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27th Sep 2019

These psychotherapists have come up with a brilliant way to deal with temper tantrums

Melissa Carton

Tantrums are the thing that every parent dreads.

Unfortunately, no matter the child, temper tantrums happen, and usually at the most inconvenient moments.

My son once decided, as a toddler, to pitch a fit just before we boarded a flight.

While these situations can be stressful, these psychotherapists have a solution that could solve all your misbehaviour woes.

According to psychotherapists Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright, the importance lies within the words you use to speak to your child when they are having a full-blown meltdown.

They explained that the key to calming your child is using good disciplinary tactics or their ALP model: attune, limit set and problem solve.

Speaking to The Independent they said ;

“Practising ALP in difficult moments gives parents a way to lead with understanding and kindness, consistently hold clear limits and teach rules and help their child make a better choice or solve their dilemma.”

The ALP model can be used to deal with a plethora of issues, from meltdowns, to non-cooperation, to bedtime resistance, to sibling conflict to arguments over screen time.

They demonstrated an example of a situation in which this model could be used is if your child is crying and resisting leaving a  toy shop.

Here’s an example on how you can use ALP :

1)Attune: Crouching down at your child’s level, make eye contact with them. In a kind tone, tell them you understand why they’re upset e.g. “Mum gets it, leaving this fun store is really hard!”

2)Limit set: Calmly explain the situation e.g. “We do have to leave now. It’s time to go pick up your sister.”

3)Problem solve: Try to mediate the situation by adding in some sort of compromise that will motivate your child to behave e.g. “You can hold my hand and walk out with me while we sing a silly song or I will pick you up gently and carry you to the car.”

Empathising with your child is also extremely important when dealing with temper tantrums.

Even though their behaviour might seem irrational and over the top, to them they are simply expressing themselves. The situation is a much bigger deal to them than it is to you and belittling them will only make it worse.

I can understand this because my family often make fun of me for getting upset during a trip to Blackpool, but for my five-year-old self, it didn’t seem so silly.

It was really hot, I was sunburnt and bitten by bugs and I couldn’t get on any of the rides because I was too small. It all came to a head in Blackpool tower when my older cousin took the red straw that I wanted. To the adults around me I was simply overreacting about a piece of plastic but for me, it was the straw, red or not, that broke the camel’s back.

When it comes to toddler meltdowns, it’s important to put yourself in your child’s shoes to understand what they’re feeling.

The worse thing you can do is use these statements, which I will admit I’ve been guilty of saying in the past.

These include:

“How many times have I told you not to do that?”

“I’ve had it with you!”

“Why don’t you listen?”

“Stop crying, you’re acting like a baby!”

“Because I said so!”

It’s so easy when we’re frustrated with our child’s behaviour to fall into the trap of screaming and shouting but research shows that these reactions do more harm than good.

All they do is teach our children that the answer to every problem is getting angry.

Showing your child that you are understanding, even at their worst, will make them feel more secure.

A child’s greatest fear is abandonment and when we threaten them during tantrums with statements like ‘if you don’t get up I’ll leave you here’ it leads them to hold anxiety that someday you might just follow through.

Though you would think this is a good thing and it will mean that they won’t pull that stunt again, the fear that you might leave them still lingers in the back of their mind.

We don’t want our children to fear us, we want them to respect us and know that we love them unconditionally.

If we take the time now to be understanding with our children, then when they are older they will take the time to be understanding with us.

We are all just human after all and we all need support and compassion from time to time, no matter what our age.

“Empathy is contagious and our human desire for it goes in all directions.”