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Tackling Temper Tantrums with Val Mullally

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Temper tantrums can cause a lot of stress and problems for parents; Val Mullally is here today to give advice to parents on how to deal with them.

Val Mullally - Parenting Coach Profile:

Val Mullally MA is founder of PACER and also a founder member of the newly formed Irish GRÀ, providing training for effective parenting. She is an author, workshop presenter, parenting coach and early education consultant. Her first book, 'Working with Under Sixes', is aimed at those working with groups of children. She is currently writing her second book, developing the concept of 'Conscious Parenting'. She also contributes regularly to local radio on issues concerning parenting.
Val's caring, relaxed and friendly approach, using easily understandable principles and drawing from helpful and often humorous illustrations, supports parents, carers and teachers in creating structure and emotional safety within the home and all childcare environments, to nurture the well-being of all concerned. She pays particular attention to each individual's inner world experience (both that of the child and of the adult). Val draws on the wisdom of many years' experience, as a mother, teacher and principal. She has recent, very relevant training, which brings a fresh paradigm of key principles to parenting.
She holds a Masters degree in Holistic Development, majoring in Family Ministry, (DCU, Dublin), as well as a Certificate in Interpersonal Communications - Training to Work with Parents, (UCC, Cork). Val and her husband have spent many years in Africa and are now settled in Ireland.

Why do our children have tantrums?
Young children have tantrums because:
. They become frustrated that they do not have the words / skills to express themselves / when they cannot do what they are trying to do
. When others don't allow them to pursue what they want.
. The young child's brain is still developing and they cannot yet emotionally regulate themselves.
. Sometimes because they learn from us that if you shout and roar you get what you want!
. With older children we 'train' them to have tantrums if they learn that they get what they want by having a tantrum, (which is not the same as getting what they need -what they need is a calm empathetic parent who is there for them without giving in to the demands)

Are there any "quick fix" methods to stop these tantrums?
No - there is no quick fix to parenting!

There are two types of temper tantrums
. The young child's genuine distress tantrum is when they feel emotionally overwhelmed. (When we cry tears of sadness our tears are chemically different to the tears we cry when we peel onions (they contain stress hormones - so having a 'good cry' really does make us feel better).
. The 'little dictator' tantrum - where the child has learnt by previous experiences that when they throw tantrums they get what they want.

Tips for parents for dealing with children's temper tantrums
Emotional distress tantrums often erupt from young children feeling frustrated that they cannot do things for themselves.

Create a "child friendly environment"
Creating 'child friendly' environments where children can reach things for themselves / do things for themselves helps to ease frustration.
. Even young children can pour a tumbler of water to drink or help themselves to a piece of fruit.
. Have clothing and toys at a height where young children can reach what they want.

Keep Calm
Keep calm - your child's behavior is about him. Your response is about you.
. Focus on your own breath (Breathe in to the count of four, breath out to the count of four a few times, is a helpful calmer).

Choose to be an emotional regulator
Choose to be an emotional regulator - not a thermometer. As parent you are responsible for controlling the 'emotional temperature' of the home.
. When your young child seems to be losing control It's often helpful to hold him/her gently but firmly from behind (so that neither of you get hurt).
. Speak calmly with your voice at a low pitch, frequently repeating your child's name, until the child calms.

Give the child support
Give the distressed child what he/she needs (your support) - not what they think they want (e.g. the new toy).
. It's okay to let the tantrum 'runs its course.' With you staying emotionally present for your child and being careful your child cannot get hurt. Always stay close by - your young child needs you to be his emotional regulator. (Children can feel frighteningly overwhelmed when adults desert them during times of extreme stress).

Don't give into demands
With older children we 'train' them to have tantrums if they learn that they get what they want by having a tantrum. This is not the same as getting what they need -what they need is a calm empathetic parent who is there for them without giving in to the demands.
. Reflect your child's feelings without giving in to the demand. (E.g. 'You're upset - you want the toy.') Upset children can't reason until they've calmed down - so don't try to reason with them during the 'storm' .

Respect Your Childs Needs
. Some children don't want to be held. Respect the child's need - but keep close enough to talk soothingly and, when the child looks at you, make warm caring eye contact.
. When the child calms they are likely to cuddle in to you - be available when they're ready for 'making up'.

Set the example of responsible behaviour - children learn what we model!

For more information on Val please visit