The Ultimate Guide to Tantrums

Wednesday, November 11, 2015 No comments
Photo credit: Creative Child Magazine

Tantrums. They’re one of the most talked about behaviors in the parenting world. They’re even one of the top behaviors that cause parents to lose their cool with their kids. No doubt, tantrums give parents a hard time. The truth is, though, that during a tantrum, your child is having a hard time. Tantrums aren’t always a matter of defiance, especially in young children. There’s a logical, scientific, brain-based reason why your child is throwing a fit, and armed with this knowledge, you can handle tantrums more effectively.

As parents, we are usually given these 2 pieces of advice about tantrums.
  1. Ignore the child.
  2. NEVER give in.
We are told that if we engage with a child in any way during a tantrum, we are basically reinforcing the bad behavior. We believe if we ignore it, the behavior will stop, and because we are led to believe that a tantruming child is a manipulative child, we know we must never, at any cost, give in to their demands.

Unfortunately, this advice has us only looking at the behavior, not at the often-hurting child behind it. It drives us to push away our children rather than bringing them closer and offering comfort in times of need. Tantrums are a strong emotional reaction to a stimulus. When the information coming in trips an alarm and gets sent to our more primitive limbic system rather than our cortex (the higher brain which houses logic and reasoning), a tantrum can result. It actually takes a lot of maturity and self-control to not tantrum, because when that alarm gets tripped, our bodies get flooded with hormones that make us want to fight or run.

Yes, sometimes kids have a tantrum just to get their way. Tina Bryson, PhD calls this an upstairs tantrum. The child is in control (not acting from the lower brain), and pitching a fit to try and get her way. This is embarrassingly similar to our parental tantrums, isn't it? "My kid won't do anything I say until I start screaming!" So, we pitch a fit to get our kid to act. Then, we get really mad when our kid pitches a fit to get us to act.

But the truth is that doesn't mean that you are manipulative or mean or bad. It doesn't mean your kid is either. It simply means that, at that particular moment, both of you are out of resources. You have no idea how to get your need met in that moment other than to tantrum.

In either case, ignoring a child isn’t going to be effective. If it even appears to work, it’s likely she’s just learned to stuff her feelings down and not show them to you, which has no place in a healthy relationship.

The advice to never give in also isn’t helpful. It’s a blanket statement that doesn’t take into account the many different scenarios and personalities in play. If the child wants the blue cup and you bristle, refusing to give the blue cup just so you “don’t give in,” ask yourself if giving the blue cup is really going to ruin your kid. I don’t like the term “pick your battles” but there isn’t much point in making mountains out of molehills. There are enough mountains to climb as is.

So, what’s a parent to do when a child has a tantrum? I’ve asked my parenting expert and educator friends to send me their best tantrum resources, and I’ve compiled them for you in one place, the Ultimate Guide to Tantrums.

For Brain Science:
Upstairs and Downstairs Tantrums by Tina Payne-Bryson, PhD
Why We Should NOT Ignore a Tantrum by Tina Payne-Bryson, PhD
Why Kids Have Temper Tantrums by Dirt & Boogers
The End of All Tantrums by Nathan McTague

Preventing Tantrums:
4 Surefire Ways to Prevent Tantrums by Dirt & Boogers
How to Stop Tantrums Now and Prevent Them Later by TRU Parenting
5 Keys to Setting Limits that Minimize Tantrums and Meltdowns by Parenting Beyond Punishment

Tips for Handling Tantrums:
Toddlers, Tantrums, and Time-Ins, Oh My! By L.R. Knost
How to Manage Toddler Tantrums by Nicole Schwarz
A Brain-Based Way to Stop Your Child’s Tantrum by Nicole Schwarz
Getting Rid of Car Seat Tantrums by Creative with Kids
Tantrums: Emotional Regulation or Pure Manipulation? by Not Just Cute
How to Turn a Temper Tantrum into a Teachable Moment by The (Reformed) Idealist Mom
Stop Tantrums: 33 Phrases to Use with Toddlers by Andrea Nair
Tantrum Tamers: 32 Phrases to Use with 3 and 4 Year Olds by Andrea Nair

There’s an App for That!
Who can remember all of that great information in the moment every single time? Now there’s an incredible app! The Taming Tantrums app was developed a positive parenting expert and is helpful for more than just tantrums. It’s available for iPhone and Android.

