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Stopping the Tantrums: Teaching Kids How to Soothe and Calm Themselves

Getting Down on Eye Level

LeeAnne's mom was dropping her off for preschool. Tears welled in he eyes and then she began to protest. "Don't leave me!" she cried, grabbing on to her mother's leg. Her mom bent down and crouched eye to eye with LeeAnn. "I think you're scared," she said. "But Georgette, your teacher, is here; she'll take care of you. Look, she's getting out the paint. You love to paint." LeeAnne sniffed. Looking at Georgette, she gave her mom's leg one more squeeze and walked into the room. Getting down to eye level forces you to stop and take note of the emotions welling in your child. By looking in his eyes you can see to his heart and clearly communicate, "I'm listening!" It tells your child this emotion is important. "I'm trying to understand. We can figure out what to do."

Allow Enough Time

Power struggles frequently erupt in the morning when we're trying to get out of the house. In our rush, we stop monitoring emotions and let things escalate. But if you allow more time, you can recognize when wanting help getting dressed isn't about trying to make you late. It's about needing to connect with you before you separate. You'll also realize that dawdling may reflect a need to play just a bit before the hectic schedule of the day begins. When you aren't rushed, you have the time to make these mini-hassles opportunities to teach your child. When he gets frustrated trying to tie his shoe or finish his lunch, you can stop and explain, "Learning to tie is difficult. Sometimes when you're practicing you get frustrated. When that happens you can take a deep breath and try again, or take a break and come back to it."

Monitoring emotions is essential to managing them. As you catch them, teach your child to stop and notice them as well. Ultimately he has to take over monitoring his own emotions. You can ask him questions like these: What is your body feeling like inside right now? Can you feel fireworks inside of you? Does your body feel like a balloon ready to burst? Give him a concrete image he can use to communicate the level of his intensity. Then he will be ready to learn what he can do to soothe and calm himself before he bursts.


From the book KIDS, PARENTS, AND POWER STRUGGLES: Winning for a Lifetime by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, published by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright 2000 by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. All rights reserved.

Buy the book at www.harpercollins.com.

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