Spirited Away: Guide to best behaviour for any season!

Got a spirited, feisty child? Here’s a quick guide on how to handle their public temper-tantrums without losing YOURS!

Christmas is coming soon and you’ve yet to find the time to shop for goodies and gifts. After a long exhausting day at work, you’d like to get that shopping list that’s been in your handbag for weeks off your chest. You pick your child up from school and take him shopping with you. At the cashier, you’re about to pay for groceries when your child reaches for a candy bar. You say "No!", and suddenly your four-year-old angel drops to the floor, throwing a serious temper-tantrum that's hard to handle. You’re caught off-guard by his sudden change of behaviour.

Let’s fast forward to Christmas day itself. The whole family is gathered round at grandma’s for some photo-taking. Your little sunshine suddenly kicks up a fuss as he’d rather stuff his face with goodies than join in the family portrait. You persuade him, and suddenly he’s screaming his head off. He throws the goodies in his hands at you and a chasing-battle ensues.

Embarrassing, right?

You realise that in public is where your child conveniently decides to cause an embarrassing scene. What are you going to do? While you might be tempted to walk away and pretend that that’s not your kid, unfortunately that’s not a feasible option! Your best bet is to try one of these few tips on how to handle temper tantrums not only at home, but everywhere else.

Tame your child's bad behaviour

What you’ll need:

  • Loads of patience
  • Consistency
  • The Rotan (Just kidding!)

1. Hungry = Angry

  • Before going out, make sure your child is well-rested and fed. If your child is hungry and tired, he is more than likely to throw a hissy fit. As adults, we get cranky when we're hungry and tired, however unlike kids - We are better equipped to handle these emotions.

2. Movies & Morals

  • Get your child to watch movies with morals. Statistics tell us that the average child spends many hours viewing movies, either in theatres or on DVDs. What better way to learn how to behave then by letting him watch Pinocchio turn into a real boy because he chose to become good?

3. “Come help me out!”

Have structured activities planned. Tell him that you’re having guests over and get him involved by helping with the cooking and cleaning up. Make him feel important and how you need his assistance to lighten your load. The key to this is making him feel "big" and important. Brag about him while he’s listening. Tell so-and-so how he helped you clean up and how proud you are of having such a good kid. Children thrive on compliments.

4. Calm the Storm

Ever heard of the saying ‘You will always be your child's favourite toy’? Well, it won’t work this time as you’ll have to multi-task at socialising yet keep an eye (and a tight grip) on your child.

  • When travelling, bring an “activity bag” with books, toys, puzzles and other creative gadgets. If he’s getting restless, redirect his focus on those objects. Ask him to show you his toy or what an object is used for. Be involved in your child's interest.

5. The Soothsayer

  • When your child misbehaves, focus on your child and ignore everyone else. Don't give up. A knee-jerk reaction is to yell at them to cut out the bad behaviour, so compose yourself first and foremost. People will stare, but who cares? You have an obligation to your child! Decipher the reason to his tantrum-throwing ways and you just might be surprised at how easy it is to stop the tantrum from ever occurring again.
  • Talk in a calming voice. When your child throws a kicking and screaming tantrum- remain calm. Don’t lose your head. Hug him firmly. Sooth him in a calming voice and tell him that you understand that he’s upset. Focus on the need to calm down and very soon, you and your child will feel better.

6. Sharing is Caring

  • Get acquainted with others who have the same issues with their children. Relatives are the best people who can help - most of our aunties and uncles are parents themselves; they’ll definitely understand! Don’t be surprised though, if they told you that even you were a brat during your toddlerhood, and that your child is just behaving the same way you were (that’s not helping at all!). Exchange issues along with helpful ideas on how to handle these temper tantrums, and you’ll feel better knowing that help is so readily available.

7. Makan Much?

  • Avoid excessive sugar. I know this is hard. Please limit the number of sweets your child consumes during the festivities. Don't go overboard with the 4 C’s - Cookies, Cakes, Caffeine and Candies. Children are much more sensitive to sugar than we are. As adults, we've been exposed to sugar our entire lives and have become desensitized to its effects. Children are much more ‘wired’ with it!
  • Also, don’t be surprised if your child is given a cup of fizzy drink when at a guest’s home. Kids relish special occasions. That’s when they get to eat whatever they want and know that they can get away with it because mum and dad are too busy socialising. Taking it away from them will only ensure a pout (if they know what’s good for them), or a scream-fest (cool it, mummy!). Politely inform the host that your child would prefer water. A simpler solution would be to bring their water-bottle!

8. Blow the Whistle

  • Enforce timeout. Threatening just doesn’t cut it. Take your child to timeout each and every time they misbehave. Remember, just one warning beforehand will suffice. If they get up to leave timeout, put them right back where they belong. They WILL kick up a fuss. I know it’s tiring and some relatives may disapprove (your MIL might even take your child away and start mollycoddling them) but your child has to know that you mean business.

I encourage mummies and daddies to not give up, and to always explain to your child why their behaviour is not acceptable. We all want our children to be well-behaved and to do the right thing. There are some tricks and tactics to handle ‘touchy’ situations, such as:

  • Rewarding your child for best behaviour. It might work in some household, it might not in others. This system is simply and "on-ramp" to the highway of good behaviour. As the parent of your own child, you can gauge this for yourself.
  • Comfort your child, assuring that everything will be okay. Bend down at eye level and ask, "How can mummy help you, darling"? This gives your child a sense of security, knowing that you're willing to listen and solve their ‘problem’.
  • These outbursts need to be tackled quickly. Make them understand that these antics will not be tolerated. Verbally express this and use strong body language to convey that message.

Children require a tremendous amount of empathy and patience. No parent gets it right every time. Sometimes we lose our cool, but try to keep anger out of your relationship with your child. Keep trying to incorporate gentle discipline techniques and you'll find that you and your child are happier, better connected and better behaved. Remember, you're the grown-up, so act like one.

I’d like to wish all our readers a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Also read: Toddlers and tantrums