiant with you. They are the child. You are the parent. While they can express their opinions and beliefs, they may not defy you.  As parents, we have fundamentally different rights than our children. We make the decisions by which our kids must live. The role of the parent is to outfit children to be productive, ethical people who can succeed in the real world. The role of parent is NOT to be the child’s best friend. While you can act as a friend at times, the role of friend is secondary to the role of parent.

You don’t want to show any negative emotion such as anger. When you show anger or irritation, it tells the child that he has the power to influence your emotions and in turn you. To parent well, you must have excellent emotional self-control. Children innately respect strength – strength of body as well as strength of mind.

Naturally, you don’t want to hit the child while they are screaming. What good would that do you? Keep in mind that the main way kids learn is by watching how other people deal with life – especially their parents.

Simply let them know that they are not acting appropriately and the behavior is not acceptable in your family. Don’t raise your voice. Don’t get angry.

What you want to do is take the fun out of his fits. Explain to your son that if he wants to throw a tantrum he is free to do so. However, every time he does, you will record it (with a camera or tape recorder). The child has to do a bigger, louder and longer tantrum than the previous one. If it’s not bigger and louder, THEN he gets punished. Part of the punishment is to explain why the tantrum wasn’t better. Also, the tape of the tantrum must be viewed or listened to by the child within 24 hours of the fit. Tell your son that he needs to see how his behavior looks to others. Punishments for lesser tantrums might include loss of video game time,
Reducing TV time in ½ hour or hour increments,
Loss of play dates for a day,
or sliding bed time up in 15 minute increments.

This makes tantrums a burden rather than a boon. Now they HAVE to throw a longer, louder tantrum. You can cancel this intervention only after you are convinced that your son finds throwing fits to be a complete drag.

Additionally, you can make it so that the child HAS to throw a tantrum every day within these same guidelines. I’ve found that merely taping the tantrum is enough to discourage it after 4-5 fits.

If the behavior returns after this little intervention, just jump up and grab the video camera during the next fit. It should help snap him out of it.

Whining is used to get attention.
Keep clear and consistent boundaries and rules.
Ignore whining voice. Suggest that they talk in a big boy voice so you can hear them. There are no manipulative children. Merely parents who allow themselves to be manipulated. You have to show your son that whining is useless in your house. Once he learns that he is wasting his time, he should stop. Don’t show your distaste for whining in any facial expression. Stay calm. Keep in mind that his whining is likely to increase as you start to ignore it. Prepare yourself for it and stay true to your course. In short, the whining cannot be heard and therefore you do not respond to it in any way.


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