So I saw a kid having a melt down at the shops today, and I thought to myself “oh no, that will never happen to me” (haha!)
So besides a bunch of wishful thinking, I wondered what practical steps we could actually take to prepare for the inevitable, and this is where my research led me:
- Identify the triggerIs there a particular situation, experience, time of day, toy, person, game, TV show etc that happens either before or after the tantrum? If you are unsure, monitor your child’s tantrums over a few days. Write down what happens immediately before and after the tantrum occurs. Once you have worked out if something is prompting the tantrum it will be easier to work out what strategy could work to reduce the tantrums.
- Check for a reinforcer (and remove it)Is there something that is encouraging your child to have a tantrum?
For example, imagine each time you go to the shops, your child asks for a treat. You say no, and then your child has a tantrum. In order to stop the tantrum, you give your child a treat. The treat acts as a “reinforcer”, teaching your child that if they really want a treat, they need to have a tantrum.
Another example is doing chores at home. Imagine each time you ask your child to put their toys away, they have a tantrum. Imagine this then leads to “time out” during which you pack away the child’s toys. The child learns that if they don’t want to pack away their toys, they need to have a tantrum. Although the child isn’t “gaining” anything in this scenario, they are learning that they can “get out of” doing a chore by having a tantrum.
- Avoid the tantrum from happening at the start – communicate and agree on expectationsIf your child is consistently having tantrums, for example, at a particular place, time, or in reaction to being told they can’t have something (like a treat at the shops), talk to your child about the tantrum before it occurs, and discuss with them what behaviour you expect to see. For example, before you go to the shops, explain to your child that when they go to the shops, most times they will not get a treat, but “sometimes” they might. Explain to them that they might feel upset when you say no, but even if you do say no, and they get upset, you will not change your mind. Explain to them that you expect they will accept your decision without screaming and throwing things, but that it is OK for them to feel sad, mad, angry etc. if you say no. Help them to learn new strategies for dealing with their emotions (we’ll give some more insight to this one later).
There will be a bunch more strategies on our website so stay tuned for our release date. In the meantime, what strategies have you used to deal with tantrums? Have you tried any of the ones listed above? Did the tantrums stop? Did the tantrums get worse? (with some strategies, the tantrums can get worse before they get better!) Let us know what happened!
Slavin, R. (2005). Educational Psychology: Theory and Practice 8th Edition. Boston: Pearson Education Inc.
Dominique has a background in psychology and education and uses her knowledge to share simple and effective behaviour strategies with parents on her website Oh Beehave! created by her and her husband Sam. Dominique and Sam are recently married, so while they were working together to build their website, they decided it would be a fun side project to blog about their experience towards parenthood. Unfortunately, their journey has been more challenging than they (or anyone else) could have anticipated. Follow along to see how their journey pans out on the blog at Oh Beehave!