By Heather Pohlabel
My mother once told me a story about one time when I was a toddler and we went shopping at JC Penney. We had a pretty good time until I saw something that I swore I must have. It was a brightly colored shirt. I begged and begged and begged, and time after time, my mother told me, "no, no, no!" I had finally given up asking and did what every parent dreads. I threw a temper tantrum in public.
I threw my little two year old body on the floor, the center of the aisle at that, and just screamed at the top of my lungs as I lay on my back kicking my feet and pounding my fists on the linoleum under me. I screamed "hawawahhhahhh ahhhhhhhhhhh... I wannnnnnnnaaaaaaaaaaaat... maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmma! Mahhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!" getting progressively louder and more out of sorts as tears streamed, flooding the aisle and snot ran from my nose, making my appearance anything but beautiful.
I kept screaming and screaming for my mother, but little did I realize that she had left me!
That was my mother's way of dealing with temper tantrums, by leaving or at least by hiding from us. By being out of my eye sight distance, after I had gotten all of my aggression and frustration out, I would look for her and in not seeing her, I would begin to worry more about where she was as opposed to how mad I was. I would totally forget why I was throwing the tantrum and begin to fret for my own life as I searched for my lost mother!
My mother's method of dealing with a tantrum was not cruel, but there are other ways to handle when your child is throwing a tantrum, however.
One method is ignoring it, much like my mother's method, but without actually leaving the child on the floor. There are some instances in life where you just cannot be out of the vision of your child for the sake of safety. Thirty years ago, my mother could have probably left me lie there and gone to the restroom, taken her packages to the car, and retrieved me when I was fast asleep on the floor; however, we know times have changed and this is not the case in this day and age.
In this instance, you need to be with your temper throwing child but just ignore him. This could happen, for example, in the store as you're pushing a shopping cart. Here you should just ignore your child and move as quickly as possible to the checkout line or to finish the chore. Stare straight ahead and move quickly. People will move out of the way and silently thank God that they are not you or that their child is not yours at this moment!
If you are lucky, your child will stop on his or her own. If not, it is advisable to exit the store as quickly as possible so that the screaming does not continue to bother everyone around you. When you get to the car, be patient and continue to ignore your child's tantrum. Go about business as usual. Put in your favorite song to unwind to and turn it up just a little bit more loudly than usual so you can hear it above the screaming. Release your frustrations by singing as loudly as possible.
With any luck you can scare the tantrum out of your child. If you happen to be somewhere where you can model your child's behavior back to him or her, give this a try. Often, children will even be appalled at what a tantrum looks like and will stop doing it, not permanently of course, but at least for this tantrum, and it may help curb further outbursts if they remember the silliness or severity of it. Sometimes all that kids need is a distraction, and you throwing a tantrum of your own is certainly a distraction!
Another distraction could be music. Whether it is your favorite song in the car or a soft soothing song at home, music can often soothe the beast!
Some children even respond to positive attention and discipline during a tantrum. Try talking about the situation with your temper flaring child by telling him or her what he or she had done, why the situation does not require a tantrum, how to handle it better, and hold them firmly in your lap and count to the number of months that they are. They physical contact could soothe your child, but never spank or shake during a tantrum. It is like "adding fuel to the fire" so to speak, and shaking is never a good method of gaining control, as it could cause death.
Your child needs guidance and a temper tantrum is nothing more than further proof of this fact.