How do I keep my child from having tantrums?
A. First of all think about the things that usually cause your child's "meltdowns." Most children have predictable respnces to certain types of frustration. Here are some common triggers and some ideas about how to help your child to stay calm.
- You tell your child to do something, they do the opposite and then freak out when you scold or discipline them for their disobedience - often this is purely a problem of lack of communication. The child can not yet think verbally, even though he may know a lot of words and even use simple sentences. This means that most words that they cannot visualize are very hard for them to understand, and so a sentence like "When we get out of the car, don't run off this time" may sound like ."get out, car, run." Next time try to keep the sentence in the positive and very "concrete" (something you can see,or touch, with you imagination). "When we get out of the car, Stand.. Stay with Mommy. Hold Mommy's hand." The chapter in my book on "How to communicate with a Two Year Old" has a lot more on this subject.
- When it is time to go somewhere the child fights you and ends up having a tantrum. The events of life so often take two year olds by surprise. they just don't know what is going to happen and when. Your little one needs to have a little time to adjust to the idea of changing activities, so give a warning a few minutes in advance. Say, "We are going to leave and go to the store in five minutes. I'll tell you when it's time to stop playing and come with me." The very first time you do this it may not help a lot, but keep it up. It may take a few days for your child to learn to understand how long "five minutes" is and what "We are going to" means. Giving a five minute warning can help with bedtime, mealtime, or any other change of activity. Helping your child to understand what is going to happen next can make a real big difference in their frustration level. This is one reason why keeping a regular daily schedule is very comforting for some children.
- Your child seems to pick the worse times - when you are already stressed - to have a tantrum. Another trigger is when you are upset, the child can become upset simply because you are letting them know by example that there is something upsetting going on. If you don't want to do something (run errands, got to an appointment, give the child a bath, etc) then the child can pick up your attitude. Stay calm and relaxed and act like what you are about to do is going to be fun, and the child is more likely to expect to enjoy the experience too.
- Your child wants to do something dangerous, destructive, or annoying and has a temper tantrum when you try to make them stop. Two year olds are programmed for learning and when they become interested in something it is about as difficult for them to ignore the urge to investigate it as for a thirsty child to not drink water, a hungry child to ignore a cookie, or an itchy child to not scratch. Give you child as many safe and appropriate learning opportunities as possible - take them outside where it's okay to touch, throw, collect,carry around random things freely, and where they can run, jump, and yell. Read Chapter 10 in my book "Having Fun with Two Year Olds."