There may or may not have been a time when informing my son we have to leave his friend’s house was like telling him that all of his toys had been burned and the ashes thrown into the sea.
The tantrum session that ensued had a Hulk-like effect on me, except instead of turning into a raging green monster, I turned into a sweaty WWE wrestler. With eyes bulging and teeth bared, I picked him up and carried him to the car in a full body bind.
That sure was fun, trying to thank my friends for hosting while being inadvertently kicked in the groin.
But that's all hypothetical, right? None of that stuff actually happened. I mean, our children don't melt down and throw tantrums like those delinquent children we see in public. We sat our three-year-olds down and explained to them in great detail how tantrums just aren’t a healthy way to deal with their frustration. And they got it. Sure, they might not have looked like they understood even a little bit of what we were telling them, but we know that deep down, they got it.
But all those other parents out there, boy are they really making a mess of things. These are the things I see all those other parents trying against their tantruming children that never seem to work:
There's a difference between intentionally ignoring unhealthy attention-seeking behavior and letting a kid Hulk an entire aisle of the toy section during his tantrum, throwing things down and generally sowing mayhem amongst the other patrons.
The proper protocol for ignoring unhealthy behavior is to ignore it unless said behavior is about to blow something or someone up.
These parents aren't afraid in the slightest to match their child’s emotion with emotion. If their child decides that screaming is an okay way to deal with getting what they want, then, by God, it's okay for them, too. These red-faced parents are often seen bent over their child in the toy aisle with a finger pointed. "Stand up RIGHT NOW and stop crying." These words are usually accompanied by a swat to the bottom.
The truth is, we can’t expect our children to keep their cool if we can’t keep ours.
You’re reaching for the big red button. It’s right in front of you and you see a little label just below the big red button that says, “Press this and all of your dreams will come true.” You lick your lips and reach out for it. Just as your finger touches the button, a man in a white lab coat sitting next to you says “Hey. Would you mind not pressing that big red button, please?”
What are you going to do? I’ll tell you what you’re going to do; you’re going to press that damn button. This exact scenario is what plays out every time our children go into a raging tantrum and we calmly plead with them to be reasonable. “Johnny, please don’t do this today.”
The pleading strategy may work on the compliant type, however, if your child is strong-willed, you can forget about it. Impose consequences and follow through with them.
I bribe my children from time to time, and it works. But this one has to be on this list because I know that bribing is not a long-term solution. When my child grows up, I don’t want him to need a carrot in order to discipline himself to do something. That being said, you better believe I will be handing my kids candy when we’re sitting on a plane, at a wedding, etc.
These parents have usually tried a number of other strategies to get control of their tantruming child. This is usually number three or four on the list of things to try and it goes something like this:
Parent: "We're going to be so happy and thankful that we have so many toys at home. Yayyy!"
*Child keeps screaming.*
There is a time and place to redirect your child, but not your main strategy for dealing with tantrums.