My Tantrum Tips:

I know you don’t have time to read all of those at once, so here are my tips for dealing with tantrums:

1. Never withdraw your love and attention.
You don't have to necessarily give the child more attention, but don't ignore his very existence. That hurts. Acknowledge his distress and empathize with it, even if you have to do it from a distance. Some children want held, some want left alone, all want to feel loved and understood.

2. Teach her to recognize and label emotions.
There are a lot of ways to do this besides just naming them as they happen. There are free printables online, books, and other resources to teach emotional intelligence. Also, help them see and acknowledge what triggers them. "You get really upset when it's time to leave Grandma's. Let's work on ways to help you feel better about that."

3. Teach specific ways to deal with emotions.
My son used to love to pop a balloon when he was angry. He was two years old at the time. All kids (and adults) have different ways of calming themselves. Some like music. Others reading. Still others need to do something physical like clap their hands or rip paper. If they have an appropriate outlet for releasing their frustration, over time they'll learn to seek that outlet first.

4. Don’t punish. Teach.
Talk about whatever caused the tantrum after it's over and talk about ways to improve or handle the situation better. Teaching skills is always more effective than punishment. Just be sure to wait until the tantrum is over because when they’re operating from that lower brain, they aren’t going to take in the lesson.

5. Control yourself.
Tantrums can trigger our own strong emotional reaction. Put your own oxygen mask on first. We can’t teach kids how to do better if we can’t do better ourselves.

6. Give a little grace.
We are all human beings here. That doesn't excuse poor behavior, but if you've ever lost it on your kid, you can empathize with that strong feeling that makes us all behave poorly from time to time. Learn better. Teach them better. Give a little grace when it's needed.

There are loads of articles on the web about tantrums, all with contradicting advice, and many of them will tell you it’s best to ignore the child. It can be difficult to know what you should really do.

A good guiding question: How would you want to be treated?

I encourage you to tune in and listen to what your own heart tells you to do.

**This article was originally published at Creative Child Magazine.

For more of my Positive Parenting articles featured in Creative Child Magazine, click here.

8 Actions to Chase Away the Mama Blues

Photo Credit: Creative Child Magazine

Motherhood is beautiful and joyful. It’s also exhausting and monotonous. Taking care of the ever-present needs of little ones often leaves little time for taking care of our own which can leave us feeling drained, dreary, and down in the dumps. If you’re feeling a little blue, try these tips to turn that frown upside down.

1. Check your focus.
My boys are all about Star Wars lately, and when I heard Qui-Gon Jinn say, “Your focus determines your reality,” I wrote it down. This is not just Jedi wisdom. Mamas need to understand that whatever we direct our thoughts and energy toward will determine what we live each day.
Are you focusing on your child’s flaws or her strengths? Are you paying more attention to his negative behavior or are you seeing his heart? Are you thinking more about the drudgery of every day, or are you looking for miracle moments? A simple shift in focus can pull you out of that dump.

2. Start off on the right foot.
If you can rise and shine before the kids get up, good for you! That’s certainly helpful, but it isn’t necessary for a positive start to the day. Whenever and however you wake up, remember L.E.A.P. This stands for lights, exercise, air, and protein. First thing, turn on a lot of lights or open the blinds. Next, get a bit of exercise. Stretch and move around to get your blood pumping and oxygen flowing through.

Also try to get some fresh air. Step outside, look up at the sky, and take a few deep breaths. Hello world! Finally, grab a bit of protein. Your body is ready to convert that into energy for your day, so don’t skip breakfast.

3. Reframe the negatives into positives.
Give thanks for the things that irritate you! “I’m grateful for these dishes. My children have eaten.” “I’m thankful for a hectic morning. We are alive and able to move around.” “I’m grateful for this huge, ginormous Lego pile scattered all across the living room floor, one of which I just stepped on because it means childhood is happening here.”

4. Pump up the jam.
Play upbeat music first thing in the morning while you make breakfast or get dressed. Studies show music actually improves your mood and has a lot of other benefits, likes lowering stress and anxiety. For added benefit, shake your booty. One study showed that dancing improves mental health.

5. Get curious.
Curiosity is a stepping stone to mindfulness, and mindfulness improves mental health. Ask yourself questions like “what am I noticing about my feelings today?” or “I wonder what is going on inside my child to cause her to behave that way?” or “what small step can I take toward that goal?”
By being curious rather than judgmental, notice how the energy shifts. Approach life with a child-like sense of wonder. See things in a new perspective, notice things you haven’t noticed before, and ask a lot of questions.

For more of my Positive Parenting articles featured in Creative Child Magazine, click here.

