By: Raun K. Kaufman
Does your child scream, hit, pinch, or throw objects when things don’t go his/her way (or sometimes for no reason you can fathom)?
Here’s what to do:
The First Half: I don’t understand tantrums.
1) ATTITUDE FIRST. It is absolutely crucial that you make your mission in life to remain calm, relaxed, and comfortable. This isn’t about ACTING comfortable. This is about BEING comfortable. If you need help with this, call us (413-229-2100). But here’s a starting hint: Don’t make what your child is doing mean anything about you.
2) DUMB YOURSELF DOWN. Be a confused person trying (but mostly failing) to be helpful. Make a confused face. Say something such as, “I’m not sure what you want when you hit/scream/cry.”
3) BE SLOW, QUIET, & MELLOW. Fumble around trying to figure out what your child wants for a few minutes. (But make sure you are being slow, quiet, and mellow.) Don’t keep doing this forever, though. If the crying or whatever continues, you can wander away (assuming the situation is safe).
4) NO VENGEFULNESS. Remember, attitude first. This is not about sticking it to your child or disciplining them. It’s about the fact that you don’t understand crying, hitting, or screaming.
The Second Half: I DO understand language & gentleness
1) FEED GENTLENESS. Find ANY excuse throughout the day to make a very big deal whenever your child does anything that can be construed as gentle – to you, to his/her sibling, or to anyone else. Cheer it. Jump up and down. Celebrate. Freak out a little.
2) TURBO BOOST YOUR RESPONSE TO LANGUAGE. Whenever your child uses language (in a non-crying, non-whiny way) – even if it is only an attempt at part of a word – SPRINT to go get it (and, yes, also cheer, jump up and down, celebrate, and freak out). Show your child how effective even trying to use language is! (If your child wants something you can’t get, hugely celebrate and offer an alternative.)
3) STAY CONSISTENT. Remember: You only understand language and gentleness. You do not understand (and are not agitated by) screaming, yelling, biting, hitting, etc. (And also remember that not understanding hitting does not mean that you have to stand there and let yourself get hit. But when you move away, stay calm and relaxed about it.)