I guess you’ve been there?
You’ve squeezed your child into the trolley seat and strapped him in safely You head for the supermarket. It’s a Friday afternoon and it seems everyone in town is there, shopping for the weekend ahead.
Everyone is going about their business peacefully, until suddenly…your child explodes.
Furious fists pummelling the air, face red, tears streaming and that truly awesome uproar, filling the supermarket with his frantic bawling, yelling and hiccoughing.
Everyone is now staring at you.
Shopping abandoned, you rush outside, followed by raised eyebrows, supercilious glances and indignant remarks or even mocking laughter. You vow never to show your face there again — ever.
What You Should Know About Tantrums
Infants are not logical! No one — adult or child in the grip of a tantrum is logical. It’s just no good trying to reason with a furious infant. Calm — yes, quiet? — possibly. Firm and above all loving and strong are the only ways to respond.
All healthy children test boundaries. They are learning what they can do, what they can’t do. What is safe and what is not. What is socially acceptable — and what is not. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to test something that is so soft and squishy it just melts away when pushed.
And, boy! Can children push? But they are desperately seeking to learn more about their world and they need a firm boundary to push against. And they also need to feel safe as they do so — and you can provide them with the love and strength they are seeking.
For your child, this is not a laughing matter. The cause of the temper may seem minuscule to you — but to the infant, it might seem like the end of the world. And the only way he can express his extreme frustration is by tears and loud crying. These are cries for help and never to be mocked.
How You Can Prepare to Avoid a Tantrum Altogether
When you make a few quiet preparations you can often head off a tantrum in the making, or at least make dealing with it easier.
· Search for Patterns Which Trigger Tantrums
You know your child, are there certain places or events which seem to make him uneasy?
If there are, either avoid them until he’s older or reduce them. An example would be shopping. You can reduce the time taken to one he can cope with — say just 10 minutes and gradually increase it. Making it fun will make it something he comes to enjoy.
· Let Your Child Know What He’s In For
So often we have unrealistic expectations for our children. An infant has a very short attention span and things that might interest you have absolutely no interest whatsoever for the young child. Yet he might be fascinated by something you probably wouldn’t even notice.
Tell him what to expect in simple but clear terms. And if you say “…and afterwards we’ll go and feed the ducks” be sure you don’t break your work, he needs to trust you implicitly.
But denying the treat as a punishment for “poor” behaviour is not helpful, as he comes to associate going shopping as something that has no pleasure for him and something to be avoided if at all possible.
· Create Your Own Boredom Bag
This is a small emergency kit to take out with you. Mine had a colouring book, stickers, a few crayons, a small cuddly toy and various odd shaped objects — nothing that made noise, however.
· Visualise the Tantrum in Peace
Note how you would deal with it successfully. This is an incredibly useful technique, used by athletes, public speakers and perhaps before meetings with your boss or bank manager? It makes the actual even run more smoothly and the right actions become automatic.
Simply find a quiet place and imagine how the scene would unfold when you deal with it successfully. Make the images as bright and vivid as you can. Increase the size, colour and perhaps the sound until you can really feel you are inside the scene. Step into it and become a part of it. Repeat this a few times and then, when you come to the real-life scene, you will find the right responses come much more easily. You do not have to work it out on the spur of the moment with a screaming infant to handle.
How to Head Off a Tantrum Before it Overtakes You Both
When you are out you might notice your child getting restless. It’s surprising how often we forget to check the obvious — wet, tired, cold, hot, dirty — and bored. You can use the word “watched -b” to remind you, and every mother has the bag of emergency supplies! The letters “w” for watched, “t” for tired etc. (The “b” is for bored)!
Having made sure you infant is clean, dry and physically comfortable, then you can try diverting him. As you know your infant best you will have some idea as to what he might be interested in. This is where your boredom bag can come in handy. Playing a little game also works well — peek-a-boo with a cereal packet usually makes him grin and handing him a squishy, rustly packet will engage his attention for a while if you are in the supermarket.
There may be times when you simply have to remove him — a change of scene is often enough to stop the tantrum unfolding — but above all reassurance, (however you might be feeling just then towards your offspring), is essential.
How to React When Your Infant Explodes
You infant explodes. There is only one thing you can do when this happens — pick him up, comfort and hug him closely. He needs a physical barrier as well as the feeling of your strength and kindness envelope him. If you can, sit down and hold him close — perhaps rocking gently, this is the fastest, most effective and also the kindest way to deal with the furious infant.
Do not attempt to reason with him. He might find the gentle sound of your voice calming, but he will not be hearing what you say, or not at least until he has calmed down a little.
It is better to abandon your shopping than your child! You might be able to retrieve your shopping later — but you only have your child for a short, short time.
Comfort, hugs, strength and simply being there for him are the necessary actions. Unconditional love is what he needs and deserves.
You really have no need to heed the ill manners of ill-informed people who simply have no right to sit in judgement on you or your child. (They most probably had temper tantrums themselves when they were young).
Just concentrate on your infant — who is demanding your attention anyway!
Look Forward to Nice and Quiet Supermarket Visits From Now On
Now imagine this:
You head for the supermarket. You’ve squeezed your child into the trolley seat and strapped him in safely.
It’s a Friday afternoon and it seems everyone in town is there, shopping for the weekend ahead.
Everyone is going about their business peacefully, you and your child fill the trolley together.
You make a little game with your gurgling infant and the cereal packet, catch a few smiling glances.
Soon it’s time to check out where the girl on the till smiles and tells you what a well- behaved child you have!
You made the shopping fun, your infant was diverted and amused. You have the confidence to know exactly how to react to head off a tantrum or to calm your frantic child.
It’s nice when other people admire your child — but it’s even nicer to have the courage to be there for them above all else.