Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Why does my child throw a temper tantrum at the worst possible moment?

You are having a great day.  Your child is using her listening ears and making good choices.  Then you have to go to the grocery store.  When she momentarily diverts from the good choices she has been making you gently remind her what the consequence will be if she chooses to not pay attention.  Right there in the middle of the dairy section she loses it; full blown temper tantrum. 

Children seem to pick the very worst time to have a temper tantrum.  Maybe that is just our perspective but they seem to.  There are a few reasons for this. 

The first is that it works.  Even if you are the most focused parent there are going to be moments in the day when you are distracted.  Your child knows that when something else takes your attention, that is their best opportunity to get away with something they have wanted to do all day.   To some degree parents need to expect and accept this.  We adults do this too--try to get away with little indiscretions here and there when no one is looking.    

If this meltdown is at the end (or middle) of a long day that could mean your child is hungry or tired.  You can greatly reduce these public meltdowns by making these needed trips at the beginning of the day or after naps.  You can also be sure to keep healthy snacks close by to cut down on hunger tantrums.    

Allowing your child to have some choice about when these trips take place can go a long way too.  Options empower children and will often help your child follow directions better.   “Do you want to play with the trucks for 10 min before we go to the store or after,” “Do you want to go to the bank or the store first?” 

I think the most effective method in ending these public temper-tantrums is to giving your child the opportunity to let out any frustration he might have before going on your errand.   If your child needs to be reminded several times of a rule, that is a good indication he is reaching a “boiling" point, meaning that his temper-tantrum is close to happening.  Heading out to do errands when he is on edge  is not a good idea on your part.  Instead try setting a limit that you know will put him over the edge about 30 min before you leave.  Then let him have his meltdown in the comfort (and privacy) of your home.  Sometimes children just need to let out all the frustration they have felt from the last week of following us around. 

Put yourself in his shoes.  If my spouse dictated when I went to the store, what I played with and when I had to stop, I would not be half as “compliant” as most children are.  There are very few choices children have in this world.  Let’s give them more credit for all they do. 

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