Stop it before it begins....
Discipline shouldn’t always be about fixing what went wrong. Discipline can also be about changing the way you do things up front to prevent problems from happening. While you cannot stop your child from ever having a tantrum, there are many things you can do that will substantially reduce the number and the intensity of the tantrums.
Solve the REAL Problem before Behaviour Deteriorates
Often, when a child has a tantrum, the issue that set off the behaviour has little to do with anything that requires discipline. Just as adults who are in a bad mood, or have a headache might yell or grumble, children may be struggling with emotions that cause them to respond in a negative way.
In essence, the issue is not always about how to discipline children, but how to change the environment in order to help them gain control over their emotions. Some of the most common issues that cause children to act out in negative ways are hunger, tiredness, frustration, boredom, or over-stimulation.
Once you identify the real reason behind your child’s actions you can often solve this at the first sign of negative behaviours, before your child dissolves into a full-blown tantrum.
The Power of Offering Choices
Giving a choice is a very effective tool that can prevent tantrums from even beginning. It’s helpful as a method to move your child in the direction you need him going, without having to deal with him digging in his heels. How this works is simple. Replace direct commands, such as, “Put on your pyjamas right now,” (which often triggers a battle) with a choice that propels your child forward, such as, “What do you want to do first, put on your pyjamas or brush your teeth?” or “Do you want to hop to the bathroom like a bunny or crawl like a puppy?”
Playing Cooperation Games
Children see life as a game – so why not take advantage of that? Nearly any task can be turned into a game. Some games can be a one-time fix; others can become part of your regular routine. You know your child’s typical response when you command, “Pick up your toys and put them in the toybox”? Imagine the response if instead you say, “I bet I can pick up all the blue cars before you pick up the red ones! Ready, Set, Go!”
Instead of the serious, “You need to use the toilet. Put your toy down and go to the potty now.” How about this fun alternative, “Here comes the potty train. Chooo! Chooo! All aboard!” These simple games can alter your communication in an effective tantrum-preventing way.
Sing a Song
Even if you can’t carry a tune, putting anything to music makes you easier to listen to and it is fun, too. You can create a particular song to be used as a cue to certain tasks – such as a clean up song that takes place whenever the toys are picked up and put away, a getting-dressed song, or a song that beckons your child to the dinner table.
Tell a Story
Children love stories. These will hold their attention and can get them to willingly do what you want them to do. They can be used to ward off boredom, prepare a child for an upcoming event, or keep a child focused on the task at hand. Stories can be told in advance of any event to let your child know what’s about to happen and prevent problems and tantrums when the actual event occurs. You can tell a tale about a boy who goes to Grandma’s house for dinner – how he says please and thank you and behaves nicely, and the Grandparents are so proud of him. This is in preparation for an actual visit, of course!
Often parents are so serious about getting through the day that their rigid presentation incites tantrums that could easily have been avoided. Any light-hearted banter will lighten the mood. Humour – like pretending to fall, exaggerated speech, or funny accents can often create a joyful moment. Being silly—like putting your child’s sock on his hand instead of his foot while getting him dressed – often elicits a laugh, along with the desired cooperation.
Give Fair Warning
When children are immersed in play they usually put their entire being into the activity. Because of this intensity it can be very hard for a child to switch from one activity to another without first making a mental adjustment. When a child is in the middle of a wonderful game, and a parent calls him to dinner, it’s an unusual child who can immediately drop the piece in process and run to the table. You can help your children change activities by giving them time to process the change mentally before they follow through physically. Prior to expecting action from your children, call out a five minute alert, then a three minute alert and finally a one minute alert. This forewarning can prevent a meltdown that can occur with a sudden, surprising announcement.
Use Positive Words
Some of the most overused words in parenting are "No", "Don’t" and "Stop". It is necessary, of course, that we get our children to stop misbehaviours. However, when these words are overused they can create more problems than they solve. Try to save these words for necessary times. When possible, choose more positive words, such as would you please..., I would like you to...
Tell your child what you want, instead of what you don’t want. So, rather than, “Don’t jump on the furniture!” explain, “Furniture is for sitting on. Please sit here or go outside to jump.”
Creative Parenting means Fewer Tantrums
All of these techniques can be used to prevent tantrums and to help fill your days with more joy and pleasant communication. They require thought and practice, but once you feel the happy results you’ll know it is worth it!