When your child starts to throw a full-fledged public tantrum, it can sometimes take every fiber of your being not to break down and cry too. However, what most parents don’t realize is that they often contribute to their kids’ meltdowns.
Here’s what you’re doing wrong.
You don’t consider how they’re feeling. I love when mothers drag their kids to the grocery store in the late part of the day when they are tired, hungry, and impatient. I know I don’t like going to the grocery store in the late afternoon – I’m not at my best either! Sometimes kids are overstimulated by the millions of colorful things on every shelf. Sometimes they are bored out of their minds or just sleepy. You cannot expect a 3-year-old to maintain enthusiasm being carted around all day doing your dumb errands; it just won’t happen.
You overuse the words, “No!”, “Don’t!”, and “Stop!”. When my son, Deryk, was little, my rule was that if it wasn’t going to kill him or somebody else, I’d shut up and watch. Sometimes parents just say “stop” because it’s inconvenient and we don’t want to supervise – we’re lazy, we have to go to the bathroom… whatever! Stop the knee-jerk reaction to micromanage your kid; that just sets them off. If you want to make a connection, physically get down to their level, eyeball to eyeball. A touch and a firm, non-hysterical voice works. Screaming doesn’t.
You don’t keep your child in the loop. I can’t tell you how many parents I have heard from who expect their kids to instantly drop whatever they are doing – watching a show, reading a book, or playing a game – and obey like a robot. Set a timer (10 minutes) for them to wrap up whatever they are doing before you have dinner, go pick up Aunt Mary, etc.
You don’t keep them occupied. One thing I always did was keep a big satchel of arts and crafts materials, snacks, and other toys on hand so no matter where I brought my son, he had stuff to entertain himself with.
You don’t give them a choice. Instead of commanding your kid to get ready for bed, offer them a choice:
“Do you want to put on your jammies or brush your teeth first?”
“Do you want to eat the peas or the potato first?”
That way, your child is thinking about which activity he or she is going to do first rather than being contrary.
You treat everything too seriously. As I have told callers many times, if you want your children to clean up their rooms, line up their toys and put out a big bucket. Then time them to see how many toys they can get in the bucket in 60 seconds while only taking two at a time. Make it a game. Use play, humor, and fun to get them to do things. At dinner say, “Let’s make a face with the food – you can eat the eyeballs, the nose, the mouth, the ears, and hair.” Kids love that stuff!
Now, some of this may or may not be useful for kids who have medical or psychiatric “issues” (I hate that word). I’m not talking about that – I’m talking about your average, run-of-the mill kid. That being said, all kids are different – some nap a lot and some are Energizer Bunnies – so you have got to know your child and then plan ahead from there.
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