By Cara Johnson-Bader
Why is it always in the middle of a grocery store that your child decides to enter a power struggle with you? All because he wants birthday cake when it is not his birthday, or a candy bar, or a LEGO set, or _________ (fill in what triggers your little one to meltdown at a store)!
As a parent, these moments are stressful and embarrassing, and often tricky to navigate. Please know that you are not alone. In a recent study, families shared that managing their child when she misbehaves is one of their top struggles as a parent. While I wish I had and could share a magic wand that magically makes all temper tantrums end, I do have a few tips to help you navigate and defuse these tricky moments.
1. Check your expectations – Make sure your expectation for your child is realistic. Bringing an overtired two-year-old to the grocery store will most likely result in a meltdown or two. Before heading out for errands, ensure your little one has plenty of sleep, has been fed, and you are both ready for the adventure before you.
2. Set expectations with your child – Make sure you and your child are on the same page, such as, “We are going to the grocery store to get food for our family. When we get home we can snuggle in our fort and read stories with a flashlight.” This will help your child have something to look forward to, as quality time with you is always a preferred event.
3. Manage your emotions – How you react during a temper tantrum can either calm the situation or worsen it.Research tells us that when parents react harshly, children become more upset, hurt, and scared. It is more difficult for them to calm down. Your reaction sets the tone for how your child will respond during a temper tantrum.
4. Talk about feelings – Recognizing and naming feelings is a wonderful way to help your child begin managing his feelings in a well-balanced manner. Talk about feelings daily. As an example, say things like, “I see that you are feeling sad right now. How about a hug?”
5. Be a detective – Understanding why your child had a temper tantrum will help you figure out how to respond. Misbehavior is a child’s way of communicating and reaching out to you. You have a lot of practice in decoding your own feelings and have learned how to manage them, but your child is still learning how to deal with her feelings. Try taking a step back for a minute to see the situation from your child’s point of view. It is easier to respond to a temper tantrum in a calm and supportive manner when you understand what caused the reaction. Ask yourself what triggered the temper tantrum. Is your little one overtired, hungry, overstimulated? There may be simple things you can do help your child get her needs met.
Think of a temper tantrum as an opportunity to listen to, care for, teach, and coach your child. You will find it easier to navigate a meltdown. Also, you will reinforce positive behavior patterns, enhance your communication with your child, and experience fewer meltdowns at the grocery store.
Cara Johnson-Bader is the Vice President of Marketing and Parent Experiences at New Horizon Academy and mother of two young boys. Learn more about New Horizon Academy at newhorizonacademy.net.