Our expert at Gordon Parenting offers tips on what we can do when our child is going through a tantrum
You’re at the grocery store, picnic-ing at the park, walking around the mall, playdate at your friend’s house, lunch at your in-laws home (!)… it doesn’t matter where you are, temper tantrums don’t discriminate on the location or time to where they show up.
Any parents who have gone through the tricky toddler phase can attest to the fact that meltdowns are not only difficult for the little ones to go through but also for the grown ups who are trying to calm their child down. More often than not, many of us use quick fixes to bring the decibel volume down from an ear-piercing state. But what if we told you there are more meaningful ways that not only help your child calm down but also aid in bringing long-term change?
We chat with our parenting expert, Odette Umali from Gordon Parenting who shares three tips on how to diffuse your child’s temper tantrum. And guess what? A lot has to do with changing how we parent first before we change our child’s behaviours. Odette says, “Tantrums, whining, acting out, and flat-out refusal to do what you ask them to do are behaviours exhibited by children when they feel disconnected with you. The benefits of having a strong connection to your kids are therefore very evident.” Making a meaningful connection and building a relationship with your child is crucial in preventing tantrums. When your children feel like they have your attention and on the flip side, you are more attentive, meltdowns are more preventable. As family therapist Virginia Satir suggests, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 hugs a day for maintenance, and 12 hugs a day for growth.”
Establishing connection with the child is a big topic by itself and should not be oversimplified. Odette shared a case where a parent felt her child is a bottomless pit sucking up all that the mother can give and still not connecting. In this situation, the mother might be putting her energy in the wrong place – maybe the child needs more cuddles, maybe he/she needs more acceptance from the parent, maybe he/she needs more playtime and sleeping in together. Creativity and experimenting is part of effective parenting.
But when the child get’s into tantrums, here are some of Gordon Parenting’s tips on what you can do:
- Work on you first, so that you can truly be compassionate with your child. The first step is always for parents to work on their own feelings. It is so hard to be compassionate with your child when he tries to hit the baby, or is simply be mean to the dog or to you. So you need a chance to “off-load” or manage your own feelings and worries about your child’s difficult behaviour, and your own reactions to it.
- Be present, attend to the child and listen. Just listen. Get close to the child, go low to his/her level and look him/her in the eye. Give him/her your full attention and empathise when you have the time for it.
- Try to imagine what you think the child might be feeling. This allows the child who is so distressed, you can’t understand his/her words to be soothed enough to talk, it also allows the child to hear his/her thoughts out loud and to think through them more clearly. It also helps him/her to get to the underlying reason of why he/she is really upset and this leads to self-awareness. In Dr. Thomas Gordon’s Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.), this process is called Active Listening. This equips the parents with skill which will comfort the child and help him work through his upset.
At the core of any meltdown, what a child needs most is his/her parents. Learn more about how to engage your child and build a healthy family at Gordon Parenting’s Effective Parenting courses that delve further into this topic while equipping you and other caregivers to your kids with the right tools to help raise your children.
Sign up now for the upcoming October Course. Simply email [email protected] to enrol.