As a parent, knowing how to respond effectively to your child’s tantrums can help minimize the possibility of future emotional outbursts; consider these tips:
Understand the triggers
Experts agree that the first step in helping your child with anger issues is understanding what triggers set off the outburst. For many kids, their meltdowns are predictable in certain situations, such as when they are being asked to do something that is not fun for them: homework, turning in for the night, a stop in playtime. Also, for kids with ADHD, things like sitting through non-stimulating activities like church service, school or a long car ride can be a trigger.
Modifying the triggers
When parents identify what sets off their children to anger, they can take steps to look at ways of eliminating or modifying that situation. It could be a matter of structuring “problematic activities” in ways that reduce the likelihood of an outburst. This could be something like making homework more enjoyable for your child—helping to organize his work by breaking down daunting tasks and giving frequent breaks.
Resist giving in
When a child is in the throes of a full-out tantrum, parents naturally want to end the behavior. But experts say they should resist the temptation to give them what they want, as this only reinforces such behavior. This can be a difficult lesson to learn and may take some practice. One way to do this is to ignore the behavior, as long as the outburst is not dangerous, since even negative attention can reinforce the behavior. Instead, lavish praise on the behaviors you want to encourage.
Children, say experts, react better to parents who control their emotions and offer more consistent consequences. In fact, parents should take time-outs as well, says Dr. Steven Dickstein, who is both a pediatrician and child and adolescent psychiatrist. “When you get really angry you need to just take yourself out of the situation…you can’t problem solve when you’re upset…” By staying calm, you’re modeling the behavior you want to see in your child.
Ride out the tantrum
Dickstein says it’s definitely not a good idea to try and reason with an angry child. “Don’t talk to the kid when she’s not available. You want to encourage a child to practice at negotiation when she’s not blowing up, and you’re not either.”
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