Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Taming Tantrums

The other night I was trying to get the kids fed, bathed and into bed. For some reason that evening, in the eyes of Eliana (4.5), I could do nothing right. She didn't like the way I prepared her food. She didn't like the bowl I served it in. And how dare I take her little brother upstairs to try to bathe him while she was "starving" (despite the fact that her dinner was sitting right there on the table)?

I've tried every reaction to tantrums I can think of. I've tried placating. I've tried ignoring. I've tried bribing. I'm embarrassed to say I've tried screaming back. This girl will have none of it.

So that evening, while Eliana was screaming in the kitchen and Ami (2.5) was playing contentedly in the bathtub, I opened a package of brand new bath crayons I'd been planning to surprise them with. A few minutes later, Eliana walked into the bathroom, still screaming about the "unfairness" of it all, and caught sight of Ami gleefully scribbling all over the tub. "Why did he get those," she demanded, her temper escalating.

"Because he's behaving nicely," I answered quietly, turning back to Ami and helping him draw a star on the tub.

Without a word, Eliana zipped her lip, took off her clothes and climbed into the tub.

So I recommend the next time one of your kids is having a tantrum, forget ignoring, forget reasoning, forget bribing, forget yelling, forget punishing. Rewarding the child who's behaving works so much faster and so much more easily. The reward doesn't have to be a prize or a treat, either. A cuddle, some lap time, a story or a game works just as well to tell your tantrum-thrower "this is what you'll get when you settle down, but right now you're not very pleasant to be around."

If you only have one kid - sorry, I've got nothin for ya.

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