You are in the grocery store with your son or daughter and are walking through the freezer section. Your child sees their favourite chocolate ice cream and begins asking you for some but you say no. We can all picture the screaming, kicking, crying child laying on the floor of the freezer section. The stares from other shoppers, the comments they make and we can all relate to just wanting to climb into that freezer and drift off to the North Pole….all because of some ice cream. These issues are all too common and something that many parents struggle with at some point in the wonderful, albeit sometimes stressful, journey of raising children. I have worked with many parents experiencing the same things and here are some strategies that have worked for them.
The Temper Tantrum Happened….Now What?
Many parents come into my office describing the ice cream aisle meltdown and go on to tell me that their child has, as a result, lost their iPad privileges for the next month. Although children need to learn that there are consequences for their actions, these consequences also need to be meaningful and logical. For example, if your child refuses to clean up their toys, then their toys get a time out and are taken away. This is a logical consequence for the action and your child is able to make a connection between the two. They are able to understand that if I don’t do this then this will happen. If your child refused to clean their toys and the consequence was that they were grounded for a month, the immediate connection between cause and effect may be more difficult for your child to understand. With this example, it is also important to consider the amount of time that the consequence is in effect for. The problem with taking your child’s iPad away for a month is that they often forget why the iPad was taken away in the first place and they have nothing to work towards. I often ask parents what is the incentive for you child to improve the issue if they have already lost their most prized possession for such a long time. I often recommend implementing the consequence (i.e. taking toys away) for a short amount of time and building up in increments should the issue still be present. If it is the first time that your child refused to clean up their toys, try putting the toys on time-out for an hour as a start. This allows your child to see that if I misbehave then there is a consequence, however I am still able to earn my toys back if I am acting appropriately.
Watch your Language!
Have you ever asked your child if they can take out the garbage and you are met with a resounding no? Were you left wondering how did that just happen-it wasn’t an option, yet you son just turned it into one. Think carefully about how you asked your children to talk out the garbage. Many of us will turn our instructions into a question without even realizing it. For example, asking your child “can you get ready for bed” or “get ready for bed, okay” are going to get you a very different response than “get ready for bed, please.” The first two examples give your child the opportunity to say yes or no-with no being the most popular response. You are becoming frustrated at your defiant child when in all actuality you gave them a choice without even realizing it. Pay attention to how you ask your child to do something so that the garbage gets taken out and you save your sanity.
Don’t Say No!
You may be thinking “what is she talking about?” So let’s go back to the chocolate chip ice cream for this one. We said no and then ended up dealing with a screaming child for the next 20 minutes. Giving in seems so easy but won’t do much to help you in the long run. So what about not saying no at all. Most of us may say “no” and go on to give an explanation, about it almost being dinner or having candy at home, however your child, who so desperately wants that ice cream, may have only heard “no” before they began screaming and kicking on the floor. Although there will be times when you need to say no to your child and set limits, there are also times when you need them to do something first or you want to avoid the grocery store stares without giving in. Instead of saying no and then giving your explanation try saying yes and then offering a time qualifier. For example, first you need to finish your chores and then you can play video games or ice cream is so good, maybe we can get some after school tomorrow.” As the parent, wording things in a more positive way will save the headaches and leave your child with visions of future ice cream in their heads.
Keep Instructions Clear!
Have you ever asked your child to do something and feel as though they didn’t hear you or chose to completely ignore you? Johnny, please go to your room and pack for our trip to grandma’s house. You are thinking shirts, shorts and a toothbrush, but your child may be thinking toys, stuffed animals and books. We may assume that children understand what is being asked of them, but this is not always the case. The instructions were too vague and your child was not sure what was expected of them so they packed to their own standards. Give your child clear instructions outlining the steps involved in cleaning their room so that they are set up to succeed and you avoid the frustration. Likewise, keep instructions short and concise. Have you ever worked with someone who just wouldn’t stop talking? By the end you are barely listening to them and have started thinking about what you are having for lunch instead and completely missed the conversation. Your child is the same! They may only remember the last word you say so keep your instructions short & contact Bayridge counselling center.
Focus: Individuals, children, adolescents, teens, families, anxiety/depression, aggression, anger management, self-esteem, self-harm, parenting, social skills, ADHD, ODD/CD, life issues, divorce, bullying, emotional regulation, FASD, emotions/feeling recognition and management, school issues, peer issues