I have a news flash for you mommys and daddys out there ... wait for it ... okay, here it is: Children have tantrums! Even worse, they do it in PUBLIC!
I know we all like to lie to ourselves, and sometimes others, about this fact. We all feel a certain secret satisfaction when our child is the one who is behaving perfectly, while a certain other child is yelling, screaming, throwing and yelping (you know that high-pitched sound that comes out of our angels' mouths that is between a yell and a scream).
Then there are times when that yelling, screaming, throwing and yelping child is ours. Ah, now what? Well, here is what I discovered after a lot of hair pulling and complaining to my mother and aunt.
If the child is not doing that much damage, for instance, just refusing to participate in an activity but otherwise behaving nicely, let him be left out. You continue doing what you are doing, participating, having fun and laughing (I think it goes without saying that you are watching your child while doing this, but I just said it anyway).
If he/she wants to sulk on the floor and sob quietly to themselves so be it. The odds are that after a while, they are going to come to their senses and join you in the group, so hang in there.
By making themselves separate, they are seeking attention that only negative behavior can get -- don't give into this. The best thing to do is ignore it. Once your child sees that their actions aren't getting the response they wanted, they should give it up and come back for some fun.
Or they may bring it up a notch. If this is the case and your child is yelling screaming and crying, please remove them from whatever play group or activity you are in if it is affecting the class. If your child is in the 1-2 year old range, no matter how smart and awesome they are, I find that talking them through this is just going to make it worse.
Bring them to a secluded area within the facility if possible and let them yell it out. Ask them if they want to go home, if they say "yes," okay, let's go.
I find it that if my son says "yes," there is something wrong. He is either tired, hungry or sick --maybe all three -- so I take him on his word and we high tail it out of there. If they answer "no," which we all kind of knew was coming, just tell them plainly that we cannot go back in until they stop acting like this -- that you have no problem waiting out here missing out on all the fun until they are through. Then, do nothing.
I know this is not what the parenting books may tell you, but I have learned through trial and error, that a child that cannot really fully communicate is obviously more likely to lash out (kind of common sense I know, but I did just sound like an expert there, didn't I?).
They are also more likely to calm down the less you focus on it by sitting there. By letting them "express themselves," for lack of a better word, you are not giving them much of a reason to continue. NO attention is getting thrown their way and, more than likely, they will be getting over it way faster than the old negotiating, yelling, threatening trick (those can all come later on when the kiddo is a bit older).
When they are finally through you can ask them if they would like to return to the activity. If they say "yes," that's great, but you have one more thing that they have to do before we go back to the fun. Make sure they give you a hug and say "sorry." Doesn't matter if they know the word yet, but as long as you are making them hug you and saying “you are sorry right?" they will get the hint.
Only after this last step can you get up and go on with the play time class or whatever activity you were doing.
If they refuse and start working themselves up again, it is time to call it quits and go home. This is a lesson in itself. Your child will realize they cannot act up, and they cannot act up and then not apologize for it without repercussions. Now there is no happy, fun time singing group, now we are going home.
This is another reason why I feel it is so important to look for free or low-cost entertainment for you child when they are this young. Spending hundreds of dollars on a class you don't know if they are really going to behave in is like just throwing those dollars down the toilet.
Yes, it could just be a one-time deal, but what if it's not? What if it's the room that bothers them, or the music or the weird clown picture glued to the wall -- and every single time you go you are having this issue.
They are too young to really tell you, "Hey mom, that clown is FREAKY can we not come back?" So every week you could be dealing with the same issue for reasons unknown.
Or maybe your child is just not ready for a structured class. I went to this one program that said for child 6 months and up. The kids HAD to sit in the circle, they HAD to use GLUE (um, who gives a 6 month old glue?) and complete their project before joining the other kids that are clearly having an awesome time dancing to the music.
My kid FLIPPED and we left. He just wasn't ready for that kind of class. To be honest, if I would have known it was that kind of class, I wouldn't have taken him; the description was not accurate!
Each kid is different and will react in different ways to different situations. The important thing to know is that EVERY KID has tantrums -- you are not alone. And if the other mothers are giving you that superior look, or looking at you with that horrified "oh my gosh, look at that child" look, don't even sweat it, their day will come and hopefully your kid will be the picture of perfection and there to witness it when it does. :)
And remember: do not panic! Oh, and these three things: Never get angry, never give in, and always give the same punishment.
Getting angry is still giving them attention -- even if it is negative, you are still reacting to the situation. If you give in to the tantrum, the tantrum wins! Then your angel will be using the same tactic to get what he or she wants each time they don't get their way.
Finally, make sure that their punishment is the same in public as it is at home -- this is important because it remains consistent. Things to do not change with the environment and you will get the same punishment (i.e Time out) whether you are home or out.
This is just one mother's way of dealing with the onset of the terrible twos (OH NO). If you feel my way is incorrect, or even better have any other hints and suggestions to give, please feel free! I would love to hear from you guys!