20 Gratitude Activities for Kids

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 No comments

In November, many people share something they’re thankful for each day on social media in preparation for the Thanksgiving holiday. Practicing gratitude makes us feel happier and more alive. The benefits of gratitude are many, and if we teach our children the art of gratitude while they’re young, they’re more likely to reap the benefits well into adulthood.

These gratitude activities will help you cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” in your little ones.

1. Create a family gratitude book. Each family member should add photos, notes, drawings, and mementos - anything they feel grateful for. It’s a good idea to keep it visible and add to it regularly, like once a month at a family meeting.

2. I found a wreath I can actually make! This thankful turkey wreath is easy and festive. Just write what your kids are grateful for on the feathers.

3. Keep a gratitude jar on the kitchen table. Let the kids decorate it with fall stickers or leaves. Each day, tell everyone to write down one thing they’re thankful for and put it in the jar.

4. I love this gratitude tree from the Kids’ Activities Blog. Cut out leaves, have the kids write what they’re thankful for on them, and hang them on a branch.

5. Add the gratitude circle into your bedtime routine. Have the family sit in a circle and each person name something they’re grateful for.

6. Say grace before meals. A simple yet often overlooked gratitude practice, saying grace before we eat is a small way to teach kids to be thankful. If you’re not religious, here are some secular examples to give thanks.

7. Get the little ones active with the Gratitude Garden activity from All Done Monkey. If you have an energetic kid, this is a great activity.

8. Take a gratitude walk. Go on an evening stroll and look for things to be grateful for, like the beautiful leaves, the smell of rain, and the friendly neighbors.

9. Make a gratitude paper chain. Each day leading up to Thanksgiving, add one strip per family member to the chain. You should have a nice, long chain to decorate with on Thanksgiving Day.

10. For a multisensory approach to gratitude, check out this gratitude sensory bin from Learning Through Playing.

11. Have the kids write letters of gratitude to community workers and hand-deliver them. Ideas are
police, fire department, school, bank, and hospital.

12. Buy a jar and dig a hole! It’s time to make a Thanksgiving time capsule.
Just write what everyone is thankful for on strips of paper, roll them up and place them in the jar. Bury it in the back yard. Dig it up next Thanksgiving and read what everyone was grateful for last year, and then add new ones to the jar and bury it again.

13. These gratitude stones by Fireflies and Mudpies are a simple and cute way to cultivate gratitude in your little ones.

14. Read books about gratitude together. Check out this list from The Best Children's Books and this list from Montclair Library in California.

15. The Joy of Boys made gratitude pumpkins with strips of orange construction paper.

...continue reading the list at Creative Child

For more of my Positive Parenting articles featured in Creative Child Magazine, click here.

30 Days of Play in November!

Last month, I began a new series, giving you simple and inexpensive play ideas for every day of the month. You asked for me to keep these posts coming every month, and so here are 30 fresh new play ideas for the month of November! Plus, since the season of Thanksgiving is upon us, check out these Thanksgiving traditions.

1. Play balloon tennis. Tape a paper plate to a paint stick for the tennis racket, and use a balloon as the tennis ball.

2. Build a town out of cardboard boxes. Cut holes for doors and windows, decorate the “buildings” with construction paper, crayons, glitter, or whatever else you have on hand, and use small toys and figures to occupy your town.

3. Pretend play detectives. Create clues for the kids to follow and see if they can solve the mystery!

4. Play traditional birthday party games even if it’s nobody’s birthday. Try these ideas.

5. Watch a Thanksgiving movie together after the big dinner. Here is a list to choose from.

6. Act out a children’s book, like We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.

7. Do karaoke.

8. Set up a science lab with beakers, test tubes, water, color tablets, and measuring spoons.

9. Visit a pumpkin patch.

10. Make a pumpkin pie together with the pumpkin you picked at the patch.

11. Do a Diet Coke and Mentos explosion for some fun outdoor science.

12. Paint each other’s faces with face paint.

13. Make a homemade corn pit. Fill a small baby pool with two 50-pound bags of corn from the local feed store. Add shovels and buckets.

14. Visit a local planetarium or science center.

15. Grab binoculars and go bird watching.

16. Play video games together.

17. Make a Thanksgiving craft. Here are plenty to choose from.

18. Blow up balloons with glow sticks inside and hang them from the bedroom ceiling for delightful nightlights.

19. Make homemade ice cream together. Here’s how.

20. Play I Spy.

21. Peel the paper off broken crayons and melt them in flexible shaped trays, like this.

22. Freeze small toys in a muffin tin and throw the iced toys in the bath. The kids will enjoy watching them melt to reveal the toy.

