Friday, February 1, 2008

When is a tantrum, not a tantrum?

I went back to a favourite parenting guide book this week Children are People too by Louise Porter. I wanted some reminders on how to deal with tantrums. My nearly two year old has been quite vocal lately in the tears and screaming department, and I wanted some age appropriate strategies to deal with this behaviour.

I looked up the relevant section and found the following:

"Having just described the protesting tantrum, it is worth emphasising that it is different from pre-verbal children's attempt to communicate that they are disappointed. That is not a tantrum: it is legitimate communication. A tantrum is where children who can usually say what they need, instead get so worked up that they cannot use words."
It is amazing that simply how we choose to view a problem can determine our success in managing it. I had been looking at Babaganouski's outbursts as tantrums, when as he only has a repotoire of about 10 words, the outbursts are his (very loud) way of communicating with me.

If I had thought about it more from this stance point at breakfast time this morning, I am sure his outburst would have been only short. Instead it continued on and off for about 15 minutes. During which time we tried to distract him, removed him from the situation and held him to try and calm him down.

It started when he sat himself on a different chair at the table. I moved him to his chair (it is covered with a towel to cope with mess). The squealing and crying began at this point, I automatically connected the two and assumed it was about the chair and held my ground on the issue. He had to sit in his own chair.

It was in fact nothing to do with the chair, and all to do with the type of bowl that was in front of the chair. He still has a small bowl, whilst the rest of the kids have a normal size bowl. After the aforementioned 15 minutes of pain for everyone, my eldest suggested that he wanted the white bowl. I tried this and Babaganouski gave me a very appreciative babble and set about choosing his cereal.

Through his only way of communicating he was trying to make his need known to me. Taking more consideration of this has already made some improvements in how I can successfully manage his behaviour. For example when it came to bed time and after I read Babaganouski his story, I went to sing his song and he started crying and wanting to hop down. I put him on the ground and asked him to show me what was the matter. He tottered off to his brothers room and came back with his favourite little car, placed it on his shelf and came back over to me. I finished the song and he went quietly into his cot and off to sleep.

Not all situations will be that easy to solve, because I am sure there will be a moment this week, when he will "tell" me that he wants to sit in the normal seat of the car and not his child safety seat and there can be no negotiation on that. By planning to go into these outbursts with a view that he is trying to tell me something, hopefully I can manage more of the negotiable outbursts with greater success. Then my head won't be pulsating quite so much, when he has the outburst about the non negotiatble car seat!

1 comment:

Gypsy said...

Good reminder! we are starting to get some little tantrums at 15 months and I'm sure they are frustration at not being able to communicate. I lose count of how many times a day I say 'look at mummy - now tell me what you want'. We've found baby sign language invaluable - but certainly not perfect!