WHETHER it’s when they lose a game, get frustrated with their shoes or simply don’t get the snack they want – kids’ tantrums are much more common than any parent is likely to let on.
But if you’re not sure if your son or daughter is taking their competitiveness a little too seriously, we’ve spoken to an expert for some advice.
Lisette Kuijt, a licensed child psychologist at the online tutoring platform, GoStudent revealed the easiest ways to stop your kid from having a meltdown.
The child psychologist, who has a master’s in Child and Adolescent Psychology, said: “It’s important to note that a meltdown is actually something different than a tantrum.
“Meltdowns are reactions to being overwhelmed, while tantrums are usually a result of a child not getting what they want, or if they do not want to do something.
“I think that ‘tantrum’ is possibly a better term here.”
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A CHILD LOSES A GAME?
Child psychologist Lisette pointed out that if we’re honest, we all love to win.
Even if no prize is connected with you finishing in the first place, a large dose of testosterone and dopamine is released in the brain.
This makes us feel good about ourselves and powerful! When we lose, however, the opposite happens – we doubt our capabilities and we feel disappointed.
Lisette explained: “Young children do not have the ability to control their emotions and actions just yet.
“The prefrontal lobe – the brain area that is associated with these skills – starts developing much later in life and keeps developing until the age of 25.
“Additionally, children often don’t have the language to express what they are feeling.
“Due to the lack of coping skills when they lose a game – a very undesirable outcome for a child – they might respond by throwing a tantrum.”
SIGNS OF YOUR CHILD HAVING A TANTRUM
There are some common signs to look out for that your child is having a tantrum – these can be either physical and verbal violence.
Plus, this can manifest itself in many different ways.
The child expert explained that children can yell, cry, shout, bite, kick, throw objects around the room or pound their fists on the table or floor.
HOW TO STOP YOUR CHILD FROM HAVING A TANTRUM
But Lisette said there’s a number of easy ways to stop your child from having a tantrum every day they lose a game.
- REMOVE THEM
She said her first tip if your child is showing signs of aggressive behaviour to others, is to stop this immediately by removing them from the situation.
Lisette continued: “Your child needs to know that hurting other people or children is not okay, even if they are very mad.
“This works because the removal from the situation sends an immediate and very clear signal to the child that the behaviour is not acceptable.
“By removing them immediately, the child realises that the situation is severe. Explain calmly to your child that such actions will not be tolerated, and why.
“Ask them if they have any questions, and continue to discuss the reasons why until you are sure they understand.”
2. VALIDATE FEELINGS
Another easy way to stop your child from having a tantrum after losing a game is to validate their feelings and help them to verbalise them.
For example, “You are feeling mad because you lost. Losing is not fun.”
Lisette explained that part of the reason why children throw tantrums is that they do not know how to express their feelings in another way.
When you help them by verbalising their feelings and emotions, you take away part of their frustration, diffusing the situation.
3. SET A TIMER
Another tip for stopping tantrums is to set a timer for your child to be mad and tell them what will happen next.
Lisette advised: “Say something like, ‘You can be mad for five more minutes until we hear the beep, and after that, we will talk about it.’
“By setting a time in which your child is allowed to be angry, you validate their frustration, while setting boundaries to their behaviour.
“Because you have allowed them time to emote, your child is less likely to continue their tantrum after the time limit that you set, enabling you to then have a more constructive conversation.”
Explain that practice can make them better at a game and that not all skills come naturally, suggested Lisette.
The child psychologist said this works because parents can explain that skills are something a person has to work on and that everybody loses sometimes.
This helps to put the event in perspective for children and allows them to realise the benefit of practice and experience.
5. SET RULES
Child expert Lisette said another good thing to do is explain the rules of the game again, or in another way, so that your child knows why they lost.
She said: “This is a great tip, especially for younger children, who do not always fully understand the rules of the game that they are playing.
“Part of their frustration can be that they don’t understand why they lost. Explaining this can take part of this frustration away for them.”
EFFECTS OF BEHAVIOUR
Lastly, Lisette explained that a way to reduce the chances of your child having a tantrum when they lose a game is to explain the effect of their behaviour on other people.
She suggested parents explain to them that other children won’t like to play the game with them anymore.
The expert added: “Children have difficulty understanding the consequences of their actions.
“If they begin to understand what effect their tantrum has on other children, and how that might also impact them, they are less likely to continue their behaviour, or show this behaviour in the future.”