Herald Journal Columns
Oct. 18, 2004 Herald Journal

Quieting those temper tantrums


Have you ever been at the park when it’s time to leave, but your preschooler won’t come off the play equipment? She asks “just one more time” for the eighth time.

You are helping your child get dressed, but he doesn’t like the way his socks feel. No matter how hard you try, you can’t find the “right” ones for him.

Children want to assert their independence, and saying “no” to you gives them some power.

Patience can be a powerful tool, but sometimes, we need to rely on our bag of tricks in dealing with our sometimes assertive tykes. With a little bit of creativity, the tool of distraction can work wonders.

The following are some distracting tactics I like to use:

• Try a new voice. It seems the sillier, the better. Tell a story or a rhyme in a deep, papa bear voice or a little, itty, bitty baby voice. I like to use my very proper English queen voice. My children love this.

• Go for the giggle. Making your child laugh, takes her mind off the situation at hand. Say something silly, tell a joke, or make goofy, silly faces. If all else fails, just plain tickle her. You will get laughs, too, and the task at hand may be accomplished before you know it.

• Sing a tune and change a word or phrase of a familiar song, like “Row, row, row your coat . . .” Put your child’s name and some favorite things in a familiar song. “Billy, Billy went to town riding on a dump truck . . .” Your child may enjoy your mistake or be mesmerized by his name in a song that he knows. Before you know it, his socks and shoes are on.

• One of our family’s favorite techniques to get our children ready in the morning rush is making the dressing routine into a race. “Who can put their clothes on first (including the adults)?” Racing the clock works well, too. “You’ve got five minutes. On your mark, get set, go.” This has worked wonders for us, and we are all happily dressed and ready for the next task.

• Whispering works wonders when your child is angry. He may stop crying to hear what you have to say. It is definitely better than engaging in a shouting match.

• Tell a secret. “I have a secret to tell you. Wanna hear it?” Pick her up or kneel down. Whisper something sweet in her ear and the task of getting her into the car and buckled in can be quickly done.

Some of these techniques I have used or I’ve watched another adult, like grandma, try them, and a few are from the December 2002 issue of Parents magazine.

Try and think before you act. How are you both going to feel after the situation is over?

Engaging in a yelling match with a child won’t make either of you feel good. A little patience, some creativity and a few distractions will probably make you and your child feel better and accomplish more.

If you have some tantrum tamers that you have successfully used and would like to share with fellow readers, please e-mail me at jenni@hjpub.com. Thanks!

Some fall fun

Take a nature hike. The changing of seasons is a wonderful time to take a nature walk with a child. Use all your senses to look for signs that show the season is changing.

Look for geese flying south, different colors of the leaves, and animals eating.

Hear trees in the wind, dry leaves under foot, birds calling.

Feel the wind in your face. Crumble dry leaves or old tree bark in your hands. Pick up acorns.

Smell old leaves, the mud, the grass.

Collect nature items and create something special, such as leaf or bark rubbings or a collage. Find a pet rock. Use an egg carton and fill it with your various nature collections. Happy collecting!

Read a book

A fun Halloween version of the silly book, “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” is “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat.” Written by Lucille Colandro, the Scholastic publication is only available for distribution through the school market, so check your local school library. Its use of rhyming and repeating words and phrases allows children to “read” and laugh with you.

A wise young adage

Words of wisdom from a 4-year-old friend, Ellie, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”

More wise words

“Just the other morning, I caught myself looking at my children for the pure pleasure of it.”

Phyllis Theroux

Let’s all try this for the pure pleasure of it.

Have a great week!