Q&A: Handling Tantrums

Each week Michele Borba answers your parenting questions right here on her blog. If you have a parenting problem or question leave a comment on this post and you may have yours answered next week!

How do i stop my 2 year old tantrums? She likes to scream, get on the floor, the whole works. In public it is hard to deal with. What do I do to train her not do deal with her frustrations in this way?

My 6 year old daughter has some annoying habits. If things aren't going her way she gets the worst attitude. One that sometimes includes refusing to do things and having temper tantrums.What do I do?
--Chrissy Mealy

Ahha! Tantrums!!! Rest assured this is one of the most annoying kid behaviors. I get more questions about tantrums then just about any other topic. But there is one huge parenting secret: A tantrum is a device kids use to get what they want because they've learned it works. The secret to stopping them is don't ever give in to the outburst. That said, here are a few tips to start reducing those tantrums.

Step 1. Anticipate the Tantrum to Prevent the Outburst
The biggest mistake we make is waiting until our kids are in full meltdown to deal with their out-of-control behavior. Your best bet is to anticipate its onset before the explosion. Watch for your child's unique tantrum pre-signs-tension, antsy, the first whimper-and immediately redirect his behavior: “Look, at that little boy over there.” “Want to get out of the stroller and push it with Mommy?” Sometimes it helps pointing out your kid's frustration signs: “Looks like you're getting tired. Let's take a walk.” Little tykes don't yet have the maturity to gauge their emotions, so you'll need to be their self-regulator at first. If you see your youngster getting frustrated, that's the time to try calming down techniques to help her stay in control. Get eye to eye and talk soothingly to her: rub her back, hold her gently or hum a relaxing song. Sometimes putting what your child feels into words can stop an explosion: “Waiting is hard, especially when you want to go home right this minute.” She might not have the language to express his frustrations, so hearing you say them can be reassuring. Once you figure out what works best for your child's temperament, use it quickly. Kids' behavior can turn into a full-blown tornado in record time.

Step 2. Set a Zero Tolerance Policy for Tantrums
Once your child explodes, absolutely refuse to interact with your child until the tantrum subsides. She needs to know this behavior will not be tolerated. Don't coax, yell, spank, or try to reason with your kid: it usually never works. Besides, she won't hear you above her screams. Do not respond in any way. Don't even make eye contact. It's sometimes necessary to gently hold a really out-of-control kid to keep him from hurting himself or others, but once he's at a safer point, go about your business.

Step 3. Consistently Use the 'No Tantrum' Policy Everywhere
Once your establish your behavior policy, it's critical that you use the same response every time she acts out so he knows you mean business. That also means when you're in public. Remove your kid from the scene: find a private area or go to the car until she acts right, or leave altogether. Yep, it's inconvenient, but you can't tolerate her inappropriate behavior. Consistency is critical in squelching out-of-control behaviors.

Step 4. Teach Positive Alternatives to Losing Control
When you're both calm, talk about appropriate ways to handle frustrations. Teach her a few feeling words--such as angry, mad, sad, tired or frustrated--then encourage him label how he feels: “I'm mad” or “I feel really cranky.” Though tantrums are never pleasant, you can use them to teach important lessons on communicating needs and handling frustrations appropriately.

Step 5. For Kid OLDER Than Three
The best consequence for persistent tantrums is time out but it generally isn't advisable until around 3 years old. Handle the tantrum the minute it occurs-don't wait to deal with it later. Calmly move your kid to a secluded spot or selected “time out” area. Make sure no TV, toys, or other kids are around. The time out is one minute per age of the child--and time starts once the child is CALM. This must be enforced everyplace and anytime. You should see a gradual diminishment in the behavior. Gradual. BE CONSISTENT.

Hang tough Moms!

Click here to read more of Michele Borba's Q&As, or leave a comment below with your own questions and it may be answered next week.

Dr. Michele Borba is the author of No More Misbehavin': 38 Difficult Behaviors and How to Stop Them .

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