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Why Will The Tantrums
Get Worse Before They Get Better?
Have you ever been craving a chocolate bar and gone to a vending machine in absolute desperation?
Imagine you are desperate for a chocolate bar right now. You grab your spare change and go to the nearest vending machine. You put your coins in, select your chocolate bar and…. Nothing happens!
What do you do?
You might press the button again. Still nothing happens.
You press the button a bit more vigorously, a few times in quick succession, and still… nothing happens.
You get so fed up that you hit the front of the machine, and FINALLY the chocolate bar drops out.
What do you learn in this scenario? You might remember next time you want a chocolate bar that you need to hit the front of the machine in order for it to spit it out at you.
Imagine it’s another day and you want another chocolate bar. Again the machine takes your money.
But this time, hitting the front of the machine doesn’t work.
You need to grab the whole machine and shake and kick it until FINALLY you get the chocolate bar.
Imagine this scenario isn’t actually about you and a vending machine. Imagine this scenario is about your child wanting a chocolate bar at the shops.
What happens if they ask for a chocolate bar, you say no, they have a tantrum, and then they get the chocolate bar?
They learn exactly the same thing you learnt from your interaction with the vending machine. Getting the chocolate bar teaches them that they need to have a tantrum to get a chocolate.
The longer you allow the “tantrum” behaviour to continue, and escalate, the more you reinforce to your child that they need to get “really worked up” to get a chocolate.
Rewind your mind back to you in the vending machine scenario for a minute… imagine you want another chocolate bar.
You’ve tried everything, hitting the front of the screen, kicking the machine, punching the buttons, shaking it.
And nothing happens. What do you do?
The next day you try again…. Still no chocolate bar.
Again… no chocolate bar.
What happens now? Do you keep putting your money in the machine?
Eventually, you will stop putting your money in the machine because you know for sure you’re not getting a chocolate bar.
Notice how your behaviour escalated to punching, shaking and kicking before it stopped altogether?
The same can happen with your child when they have a tantrum because you say they can’t do what ever it is they are trying to do. As their behaviour escalates, it gets harder to handle (especially if everyone is staring at you in the shop!) so the easiest thing to do is give in…
BUT the best way to stop these tantrums from happening over and over again is by acting like the vending machine in the above scenario. Just don’t give in. Eventually (as painful as it is in the interim), your child will learn that a tantrum does not result in what ever it is they are after.
But what if you want to stop the tantrum from happening in the first place?
Well… unfortunately tantrums are going to happen sometimes, but fortunately, there are a few strategies we’ve put together that may help to reduce the frequency of tantrums!
Head over “Tantrums” our strategies section to check them out.
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