Firstly, let’s get things in perspective. Even adults have tantrums so they are bound to happen. The question is not so much how to avoid them but rather how to manage them and stay in control during an episode. The problem for many parents is that they have a hard time managing their own emotions as their children are losing control of theirs. That is why it is important to differentiate between the issue of the tantrum and the impact it has on you as a parent and those around you and when to seek the help of a professional chil therapist.
Why do children have tantrums?
Children have tantrums because they get frustrated and can’t articulate or express themselves effectively to get what they want. For a child, a tantrum becomes a viable option for getting attention, striking back, resisting control and getting others to cave in. While the child is hoping this behavior will yield rewards, parents and caregivers have to make sure it doesn’t, and not allow the child to use tantrums as a way of controlling others or getting what they want.
Child Therapist Toronto steps to control childs anger
During a tantrum, parents ought to first determine the possible motive for the tantrum. This can be done by asking the question “what is it you need or how can I help you? Keep this motive in mind during the process. The ‘why’ becomes relevant in helping children problem solve. Asking a question during the child’s tantrum empowers the child so they believe they have some control in the matter and also helps them know they have options, one of which is to act differently from how they are currently acting. KEY: ASK A QUESTION.
Secondly, let your child know once they finish reacting, you will be available to speak with them. You can say something like “once you calm down, we can talk”. KEY: LET THEM KNOW YOU ARE AVAILABLE TO ASSIST IF THEY WISH TO CO-OPERATE.
What you don’t want to do is:
- Argue with your child;
- Allow your child to disrespect you by engaging with them;
- Scold your child or pass judgment on the child;
- Lose control of your own emotions;
- Ignore your child completely.
Note – the reason why your child may be acting out is because they have a need that is not being met. What you want to teach them is how to express their need in a healthy and proactive manner. No matter how long it takes for your child to calm down, be willing to stay the course, stay true to your conditions, and don’t engage with them unless their behavior ceases. The goal is to choke their belief that “I can get what I want by acting this way”.
What do I do if I am tempted to lose control?
Unfortunately, some parents fall prey to tantrums and lose control. When they do, it sends several messages to the child including:
- Behaving badly gets attention;
- My parents don’t have control themselves;
- My mom/dad is an equal opponent in this power struggle.
When parents fail to model healthy behavior, their words and advice lose credibility and they can lose the respect of their children. If you find yourself wanting to lose control, you can do any of the following:
- Tell the child, you are taking a walk or leave the room to clear your head. Be sure to clarify you will be back at a given time;
- Do some deep breathing to calm yourself down;
- Have a trusted mediator take control, perhaps someone who is not so emotionally attached to the situation;
- Use self talk – a way of speaking to yourself and disputing thoughts that trigger you to lose control. For instance, if you have a thought like “God, I can’t stand this kid, he is so disrespectful”, you can replace it with “He’s simply being a child and this too shall pass. I need to stay in control to model healthy behavior”. Taking control of your own thoughts will give you more control of your own emotions immediately.
If you have a child who struggles with tantrums, anger outbursts or exhibits behavioral problems, consider registering him in Positive Kids – an off-site facility dedicated to helping children master social and emotional skills. Positive Kids is a child therapy service that is run by professional child therapists with years of experience and proper training. Schedule an appointment with us today so that your child can enroll in one of our camps in the Greater Toronto Area.