23. Work a puzzle together.

24. Go on a hayride.

25. Make pet rocks, rock people, and even a whole rock village.

26. Make a treasure map and go on a treasure hunt.

27. Visit a local corn maze.

28. Gather all the stuffed animals and set up a pretend veterinarian’s office, or for educational fun, sort them by habitat.

29. Make a beanbag toss game:
  • Cut out squares of felt.
  • Hot glue 2 squares together on 3 edges, leaving a pocket opening.
  • Fill with beans, and hot glue the last side shut.
  • Cut out a hole in sturdy cardboard for the target, or just toss them into a basket or bowl.
30. Play The Floor is Lava! Game:
  • Pull the couch cushions on the floor.
  • All players must jump from cushion to cushion.
  • Be careful not to step on the floor. It’s hot!
This post was originally published at Creative Child.

For more of my Positive Parenting articles featured in Creative Child Magazine, click here.

Enforcing Limits While Remaining Connected

Enforcing Limits While Remaining Close with Our Kids

For the past 6 years, I’ve centered my work around one message: Connection is everything. It’s the key to parenting. It’s the best-kept secret. It’s our ticket to enjoying the journey more, but how can we set boundaries and correct our children without losing that connection? If we confuse “staying connected” with “never upsetting our children,” things begin to get very hazy.

Early on in my transition to respectful, connected parenting, I made the mistake of confusing the two. Fearful of ruining our bond, I struggled with setting and enforcing limits, and the frustration that resulted almost caused me to go back to my traditional punitive ways. Thankfully, I kept reading and learning, and finally I figured out how to be the positive leader my kids needed. So, if you’re struggling with something similar in your parenting journey, I’d like to share with you what helped me learn to stand firm yet gentle in my position as leader.

Here’s something to remember. A good connection isn’t feeble.

It isn’t going to break because you say no. It isn’t going to crumble when you hold a boundary or even allow a consequence. A temporarily upset child (or parent) doesn’t equal a broken bond. When I was tip-toeing around my kids, afraid of breaking our connection by upsetting them, I felt powerless to change their behavior. When I realized our relationship wasn’t that fragile, I was able to set and enforce limits and correct my children’s off-track behavior with confidence.

Think of parenting like a balance scale for a moment.

There should be lots of positive, happy, snuggly, smiling moments and fewer negative (correcting, reprimanding, upsetting, frustrating) moments. The positive should outweigh the negative a good deal. When we focus too much on correcting or reprimanding and don’t give enough positive attention, the scale starts to tip in the wrong direction. When the negative outweighs the positive, connections crumble.

Therefore, to keep your connection secure, make sure your scale is favorable. If you’re going through a particularly challenging phase, up the positive attention!

Ah, but there’s a small caveat. Even though we may have fewer negative moments than positive moments, being harsh or shaming during correction and enforcing of limits is damaging to the relationship. In other words, saying “no, I won’t allow you to do that” isn’t damaging, but “you’re a bad boy, why would you be so mean?” is.

It turns out that shaming is a pretty common thing, and although children are very forgiving when we blow it, harsh words and actions leave their mark. So, learning how to approach negative behavior in a positive way is important for keeping our connections strong, and this requires a shift in mindset and approach.

Changing Your Mindset

Positive parenting requires a shift from a fear-based mindset to a love-based mindset. The fear-based mindset says:
  • I must control my child’s behavior. (authoritarian)
  • My child learns not to repeat bad behavior by being punished. (authoritarian)
  • I’m the dominant figure; my child is “under” me. (authoritarian)
  • My child will hate me if I upset him. (permissive)
Trying to positively parent with a fear-based mindset doesn’t work because the focus is still on who has the control, you or your child.

The love-based mindset says:
  • My role is to teach my child appropriate behavior.
  • My child learns through example and through limits set and enforced respectfully.
  • While I am the leader, my child is a human being with equal rights to be respected and heard.
The real shift occurs when you move away from controlling your child’s behavior toward understanding your child’s behavior. Only when you understand where it’s coming from can you help him learn to do better.

Changing Your Approach

Now that the focus is off control and on connection and understanding, how do you approach correcting her of enforcing your limit while maintaining your connection? ...continue reading at Creative Child

For more of my Positive Parenting articles featured in Creative Child Magazine, click here.