Parenting Tips

On Temper Tantrums

© Victoria Todd

You’re tired; you’re hungry and you’re eager to go home.  You wearily push your shopping cart up to the check-out counter where your daughter’s eyes become transfixed on candy.  You let her know that you have wonderfully healthy treats right here in the cart and as soon as you get home, you’ll wash off a nice big peach for her to eat.  That’s when the wailing begins at full throttle. 

Most tantrums are caused by helpless rage.  Your daughter wants what she wants with great intensity and feels powerless to get it thanks to your “no.”  She cannot think about later.  All she can do is wallow in her tidal wave of grief and the murderous rage she feels for her tormentor.  In fact, she may well feel terrified by the strength of her feelings to the point of panic.

When faced with a temper tantrum, you probably feel exactly like your child—furious at your daughter for being unreasonable, helpless to control her outlandish behavior and terrified it may never end.  Oh, and let’s not forget about the embarrassment you feel in regard to the onlookers.  So, what should you do?

Start by taking your daughter out of the store.  Then, contain her—hold her, murmur soothing words and assure her this will end and you’ll help. Think of the Red Cross tending to storm victims.  You’re the warm blanket protecting your daughter from the raging storm going on inside her until it passes.  Then it’s time to talk.  “You must have been very scared when we were in the grocery store and you got so upset.”  But if you think the temper tantrum was manipulative, you might say, “I think you thought that screaming and crying would make me change my mind and buy you that candy, but that’s not going to work.  You’re a big girl now and big girls use their words when they want something.”

In the future, prepare your child in advance.  “When we get to the store, you and I are going to pick out some really good strawberries for later.  There will still be candy at the check-out counter, but we won’t be getting any, because we’re going to have strawberries when we get home.”