The scene is set. Tesco, Saturday afternoon. I want to give my wife a bit of rest bite so I take the toddler shopping, the cupboards are empty and it’ll be fun. Of course it will….
Approaching the front door, everyone is smiling, racing cars in the trolley, laughter and joy. Meat and cheese, check, vegetables, check… “Dada, carrot?” – yes of course you can have a carrot bud. “Dada, dat carrot” – you’ve got a carrot… “Carrrrrrot!!!!” The world stops. The carrot is airborne, the straps are off. In a matter of seconds, in a Hundi-esque wriggle and twist he’s free.
My face turns a deep shade of crimson, I feel like all eyes are on me. I have to act. He’s on the floor now, spinning round like an out of control Catherine wheel, sparks and all. And then it stops. He smiles and the crimson subsides. The world starts turning again and reality is restored.
As a dad, sometimes it feels like you are being judged when you are alone with you child.
Nothing make you feel even more under the microscope than a fully-fledged temper tantrum in full public view – of course, that is when it inevitably happens.
It has taken a few skirmishes to help me realise that “ignoring it” isn’t always the most effective approach to dealing with a tantruming toddler. Here are a few field-tested methods:
Trying to understand why they’re having a tantrum
Although some of the kick offs will be undeniably random, most tantrums are due to something. Tiredness, hunger and confusion are common reasons for a toddler’s world seemingly ending (to themselves). Understanding that makes dealing with a tantrum a bit more logical. Before you tell them off or take any other steps, consider why they may be upset in the first place. Use your dad skills to get to the bottom of the issue.
Distraction is a subtle art and toddlers get smart to most tricks quite quickly. A distraction with something of interest or maybe some food is a great way to distract your little one’s attention from kicking and screaming to something positive. Their brains are very adaptable and emotions are quickly forgotten – having a few distraction tricks is a great way to stay in control. If you know you’re going to be flying solo, make sure you have some emergency snacks and toys just in case you need a smokescreen.
Don’t give in
There is something to be said for being resolute. At the end of the day, as an adult, you need to send the message that rolling around on the floor screaming isn’t the right way to go about behaving when you’re not pleased with something (some adults need to take note of that too). Not giving in shows your child that you are in control and although it may be difficult to ride the wave when you’re in public, staying strong send a clear message that may discourage such behaviour in the future – it also may not, just to clarify!
My face goes a deep shade of crimson when I’m embarrassed and a public tantrum is something that gets me flustered. It isn’t that I can’t deal with it, it’s more that I don’t want people to think I can’t cope. As a dad, there’s an expectation that you are out of your depth when you’re alone with your children. That’s not the case at all, but you feel like that none-the-less.
Help toddlers to understand their feelings
Using language is one of the best ways to communicate to your child that they are behaving inappropriately. I think dads are less inclined to talk things through than mums do, but I have found calmly explain to my boy what’s going to happen is a really effective way of stopping him going nuts. I try to stay collected and that rubs off on him.
Praising good behaviour
Everyone like positivity, children are no different. Learning right from wrong is a lesson you learn throughout your life, but teaching your little one that certain things are acceptable and other things are not through reinforcement is a great way to stop tantrums all together.