A few weeks ago I told you about a new site for parents that helps get through some of the toughest moments of parenthood. Bundoo is a great resource for new and seasoned parents because they offer expert advice from REAL doctors. I love that you can ask a question during off-peak hours and receive a response back soon after. Sure, I can call our pediatrician and even stop by, but Bundoo is available all the time, including after 6pm and on Sundays and holidays- those are the moments that are the hardest to get in touch with our doctor.
Lately, my perfect little princess has been having a tough time adjusting to obstacles and getting through them. She has had some behavioral issues that needed to be addressed, because my husband and I were at our wits end on dealing with her. We tried a few approaches, which didn’t work, and it was time to turn to the experts. I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Anderson from Bundoo, who helped me understand WHY my daughter was acting out. Once I had a better understanding of why, I was able to effectively communicate with my 4 1/2 year old and find ways to avoid the behavior that was troubling us.
Here are some questions and answers from the discussion between Dr. Anderson and myself:
1. What is the best way to handle a temper tantrum?
When dealing with a temper tantrum the best thing you can do is not to feed it! It is important to keep your own cool and be mindful of your own emotional expression. First I like to make sure all their “creature comforts” are taken care of. When kids are over tired, hungry or not feeling well they will tend to be more moody and susceptible to these melt downs. While I still don’t accept this as appropriate behavior, it helps to recognize these issues for them and encourage a snack or nap, etc to help fulfill the need. After you have made this assessment and determined a potential cause you have a few options. Depending on the environment you are in at the time the best strategy maybe to ignore the outburst, distract the child or give an appropriate consequence. If the child is not causing harm to himself or any surrounding people or property it can be best to ignore the melt down and wait for them to be more calm to address them. I will give a simple statement (sometimes you may need to repeat it) that I will wait over here for you to calm down and as soon as you are ready to use your words calmly we can talk about it. This approach works best with older more verbal children. If they are not yet very verbal I will still make the same general statement, but then do more of the talking for them until they learn to associate the right words with those feelings. Children will sometimes even resort to negative behavior to get the attention they are seeking or express their opinion. Don’t fall for this or feed the behavior. Make sure you are rewarding the behavior (by giving attention to) the one you want repeated. On Bundoo I have listed some other things you can do with children when a temper tantrum occurs. Distraction can be a very effective technique, especially when you are in a public setting. Humor can help lighten the mood for both of you. Do something silly and spontaneous, it is unexpected and works well. I have also used the mirror technique. Find a mirror and have them see themselves in the midst of the tantrum. This can be effective for two reasons: First, it’s embarrassing to see a temper tantrum, especially when it is your own. Second, it can serve as a distraction, which can get their mind why they are mad in the first place.
2. When dealing with extreme temper tantrums (yelling, screaming, throwing things) do you ignore the behavior or do you handle it. If you handle it, how?
In the case of an extreme temper tantrum I would not encourage a parent or caregiver to ignore the behavior, especially if the tantrum involves some form of aggression where people or property are in harms way. I believe this level of tantrum requires immediate intervention. Again, the level of intervention may be determined by the your location at the time of the tantrum. At home you have the most flexibility. If you are out in public or even driving somewhere, there are fewer options available to you. I would still encourage you to act immediately. Consequences should be individual specific, because not everything works for each individual the same. For example, I have 3 sons and taking away TV from my youngest for any period of time would be of little consequence to him as he rarely desires to be in front of a TV for any reason. For my middle son, however, cutting back on the amount he is already aloud to watch TV has significant impact on his behavior. Never permit any aggressive behavior and try not to use a form of spanking to address it. This will more likely make it worse, in time, than better. A timeout, away from anything pleasurable or entertaining can be effective. This can allow them to reflect on their behavior and calm down in private. Allow them to gage when they have calmed down enough to return to the room or activity. Always address the behavior after the consequence to discuss what triggered the extreme temper tantrum and discuss appropriate ways they could have expressed themselves without having to resort to yelling, screaming or throwing things. Trying to have this dialog while they are angry will typically only make you and them more upset.
3. How do you handle issues of “talking back?”
Talking back is an issue that can easily get out of hand. Children “talk back” when they feel some form of injustice has befallen them. This is a form of debate they engage in with the parent or caregiver in hopes to get their way and challenge consequence. I feel there is a difference between negotiating an alternate consequence and “talking back”. Talking back is defiant and disrespectful. If allowed it is a tactic they will try to resort to with increasing frequency, as they get older. It is important to let children know who is in charge and that your word is final as to avoid this issue. If they even get a hint that you might cave they learn to go for blood. And kids often can outlast most adults, which causes the adult to give in just to end the discussion. This only reinforces their strategy. Give your word, whatever that is, and try not to even engage the debate. Bottom line is that it ultimately does not matter if they see why you have made the call you did, but they need to honor it. In time and with maturity hopefully they can learn the why behind some decisions. It will be up to you to know the difference as to when you can be flexible and when to stand firm.
4. How do you equip children to understand the importance of listening at a young age?
“Listening” has a few meanings. I am assuming by this you mean obey. I believe children intuitively want to listen and obey. As they get older and start to develop more independence they start to question authority. This is a developmentally appropriate. And we should celebrate the effort. I also feel that child listen better when they themselves feel heard. We need to give them opportunity to express themselves and develop their own sense of self. This will likely differ even from their parents, and that is ok. We can get very busy and not “see” or “hear” what our children are trying to tell us. If we are modeling good “listening” in our world with them and even others, they will learn and model it back.
5. What is the best way to deal with sibling jealousy?
Sibling rivalry stems out of insecurity and stiff competition between siblings. The best way to curb sibling rivalry is to continuously build up each child, and celebrate his or her strengths and differences. They will also compete for your time and attention. When one child feels they have been treated unfairly I think it is a better idea to hear them out rather than just dismiss them as defiant and ungrateful. Having a conversation with them about how they got hurt helps them feel validated that their feelings do matter and will give you the opportunity to hopefully help them see how the scales were not so weighted in one direction. At times giving them the opportunity to describe how they interpreted what happened will give you insight as to how they process these interactions and help you determine future courses of action. This may be an easy fix and can prevent future misunderstandings.
I’m hoping you can find this as a resource in helping your child get through those tantrums. Be sure to check out Bundoo if you have a question for the childcare experts.