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Tantrums generally happen because a child lacks knowledge and does not have the ability to handle bursts of emotion. (Shutterstock/File)
We’d like to think that tantrums and high tempers are signs that a child cannot be tamed. As a matter of fact, according to Sarah Ockwell-Smith, founder of child-parent learning program BabyCalm, at The Telegraph, no matter how bad your child's tantrum is, it is part of his or her growth.
During the growth period, children will push themselves to the limit. They gain autonomy, touch everything, experience bursts of energy and sometimes become very stubborn. Tantrums generally happen because a child lacks knowledge and does not have the ability to handle a burst of emotion. “Child and adult minds work in different ways, even compared to slightly older children. They don't have good self- and emotional control yet. Thus when adults think that raging in a public place for no reason is considered inappropriate, children will not understand. They will keep doing it, because a tantrum is a biological thing,” said Ockwell-Smith.
When your children launch into tantrums at home, they are easy to cope with. You can place them in their rooms, keep your distance, or get assistance from people around the house to calm them down. But what happens when the tantrum happens in public, at the mall for instance, when you are doing your shopping and they’re whimpering for you to buy their favorite snack? It's a bad enough situation without the judging faces of people around you making the tantrum more difficult to handle.
Just ignore it
Getting angry at your child will only worsen their emotion -- even more so if you punish them for the tantrum. The children will store their anger and frustration within themselves. This is not very healthy. Jay Hoecker, MD, a pediatrician from Minnesota, US, told parents.com that the process of a tantrum was similar to the situation when a person is drowning. “When you see a man drowning in a lake, you can’t just scold them or give them lectures on how to swim, right?” he said. During a tantrum a child cannot think clearly. Children will be fully controlled by their emotions. These overflowing emotions ‘invade’ the brain’s frontal cortex, the judging and decision making area. “So yeah, reasoning persuasion would not bring any results, even less if forced or scolded. This is because the parts of the brain that can do those things are taking time off,” said Hoecker.
There is nothing you can do to make a child end his or her tantrum. Remember that children actually have the right to engage in a tantrum, but you also have the choice not to get involved in it. So yeah, ignoring your baby is actually an option. The goal of a tantrum is to seek attention from you. When you entice or force your child to stop whining, this means that you actually encourage them to have another tantrum in the future because they get what they want: your attention, either good or bad.
(Read also: The ballad of a work-from-home mom)
When you are at a shop and your child suddenly goes into a tantrum, do not show any response, not even staring them in the face. If the whining worsens, immediately leave the shop and go somewhere for solitude for the child to release his or her anger until he or she feels satisfied. In the meantime, you can check your phone, read a book, take a break -- anything really. When they’re worn out and recover from the tantrum, you may talk to them and continue your shopping. Ignoring your child while in a tantrum does not mean you are a bad parent.
Crying and whining while in a tantrum actually helps children to release their emotions in a harmless way. They can extract their dissappointment and frustration, heal themselves and regain self-control, all by their own effort without involving a loud argument.
Give some hugs
When you see your child in a rage, hugs may be the last thing you think of. A child's tantrum may have the tendency to make adults become emotional. However, as a parent, staying calm is the best thing you can do. Hugs can make a child feel safe and let them know you caree, although you disagree with their actions. Do note that this is not just any hug. Embrace them tightly and firmly, not the kind of hugs for bedtime stories, and don’t say anything while embracing your little one. “Tantrums can be a big problem when parents gave up too soon or too often, teaching the child that a tantrum is the best solution to get what they want,” said Diane Ryals, family life educator at the University of Illinois, quoted by sheknows.com.
Keep in mind that children and toddlers may have the tendency to display their emotions when tired or feeling hungry. Thus, if you are to do your monthly shopping for instance, make sure your little ones are well fed and well rested before leaving the house. During shopping, it's good to fill your bag with necessary ‘equipment’ to keep your child busy or you can use it to distract them when they show signs of a tantrum. Bring along candies, biscuits, or a favorite toy. This stuff may seem petty, but it can be a big help. Other than that, setting some ground rules when going out to the store can also reduce the risk of a tantrum. Before arriving at the destination, you can clarify to your little one that the goal of going to the mall is only for grocery shopping, not for ice cream or a new toy.
Frustration can also be the cause of a tantrum. If you know the mall you’re visiting has your child’s favorite toy store, be sure to spare some time visiting the place, or you should reconsider visiting that mall. Thinking of your child's reactions, the consequences and every possible alternative does not mean you’re giving up; this means you are being a wise parent. (kes)
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.