It can happen anytime, anywhere -- your child erupts into a fit of screaming and crying. Your first instinct might be to give her whatever she wants to make the behavior stop, but doing so will just reinforce the behavior. Instead, take steps to stop the behavior quickly and then teach your child that throwing fits is completely ineffective in helping her get what she wants in the future.
1. Redirect Attention
When you're in the throes of dealing with a tantrum -- especially in a public place -- you need the behavior to stop as soon as possible. The practice of redirection and distraction often works as a quick fix to calm down your little one until you can address the behavior. The Colorado State University Extension website suggests redirecting your child's attention to something that makes her forget her tantrum altogether, like a toy or activity. While it might not always work, it could stop a minor tantrum from becoming a full-on meltdown.
2. Avoid a Reaction
Your child throws a tantrum because she wants to elicit a reaction from you. If you give her attention -- even negative attention -- you could be reinforcing the behavior, causing it to happen again and again. Never give into your fretting child's demands, warns the American Academy of Pediatrics' HealthyChildren.org. Instead, remain calm. If the tantrum is minor, try ignoring the behavior altogether. If it's severe, say, "I'm sorry, I can't talk to you when you're crying like that. Let me know when you've calmed down and we can talk." That way, your little one learns that tantrums won't help her get what she wants.
3. Offer Choices
Tantrums often occur when your child feels out of control and helpless -- they're her way of tipping the scales in her favor. You can head off and stop tantrums by offering choices whenever possible, suggests the University of Michigan Health System website. You don't have to give your child free reign over your home, but offering a couple of choices could be enough to keep your child calm. Try "Do you want cereal or toast for breakfast?" or "The red shirt or the blue one?" to give your child a little control and stop meltdowns.
4. Reward Good Behavior
While you might be focused on stopping negative behavior, it may be just as important to praise and reward positive behavior as well. This teaches your little one that using manners and polite words gives her a better reaction than throwing a tantrum. When your child says please or gets through the grocery store without crying, be specific with your praise -- "I loved the way you asked me so nicely! It makes me happy when you use happy words."
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