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  • When You Yell, That's Reacting, Not Managing A Tantrum. How To Discipline Better

    This specialist tells us how we can deal or even avoid both
    by Dahl D. Bennett .
When You Yell, That's Reacting, Not Managing A Tantrum. How To Discipline Better
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  • How often have shouted at our our child when she throws a tantrum and just felt guilty about it afterward? When the shouting match becomes a competition between parent and child, it just means someone needs to be more open to understanding the other’s perspective better — and no, that someone is definitely not your toddler. 

    “No child wakes up thinking how can I ruin my parent’s day,” says lawyer and certified child sleep consultant Maria Campos Lopez during her recently held Zoom talk titled Stop Shouting: How to Handle Tantrums.

    Understand why your child is misbehaving 

    “Our toddlers are misunderstood humans. They have a hard time learning how the world works, so there’s always that struggle,” she explains.

    Whenever they throw a tantrum, it is essential to understand what your child is upset about from his “little people’s perspective” instead of reacting by yelling or scolding.

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    Lopez adds, “Our children are not disobedient. They are acting that way because they have big emotions — they are testing their own limits. They cannot communicate what they feel [yet], and their brains are not fully mature.”

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    Connect before you correct your child

    Lopez warns that shouting doesn’t often work and only encourages bad behavior. “Your child will be exactly like you -- he will also shout.” Shouting encourages the child to wait for you to lose it before he gives you his full attention or, worse, he will learn to shout to be heard.

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    “What is important is to connect before we correct,” says Lopez.

    This is the part where, as parents, we need to be good investigators and find out the underlying cause of a child’s tantrum. Is he hungry? "Hangry"? Does he need your attention? Is something not going right? 

    “The quarantine, for one, has presented many changes for them, especially in their routines. Suddenly there is no school, or the parents are always home,” Lopez points out.

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    How to stop shouting at your child

    When we shout at a child because he is having a meltdown, we are focusing on behavior we don’t want. To avoid getting into a shouting default, Lopez gives these tips on how best to deal with tantrums with compassion, respect, and, better yet, how to nip it in the bud even before it starts.

    Be calm in the chaos

    We are the adults, and we want to be the calm one since our children don’t have the facility to understand emotions. When a tantrum starts, take a deep breath and collect yourself.

    Next -- and this is the hardest part -- empathize and validate what your child is feeling by saying things like, "I know you like to play with the gadget, but it is past your sleeping time already."

    “Let them know you understand where they are coming from, then wait it out until they calm down. “There were days when I waited 45 minutes to an hour just for my toddler to calm down,” Lopez recalls.

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    Know what sets your child off

    What are his triggers? How is his day going? What is happening from his perspective? These are are some of the realizations we discover through observation and mindfulness, says Lopez.

    If you can anticipate and eliminate the cause even before it happens, you would have saved your child -- and yourself -- from a possible meltdown. But this is not to say that this will be effective all the time. Even with the best intention, be prepared that a tantrum may still happen.

    Empower the child

    We tell our children what to do all the time, but sometimes we need to give them enough space and freedom to move and do what they want, especially in this quarantine time.

    Give your kids the power to choose, as well. Ask them, ‘What shorts do you want to wear today?’ or ‘What toy do you want to play with today?’ Lastly, unless there is is no danger or moral issue, learn to stop saying “no” and let some things slide so as not to make the child feel that he is doing something wrong all the time.

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    Establish routines

    Children learn by repetition, and they will know that there is an order to things. Breakfast together, playtime after chores, lunch, and then nap are examples of routines they can follow. “When they know what to expect, this encourages cooperation,” says Lopez. 

    Focus on good behavior

    Trying to discipline a child or stop a tantrum through bribes, punishment, or rewards are all external motivations, and not exactly what we want to use on our child if we can help it.

    “What you want is for your kid to do good because you know he can do good,” says Lopez. “To do this, catch your children doing good. Don’t focus on the one thing they did bad and ignore the nine things they did right.”

    Handling a tantrum with calm and compassion is not always the easiest thing to do for any parent, but understanding them and the ‘little world’ they live in at this stage will allow us to keep an open mind and learn how to be more patient ‘in the moment.’

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    “Keep this in mind when children have a meltdown: They are being their truest selves around us at this moment, let us show them love and respect,” concludes Lopez.

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