Children often throw tantrums when they don’t get what they want. Whether it is ice cream for breakfast, or to go to the park late at night – if they can’t have it, you can expect them to be crying and screaming on the floor in the next three seconds.
As a parent of a young mind, the way you react to these temper tantrums will shape the way they will deal with conflicts later in life. Your reaction will mould their outlook on life, and pretty much make or break their self-esteem.
It is vital to remain calm, even though you may want to let go and just scream. In just screaming at a child however, you are alarming the child and activating their “fight or flight” instinct. This means that they just shut down, and are no longer open to discussion. It is at this point that they will either run away or yell back at you, without even the hint of a solution to save the day. Screaming at a child may also hurt their self-confidence and self-esteem, things which take years to rebuild to a healthy level.
In the event of a nonsensical request, such as having ice-cream for breakfast, explaining logic to the child is of no avail. Telling them about how icecreams will make their cavities worse will only increase their desire for that icecream. It is at this point that you must make every effort to stay calm and not yell. Try your best to get out of the fight zone. First, just make a statement – “We don’t have icecream for breakfast”. If that doesn’t work, present them with alternative healthier foods that they like. If this also doesn’t work, and you’re both at the brink of losing it, try to lighten the mood. Present a sudden game of hide and seek or just burst into dance. This will put your child in a happier frame of mind, and more able and willing to come to some form of middle ground.
Another impossible activity of the day is getting out of the house on time for school. It is the absolute worst time to hide things, including themselves. Screaming at them at this point will only cause you more stress than anyone else in the argument because no matter how you spin it, children just do not understand the concept of being late. Instead, just tell them to get ready in the morning, and instead of constantly nagging after that, wait until the right time to tell them that it will be time to leave for school in ten minutes, and that you hope they will be ready by then. It is very likely that they do not pay heed to this the first time you do it. But when it’s time to leave, put them in the car as they are, and take them straight to school. Next time you do this, they’ll know you mean it.
If you have more than one child, you can bet there will be sibling drama. Dealing with the two fold tantrums without raising your voice may seem daunting, but it can be done. It is of utmost importance that your kids know you are not going to take any sides, and that they both need to sort things out and cool down on their own. Starting to yell at this point may result in either sibling feeling betrayed. When this sort of reaction is repeated, it can affect the dynamic between you and that child. Instead, ensure that you stay calm. Tell them that you are waiting for them to sort it out on their own before they get to go to the pool or play with the dog. This will not only encourage them to sort things out, but also set an example of how to treat each other. During more pressing conflicts later in life, the issue is sure not to escalate beyond control.
All in all, it is up to the adults to stay calm, and treat the upset child like you would an upset adult – which is exactly how we do it at AIM Montessori.