This entire article could be summed up in this phrase: “Too Much Adult Talk = Ineffective Management.”
Now, let me explain. We recently took our two sons to Disneyland. As any behavior analyst can probably imagine, Disneyland is a behavior gold mine! At the end of the day when kids are hot, tired and hungry, the meltdowns begin. I always have such compassion for a parent whose child is having a full fledged public tantrum. What do you do? Do you try to placate them? Do you reprimand them? Do you ignore them? Remove them? Stuff some cotton candy in their mouths hoping that screaming and chewing are incompatible behaviors? I think we witnessed all of the possible interventions. The one thing we both agreed on though was… the parents who over-talked and tried to reason with their screaming child were fighting a battle they were never going to win. The parents who quietly removed their child without much interaction and then talked to them when they had calmed down were much more successful. Whatever the reason for tantrumming or the age of the tantrummer (if that’s a word), talking to someone who is upset should never be a long conversation. There are times in all of our lives when we are tired, hungry, grumpy or don’t get what we want. In these moments, it is important to teach kids that they will survive. It will pass and things will get better. Physically comforting a child, handing them a snack or saying something short such as, “Oh, you’re tired, huh?” or “I think you might need something to eat” can be helpful. Arguing, cajoling, continuing to engage, threatening, and even trying to reassure verbally are all likely to escalate the tantrum. Remain calm, say few words, remove to a quiet place or ignore. Finally, re-engage verbally when you see and hear less tantrum and more calm. Try to remember that it really isn’t an emergency. It will get better.