Tantrums. Screaming. Destroying. Yelling. Swearing. Hitting. Whinging. Meltdowns.
Do I have your attention? You bet I do. Because all that bad stuff really does grab our attention, doesn’t it? We notice the bad stuff our children do straight away and it is hard not to pay more and more attention to it. It is so tempting to react, to look, to talk a lot, to give in, to threaten, to begin to yell ourselves.
“You know how some places have signs like, ‘Don’t feed the animals’? I think parenting should have a big, bold sign reading, ‘Don’t feed the bad stuff’.”
Because, the thing is, children love to have their parents’ undivided attention, even if that’s negative attention. All that reacting, looking, talking, giving in, threatening, yelling ourselves: it feeds the bad stuff. It makes those behaviours more likely to occur again.
So what can you do?
Don’t feed the bad stuff with your attention. Sometimes you will need to respond to your child’s behaviour in some way, for example, by separating your children, or removing an object at the centre of the behaviour, or reminding your child what is expected. Respond calmly and with minimum fuss. At other times you can simply ignore your child’s bad behaviour.
Feed the good stuff-
Ensure that your child receives plenty of positive attention for all of those good behaviours. Is there something positive your child can do, in that same situation? Well then, make sure you feed that behaviour with attention and praise. You need to create an environment in which positive behaviour works for your child. You child will learn that, by acting in a positive manner, their needs will be met.
For younger children the good behaviours are not perfect, but they are better than the bad behaviours so feed them for now. You can help your child perfect them later on. For example, talking about how you feel, even in a whingey voice, is a definite improvement on having a tantrum. Remember children will experience difficult feelings and they need to have ways to express and manage those feelings that we, as their parents, respond to.
With time (and it does take time) the good stuff will grow and all of those bad behaviours, the tantrums, the yelling and the meltdowns, will become a distant memory.