Tantrum Busting!

copyright MommyPerks.comQuestion (submitted to us Parental Wisdom):

My 4-year-old son has uncomfortable tantrums when he doesn’t get what he wants. It’s embarrassing in places like restaurants or the grocery store. Do you have any tips on how I can calm his outbreaks without giving in to him?

*Answer (posted also on ParentalWisdom.com):

Absolutely. The solution to this problem is a three-part process.

1. The first part starts at home before you two go anywhere. That is when you explain exactly what kind of behavior you expect. Let us take the grocery store, for example. Set up a three-part scenario something like this about what you would like your child to do when you get to the grocery store.

  • Hold your hand and walk next to you when you get out of the car.
  • Hold on to the cart at all times wherever you go in the store.
  • Finish up shopping by having your child pick out one craft item for you two to enjoy together when you get home.

2. When you get to the store, review what you expect and then clearly explain what will happen if your child does not follow those directions. Explain that he will not be able to choose the treat at the end and then spend time with you at home using the new item together.

3. Here is the most important part of all. Throughout the process keep mentioning specifics about how well he has been following your directions. Continue in many ways involving your child in the shopping excursion and making him feel “valued, needed, and important,” the magic words of parenting. As much as you can and as often as possible, keep pointing out helpful and proper behavior. Mention how careful he was getting out of the car. Tell him how much you like having him next to you while you shop. Even point out any good ideas he may have had or any polite remarks he may have made to others. Paying positive attention to your child will be your biggest deterrent to any tantrum.

When you set up for success at home, make your expectations clear in the store, and use praise and encouragement in specific concrete ways, you are in control. Tantrums are a way of taking control and do not do well in a prepared environment.

NOTE: If any tantrum still dares to show up, meet and greet it head on with love. With these new conditions that will be your new way to steer your child back on course.

* Please visit Parental Wisdom for hundreds more questions by parents and answers by experts from all over the country.

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  1. Great, sound advice that all parents should heed. When children get to understand expectations in advance, and agree to consequences, they are much less likely to act out and misbehave.

  2. I like all the tips they are all very good !
    I also tell parents don’t go shopping with young kids if their emotional needs have not been met that day.. I.e. if you haven’t played with them.. While that’s not always realistic and long-run it does help.
    Using feelings words really helps ….
    Here’s a post I wrote on tantrums and the meaning of them:)


  3. So many parents spend their time in fear of how their child might react in one situation or another. They then get themselves ready to react. Rosalind and Ava, you two have clearly brought out the ability of parents to be pro-active and act from a position of strength.

    Thank you Ava for such a well-written article! You skillfully show how to use our children’s outbursts as clues to examine. As any detective will concur, you look for evidence everywhere and examine the clues from every angle. Then once you get to the real motive, that’s it! You can solve the mystery.

    Here is a new thought that just came to me. Maybe traditional parenting, which has always been represented as a one-way street where parents teach and children learn, should now be seen as two-way with the opposite direction being the one where children teach and parents learn.

  4. Thanks for such a great comment Sally I appreciate it! Yes we can all learn from each other!!
    we don’t remember what it’s like to be a kid but if we Ask Them we can learn !
    I’m constantly surprised by my child and other children and I so enjoy what they have to say!!

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