Have you ever been at the grocery store, walking along, peacefully gathering your necessary items, when the candy bar isle distracts you? Not because of the chocolate. Or the sour patch kids. It's the screaming child in that poor woman's cart. His face is red and he is loud and what on earth is he saying? She looks distraught and reaches for the m&m's and gives them to him. He suddenly quiets himself and smiles while munching on yummy candy coated chocolate. Mission accomplished. Whose mission do you think I am talking about? Mom, after all, she got the kid to stop screaming? The little boy, I mean shoot, he managed to get the m&m's his mom most likely, initially said "no" about?
Have you ever been over at a friends house at bedtime? Her children are playing a board game when she announces "Bed time in twenty minutes" and the kids reply "thanks mom" and quietly begin to clean up the game and then they disappear. When they reappear, they have their teeth brushed, pajamas on, and all have gone to the bathroom. They give hugs and kisses and head down the hall. Mom follows after them and reads a chapter from the book they have been chosen, they all say prayers and the children are soon fast asleep. You sit there dumbstruck, reflecting on your bedtime "routine" snickering when you think the word "routine". She must have some amazing kids, I mean normal children don't go to bed like that. Do they?
Have you ever met a gal pal to have lunch with the kids and run some errands? While at lunch she tells the kids she plans to take them to the park to play after running errands. "First we will have lunch, then drop by the post office, run to Wal-mart for a few things and then to the park, if you make good behavior choices" The kids excitedly agree to behave. "Wow" you think to yourself,"how will she enforce the good behavior?" knowing very well that you would not set YOUR children to fail. I mean, no one actually follows through with "threats" like that. Do they?
Do you know a foster family with new kids in their home? The house is disheveled. Kids run amuck, screaming and hitting, biting and spitting, at every turn? She announces that lunch will be ready in ten minutes. Kids run to the table. Soon a fight breaks out over who gets to sit where. At first it is just yelling, quickly it turns to pushing and hair pulling. She walks calmly into the room and says " I don't mind if you fight. We just don't do it in the house. You are welcome to continue to fight in the yard or you can sit here and you can sith there." Both children protest. She had placed both children in a chair other than the one they were fighting over. They refuse to sit. They continue to yell and fight. She says, "You have ten seconds to chose, either stop fighting and eat or go outside and fight while your food gets cold. I should remind you that lunch lasts for 30 minutes and then the table will be cleared and eating time will be over." They have continued to fight while she is talking. One child sits, ready to eat. The other child wants to sit in the chair the sibling has just sat in. That child yells "I want to sit there! Move! That's my spot!" And rushes over, ready to physically remove the child from the chair. Foster mom say in a calm voice, " I see that your choice is made. Do you want to go outside by my feet or yours?" The child ignores her and keeps yelling. Your friend casually walks to the child a picks them up and delivers them to the porch. She says " when you are calm and quiet you are welcome to come in. There is 25 minutes left for eating lunch." And walks into the house. You make some excuse to leave wondering how on earth she does it. Those kids are out of control. There is no way their behaviors can be fixed. Can they?
I have been there. In all of those situations, oddly from both sides of the stories too! I want to share what I have learned over the years. I'm not saying my methods are quick or fail proof or easy for that matter.I am not saying they are for everyone. I am saying I have had a lot of luck and a lot less frustration, (often referred to as "anger" by people who want to be honest with themselves:0).
I will share some of my experiences and how I deal with them.
This week tantrums at the grocery store.
Let's talk about the kid in the shopping cart... If you are looking for a way to quiet the child right now, maybe the m&m's are a good choice. I do, however, recommend saying yes in the first place. A child learns quickly that throwing a fit will get them what they want. I believe you have to follow through with what you say. If you are looking at the long term and you want to be able to take your children grocery shopping without them expecting a treat, you may want to say no? That's when the hard part comes in, especially if the child has learned to throw fits to get his/her way. When they begin to cry and scream and hit and kick or some other combination of tantrum style behavior it is REALLY important to stay calm (on the outside :0) and try not to react. Kind of like when you were a child and your brother kept poking you and you mom said to ignore him and he would likely get bored of you not reacting and go away. Same thing here, your child needs to know their behavior choices have consequences for them, not you. It is easy to say, but takes a lot of practice. For me it does at least. Thank goodness I have so many kids to provide me with learning opportunities! Here is what I do... First take a deep breathe, preferably with your face away from your child. Then with a calm and quiet voice tell any other child who is behaving how absolutely wonderful it is that they are sitting so quietly, or walking where they were asked to be and any other behaviors you wish the misbehaving child would display. Peer pressure is amazing at times. If the child throwing a tantrum tries to talk to me, while screaming I say "when your voice sounds like mine, we can talk." I will repeat that in a very soft, kind voice, over and over and over until I can't hardly stand it. Eventually the child will calm and quiet down; from lack of will, loss of motivation, finally understanding or sheer exhaustion. Whatever the cause I acknowledge them for choosing to be calm. Don't celebrate it, just a simple "its nice that you have calmed down." is sufficient. It's important that the child doesn't see the fit as having any affect on you.
I am going to be honest and say that if the child is a foster child from a neglectful home the tantrums may last a long time and be really ugly at first. This is important because we all need to know our limits and it might be a good idea to grab the essentials only and get out of the store. I think it is better to come back later then to let the child think they have the power to change you plans. I want the consequences of the child's behavior to seemingly only affect them. That will motivate them to change the behavior. After all, it gets boring to poke someone over and over without some kind of reaction :0) Smile, knowing you child will learn to manage themselves in time. It is worth the work.
What about you? How do you handle a tantrum at the store?