Many parents would, I'm sure, agree that the most embarrassing and dreaded event that can be experienced with a two-year-old is the supermarket temper tantrum.
OPINION: he screaming little body with flailing arms and legs can be totally unmanageable. Tantrums tend to occur at crucial times in a child's development and they usually result from:
● Frustration at not having the words to make themselves understood.
● Confusion because they don't understand what we're saying or asking.
● Struggling to solve problems such as getting a stuck toy loose or a sock on.
● Lacking the motor skills to do things that other people can do such as reaching up to a shelf or drawing.
● Hunger or tiredness.
● Anxiety or discomfort.
● Stress or change in the household.
● Jealousy of a younger sibling.
● A battle of wills. Even at this age, children can have a sense, perhaps not consciously so, of how to push a parent's buttons.
Some suggestions for minimising tantrums:
● Identify what tends to trigger them and watch for the signs - hunger, boredom, over-stimulation, a time of day.
● Plan ahead. Make sure you're both fed, watered and rested and choose the best time of day to head out.
● Avoid long outings or visits where a lot of sitting still is expected or take a favourite book and toy with you
● Set reasonable limits and don't expect your child to be perfect.
● Give simple reasons and don't keep changing the rules.
● Daily routines give security.
● Encourage your children to use sign language words to describe how they feel or what they want.
● Get them to help in the supermarket.
● Change locations or activities as a distraction if things are getting tense.
● Don't automatically say no. Listen carefully and then decide.
● Give choice whenever possible. Bath time isn't open for debate but you can still give a choice - "It's time for your bath. Would you like me to carry the towels or will you?"
● Know what lights your fuse. You're the adult in the situation. It's not personal. It's part of growing up.
● For genuine frustration, give comfort or assistance calmly and warmly.
● Don't bother trying to reason mid- tantrum.
● Stay calm - don't allow yourself to be pushed into an explosive response.
The nature of tantrums at this age means that there's little point in punishing beyond a time-out period to regain composure. Certainly don't bribe a child to stop, or reward a child for stopping as this means the tantrum has paid off.
Frustration is a part of life and children need to learn how to handle it even if you feel, at times, that you just don't want to be involved in the process.
© Ian Munro 2014. All rights reserved.
- The Timaru Herald