*Guest Blog Post*
by Isobel Mary Champion, Parenting Coach (aka The Mummy and Toddler Calmer!)
1. Use Empathy.
Tantrums are very normal part of personality development in young children, and are also a very normal way for older children to release a build-up of tension and emotion that they have bottled up inside them. It is important not to take these outbursts personally. Your child is releasing their tension at you because they trust you and you make them feel safe enough to be able to do so. Tantrums often have a hidden cause, so the first thing to do is to play detective, and use empathy to determine if there is something else behind the apparent outburst. Is your child tired, hungry, feeling ill, or upset by something that happened earlier in the day or at school? Often a quick snack can be a quick fix, an early bath and pyjamas, or the question "Did something happen today that upset you?" can often reveal unspoken worries. Your child might have a headache, or a sore throat, but not be quite sure how to explain why they don't feel good.
2. Be open minded.
If your child is going into tantrum mode, quickly assess this situation. Be open minded - don't be too quick to say no straight away. Are they making a reasonable request? Can you accommodate them? Do you have a good reason to say no? (Being tired or stressed is ok! But explain this to your child, they might surprise you with a kind gesture). Can you offer them a compromise or alternative? Can you distract them with something else, or give them some attention in a different way?
3. Practice your "No" voice.
A good "No" only needs to be said once. It doesn't have to be loud, angry or aggressive. Keep your tone of voice friendly, firm, and calm. Your tone of voice is very important. Children can pick up on any tension or frustration in your voice, and this will make them feel threatened and frightened, and things will escalate very quickly. They can also pick up on a "No" that leaves room to be turned into a "Yes" - so make sure you mean it, and are not going to budge. Being lenient with behaviour sometimes, and strict at other times is confusing and stressful for children, and can make behaviour worse. Consistency is key.
4. Explain your reasons.
Reason is your best tool - explain in words that your child will understand, why they cannot have what they want. To do this well, crouch, squat or kneel down beside your child so that you are communicating at their level. Place one hand on their arm or shoulder, make eye contact, and keep your voice friendly and calm. If they want to make their case again, listen to them without interrupting, maintain eye contact, and stay down on their level. You are showing that you respect your child by communicating with them in a positive way. Then repeat your answer patiently.
5. Keep calm and carry on.
If you have tried all of the above, and your child is intent on having a full-blown tantrum (which is a normal part of personality development, don't worry - you are not doing anything wrong!), your best course of action is simply to move away calmly, and do something else. Gently detach your attention, and focus on another task, make a cup of tea, read a magazine. After a while, offer your child an 'olive branch' in a calm voice ("Would you like to do some drawing with me?"), but if your child is not ready to calm down, give them some more time. When they are finished, be ready with a cuddle and some loving words.
Isobel Mary Champion offers holistic, open-minded parenting support and advice. Consultations and one-to-one coaching in London, Essex, Hertfordshire and beyond. Formerly a full-time professional nanny, she has spent over a decade working with children and their families in London and has also recently featured on Wellbeing Radio and the Step In Mum Podcast!
For more information on how she can help click here