Best Way To Stop a Toddler Tantrum -- Deny Your Instincts
"I want to push the cart," announced my two-year-old daughter so proudly at the grocery store.
"How about you help mummy push the cart?"
"No mama, no touch the cart, I push it." She promptly steers into the shelf and nearly takes out an old lady who, of course, gives me the evil eye.
"Honey, we need to push the cart together. Or you can sit in the cart" I say, hopefully, wedging my body in between her and the desired handle.
"Nooooooo." And the meltdown begins.
At this point I could:
A) Walk away
B) Ignore the meltdown, gently pry her hand off the handle and distract her with something shiny -- or sugary.
C) Listen to my inner banshee and start yelling back.
The answer is A or B but the instinct of most parents is C. We want to yell at our kids because we want them to understand that we are right, and that they should listen to us, and that we are the boss, and well, they should just listen to us, dammit.
But a study just came out that confirms what I learned from Beverly Cathcartt-Ross. I learned that engaging on the same level as a screaming toddler just turns the screaming toddler into a screaming preschooler and so on and so on.
The study from the Journal of Development and Psychology says that kids who have parents who anger easily, have more ongoing temper tantrums and other behaviour issues.
Essentially, it is a vicious circle of yelling. Toddlers are built to break down boundaries and test you. But they also want to copy their parents. So, for better or worse, it is up to the parents to model good behaviour, even in the face of a screaming, thrashing, humiliating toddler.
Truth is you can do everything right: you can make sure you have a snack bag big enough to feed an entire class of preschoolers, your child could have napped and slept 18 out of 24 hours and you could be at the happiest place on earth and your child can have a tantrum. That is what happens, that is how they operate. It is normal.
So if you treat it as a part of normal life and not as a personal affront to your superiority, you will teach them to regulate their emotions. If you draw a lot of attention to it, lose your cool and act like a toddler in a grown-up body then the big lesson you have passed on is: "Hey kid, that whole attention-getting move you just pulled is working."
So my big piece of advice is to deny your instincts to yell back. Don't take it personally. Employ whatever means necessary to keep your cool, acknowledge that a temper tantrum is part of being a kid, and you are a good parent. Sometimes you will lose it, sometimes you will not.
My second piece of advice is to acknowledge their frustration (no matter how frivolous it seems to you) and then move on.
And when you need to take a personal time out to yourself, you can always read the study to take your mind off your screaming child. Or just wait until some other parent comes along with a screaming toddler and the two of you can retreat to the ice cream aisle for a sugary distraction.
What is your best advice to stop a toddler tantrum?
Want more chaos? Last year, I wrote about how I felt about the ice cream parlour serving breastmilk ice cream.