Let’s look at parenting effectively and respectfully through a tantrum for a chocolate bar at the check-out counter.
Yes, you can go to the candy-free checkout counter, but I feel strongly that we need to prepare for, rather than avoid the demands of social living. Our world includes having candy for sale in public places, so let’s teach our children how to handle that.
All Behaviour Serves a Purpose
Ever wonder why your child throws a tantrum when you say "no" to their pleading for a chocolate bar? All "misbehaviour" is really just a mistaken approach to accomplishing something. Tantrums are a technique children discover early in life as a way to make you cave in to their demands and get their way – like getting a chocolate bar.
Let’s tackle this with two separate strategies.
1. Eliminate the "mistaken approach"
If you want tantrums to disappear you have to make them ineffective. You must not cave in to the demands while staying firm and friendly. If you only give in when their tantrums are really intense or long, then you are unknowingly teaching your child to tantrum louder, longer and harder to be effective!
So, ignore the tantrum. 100%. Cold turkey.
Keep busy unloading your cart and talking to the cashier so the child doesn’t think they have an audience to play to. Keep the same calm, peaceful attitude you would otherwise have and go about your business.
As the tantrum subsides you can ask if the child feels like having a hug and you can re-assure them by saying "it’s hard when you feel disappointed, but I know you can handle it." In this way, you are showing you love, understand, and have faith in them.
Tip: It takes time for a child to abandon an old approach. Watch for the following signs that you are moving towards eliminating the tantrums. Are tantrums decreasing in frequency? Intensity? Duration? So long as you see progress on one or all of these fronts, you are on the right track! Hang in there.
2. Empower with the "proper approach"
I don’t mean teach the child manners such as asking nicely or saying please. I am referring to an approach that empowers the child to get their needs met responsibly and thereby eliminate the tantrum that is serving to defeat mom and dad as the "gatekeeper to candy". To the child, gatekeepers tend to act in ways that are random, and their authority provokes the child to want to conquer and defeat them with fits of temper.
If your child is beginning to eat candy, want candy – and now DEMAND candy, then you can empower them to “get their way” through appropriate behaviours…
Planning, Order and Routines
YOU decide how much candy in a week you are okay with for your child’s age and health. THEY decided when.
This can be fixed or flexible:
Fixed: for young children, mark the calendar with a picture of a treat to indicate “treat day”. They enjoy choosing the day and learn to wait and anticipate their big day. If you are at the grocery store on treat day — great!
Child: Can I have a chocolate bar?
Mom: Yes, Wednesday’s are treat day — you may pick a treat.
Mom: Today’s Monday, our treat day is Wednesday.
(If they plead, repeat like a broken record: "yes, on Wednesday…". If you keep giving the same reply they’ll stop negotiating. If they begin to tantrum — ignore it as suggested above.)
Flexible: For older children, start empowering them with some purchase power. Give your child a small weekly allowance that includes an agreed upon amount for buying candy. YOU control the amount of allowance, THEY decide when and what candy to purchase.
Child: Mom, can I have a chocolate bar?
Mom: That’s your choice– you have allowance for that purpose.
Child: I forgot it at home. Can you buy it for me?
Mom: I’m sorry you don’t have your money with you. What could you do to remember to bring it with you next time?
I hope these tactics help improve family morale on your next trip to the grocery store.