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Being a parent is the hardest job anyone can have, often exhausting and exasperating. But parenting is also joyful, exhilarating, and full of unexpected opportunities to reflect on one's own past experiences as a child. Being parents has been the most rewarding career that Charles or I have ever had.

Valuing concepts related to child growth and development has guided us as parents, helped us to make choices that benefited our daughters as well as ourselves, and given us the confidence to ride out the myriad of stressful situations that inevitably occur when raising children.


TANTRUMS by Linda Kraus, M.A. © 2007
Tantrums are a frustrating part of life with young children and are common between the ages of one and four. Tantrums raise the hair on our arms and gray the hair on our heads, pushing our buttons, challenging our parenting skills to the max!  In a parent education meeting that I led not too long ago, here is what was talked about:
 

TANTRUMS

  • are intense, passionate, and overwhelming for the child as well as the parent.
  • make parents feel angry, frustrated, frightened, and helpless.
  • are a momentary expression of the child's inner turmoil, anger, frustration, tension, and feeling of being out of control.
  • reflect the child's struggle for autonomy and independence from his/her parent…often played out in power struggles: "Yes/no, you will/I won't!"

    WHY THEY HAPPEN

  • child is over tired.
  • child is over stimulated.
  • child is getting sick.
  • It's a transition time, e.g., getting ready to leave the house, coming to
    to meals, leaving school, getting ready for a bath or bed, etc.
  • child has insufficient language to express her anger or problem at the moment.
  • rushing
  • desire thwarted
  • child can't accomplish what he is trying to do, e.g., put on shoe, make puzzle piece fit.
  • child is frightened (parent is leaving, babysitter arriving).

    WAYS TO PREVENT TANTRUMS
  • Give your child a "preview of the day" the night before and again in the morning.
  • Do less in each day; let the child choose which errand to do first.
    Remember, give this choice only within the perimeters that you have to set
    for yourself so it works logistically.
  • Give your child opportunities to express angry/ frustrated feelings,
    e.g., "Here's some play dough to pound." Or have some other sensory
    activity available, such as a tray of sand or cornmeal to sift through
    fingers, sheets of newspaper to tear, a warm bath with water toys, etc.
  • Give your child time to transition to the next activity, a 5-10 minute heads up, with or without a timer. If you use a timer, set it twice, so your child can get used to the sound and concept
  • Help siblings learn how to get their needs met with each other, e.g., "When you want to use Justin's markers, here's what you say to him," or, "Sally usually feels grouchy when she first wakes up, so if you want to play with her, wait until after she's had her juice."
  • Be flexible about dinner time expectations; consider letting your child leave the table when finished eating and leave the adult conversation for then instead of trying to have "adult talk" first.
  • Help your child to have numerous opportunities to be independent and make choices. He or she can set out clothes for the morning at bedtime. A very fun way to do this is to trace the outline of your child's body on a large piece of paper and your child can "dress" his/her paper self. Or you can invite your child to fix breakfast, "You can fix your own cereal when you feel hungry. I've left the box of Cheerios and bowl on the counter and a small pitcher of milk in the refrigerator for you."
  • Be more flexible with rules at times that are different from normal: visiting relatives, traveling, new baby, illness. Explain what will be different in the different setting, and tell your child what you want him to do.
  • Don't take your child shopping if either of you is tired or hungry. Fuses are too short!
  • If you do have to take your child shopping, try to do something that is
    gratifying for her first. A younger child is likely to have a hard time with,
    "if you stay near me the whole time we're in the market, I'll buy you a toy
    afterward." An older child can delay gratification a little longer.
  • Be consistent with limits. Set age appropriate limits.
  • Pick your battles.

