Jessica Stebbins, MS, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
Discovery Institute, P.A. Rockledge, FL
Serving Brevard County
Another important step in lessening tantrums is to help your child feel like they have some control over their life. Toddlers may throw a fit over what are small things for adults such as which cup they drink out of. In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor thing and by allowing a child to make this decision they will feel more autonomy and confidence. When they are able to have some control, they are less likely to fight back on the issues that parents decide are bigger issues.
Keep in mind, even feelings such as anger or sadness have a place in our lives and are not problem emotions. The problem becomes when people experience these emotions in a negative or destructive fashion. Since tantrums are often a form of expressing feelings, this is a good time to begin helping your child express their feelings appropriately while also working to show them that it is okay to experience these feelings. As much as you can, name the feelings your child is most likely experiencing. For instance, you have to leave a play date and you state to your child “I know you are sad that we have to leave now, but we will come play again another day.”
A child as young as two years old does not have the ability to reason. It is best not to try to talk with and reason with a child this young on why they should behave. This will not have any positive effects on your child’s behavior and may have a negative impact as some children take this as attention and are reinforced by the negative attention. Also very important, keep in mind that allowing your child to throw a tantrum and then giving them their way will encourage them to continue this behavior as them getting their way will reinforce the tantrum.
No matter how well you know your child, there will still be times when an unexpected tantrum occurs. In these cases, you will need to experiment with different techniques to get your child to comply with your requests. There are different strategies such as counting to three, time outs, and ignoring the behavior that you can choose from. Pick what appeals to you most first, try it for a couple of days, and wait to see if you notice any difference in your child’s behavior. As with anything else, not everything will work for every child.
If you are in the Rockledge area and looking for a therapist, please give me a call.