Don't let the cuteness fool you. Just moments after this picture was taken, a full-blown tantrum unfolded right there in the Fine Arts Museum's lobby. It was the perfect place for a tantrum: expensive art to break, high ceilings to echo the screaming, lots of people to watch.
I guess the real question is, "Who would take a toddler to such a place?" My answer:
The mother who loves art, who includes her children in every day life, who believes somewhere deep down that conflict is okay. The seasoned mother of four who has lost her mind!
The truth is, I don't believe all places are meant for children, but the opening day of a new wing at the museum was okay. Besides, tantrums can happen anywhere. So, what's a parent to do? Here's what I'm learning (with more practice than I care to admit):
1. Get face to face. Sometimes, all it takes is for me to get down to her level on my knees and be close. Talking close to her face and resisting the urge to raise my voice can draw her in, if we are at the start of the tantrum. My body language sends the message that I'm open to listen.
2. Validate and ask questions. Even though Lyra can't totally communicate (hence the tantrum), the validation and the questions can give her a chance to nod her head to help me know how to help her.
"I know you are sad, angry, frustrated, etc. I would like to help you...Can I get you _______?"
3. Know the point of no return. When we're past the point of helping or sorting through the tantrum and are just crying, flailing, yelling, it's time to leave. Removing your child from the space helps everyone. A change of scenery might diffuse the reaction and is respectful to others around you. Of course there are the moments when you can't leave. Why do these things always happen in the check out line? In these moments, I pick one reassuring phrase and repeat it.
"I know you are upset, I will help you as soon as I can. It's okay. It will be okay."
When we finally get out of the store, she's fine and I feel like I've just been to war, but sometimes, it is about just getting through.
4. Remind them that hands are for hugging. I often have tor remind my kids what there hands, feet and mouth are for in the moment of misuse: "I can't let you hit me, and besides your hands are for playing, hugging, building, etc... Or, "These are the things you can hit- pillow, ball, etc. " It sounds silly, but it works in the long run. It gives an appropriate outlet for the frustration and reminds the child of her other capabilities. It's a good segue to offering to fill a need, too: "My hands can hug, too, do you need a hug?" Kindness melts me when I want to tantrum; it often works on the kids, too.
5. Be honest with yourself. Sometimes, I just need to bail. I need to call in reinforcements, and I'm not afraid to tell my kids. "I love you, but I'm really tired from our hard day (even though she doesn't remember the 253 tantrums). Papa is going to help you, and I'm going to take a break."
What do you do about tantrums? Give us your best tips in the comments.