    WHAT TO DO DURING A TANTRUM
  • Stop the child from hurting herself, others, or you. It's scary for a young child to know she's so out of control that she can cause others pain. (If a child is banging her head, put her in a soft place-the child will most likely stop before hurting self seriously). Say: "You can be upset, but I won't let you hurt yourself or me."
  • Stay calm and tell yourself, "This isn't happening because I'm a bad parent, or because I have a bad child, or because my child wants to drive me crazy."
  • Reflect your child's feelings. Say: "You are very angry (upset, etc.) right now" (mirror your child's reality), "because you want ice cream and I told you not until after dinner."
  • Offer support. Say: "I want to help you." Offer to hold or rock your child: squat down and touch his shoulder, or if your child screams louder as you get closer, say: "OK, you don't want me near you now, but I'll be outside your door (in the kitchen, etc.) when you need me." (Sometimes, with an older child you can ask: "What will help you when you are so upset?" But do this at a calm time.)
  • Later, offer empathy. Say: "It's terrible being so upset, isn't it?"
  • Regarding: "Time-out" for tantrums. Timeout should be used: (1) to keep your child safe, 2) to remove your child from the frustration, (3) to give your child a place to yell and vent her anger. Time-out should not be used: (1) as a punishment for losing control-a child in a tantrum is unable to control herself, (2) for more than a few minutes of isolation because the child depends on responsible adult strength to help her with his antisocial or destructive behavior. It's too scary to be out of control and all by yourself for a long time.
  • Regarding: Spanking. Spanking provides the model of an adult venting anger through a physically violent act. The child doesn't learn inner control from spanking - only fear.
  • Whining, This is sort of like a mini-tantrum. Tell the child you want to help (having reflected feelings first) but that you can't understand him if he is whining. Separate from each other for a little while (even if you have to peel the whiner off your leg). Give him another place to whine until he can speak in a way you can understand. One household had a special "whining chair" that was only to be used when someone felt the need to whine.
  • Other ideas.
    - Say: "Tell me how you are feeling and I can write it down."
    - Use a tape recorder to let a child "vent" and then later play it back to talk about what happened that was so upsetting and how she felt.
    - Write a story or make a picture book about upsetting situations that cause tantrums at your house, and then read it to your child at a quiet, calm time.
  • Preschool children are doing the important work of learning how to handle their anger, frustration, and aggression. This growth is a long process, likely to take many forms. Testing each parent to the point of reaction is one way your child learns what is and isn't acceptable. Tantrums are the slips on the long road to learning inner control and learning socially acceptable ways to express frustration.


    MAKING BOOKS FOR CHILDREN

    by Linda Kraus, M.A. © 2007

    All children love story books. One useful way to help your child through a transition, such as, giving up the crib, going on a trip, Mom or Dad going back to work after a long period at home with their child, the birth of a sibling, an illness or hospitalization of a family member, death of a pet or loved one, going to a new school, etc., is to construct a simple book that tells about the specific experience and reflects what the child may be feeling or wondering about.

    A special book for your child can be as simple or elaborate as you want to make it. The books can have two pages or ten. The drawings can be stick figures or you can substitute photographs as well. Kids don't really care about how perfect the art work is; but they will treasure a book that mirrors their feelings and the particular situation they are experiencing. This kind of book supports your child as he or she struggles with situations that are new and that may be scary or confusing. In addition to the special kind of love and caring that your child will experience when you read the book together, reading it alone will also give your child a great deal of comfort.

    Below, are some sample pages from different books I have made for many parents and children. I am very touched that our two grown daughters now make similar kinds of books for the children with whom they work.

    In the past, I have worked in a school with children who have suffered trauma. Making a book was an important way the teacher helped children to express feelings. If you would like to listen to me making a book with a preschooler who was having a hard time, click play below. In this setting I only wrote the one concept that the child expressed and did not elaborate on it.


    Audio in Windows Media Format
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    For a three-year-old (sample pages)


    For a newly adopted child who left her foster family (I used magazine photographs on some pages) (sample pages)


     

    For a child whose mother is hospitalized (sample pages)

     

     

    Birthday Presents      

    Two-Year-Old (sample pages)

         

    If you would like Linda to compose a storybook for your child, customized to

    your situation, contact her at charles@charlestheclown.com.