Sunday, May 26, 2013

How to Stop a Tantrum

Tantrums are not fun. Every parent has a couple of stories to tell… of being out in public and suddenly finding yourself doing battle with a toddler or preschooler who just totally loses it. Within minutes they may be screaming, flailing limbs, refusing any type of effort to calm down and be reasonable. When this happens, the parent doesn’t have many options, other than to wait it out, threaten, plead. Once you’ve experienced a full-blown tantrum, you don’t want to experience it ever again.

This happened to me, and I came up with a solution that worked. With just a little bit of effort the tantrum can be diffused. Here’s how:


Begin to tell your child a story about what he/she is experiencing. This technique is so easy to do. Here are the steps:

1. Begin with “Once upon a time…” This sentence alone will often grab his attention.

2. “…there was a little boy named _____…” Use your child’s name. This is very important. He needs to know your story is about him.

3. “…who was out shopping with his mommy…” Set the scene. Describe the situation. Describe the problem. Use details.

4. Mention your child’s feelings. Chances are he’s feeling anger, frustration, sadness, fear, or hurt. Make a guess. If you get it wrong, he’ll let you know. You can include your feelings as well, but describe his first.

5. Soon, he begins to participate in the story. He may ask a question, or clarify something you said. Repeat back what he says and include it in the story.

6. You’ll know when the crisis is over. He begins to breathe normally. His attention has shifted and he begins to take an interest in other things. Allow the conversation to move on. You can give him a hug if it feels appropriate.


Children love stories. And they especially like to hear about themselves.

But, most important, we all need to have our feelings heard and validated. Repeating back to our child what just happened and how they feel about it is a validation. Nothing is more comforting than to know you are heard and your feelings are understood.

For further reading: I’d like to recommend one of my favorite parenting/communication books. This book is awesome and has valuable advice for communicating and improving all your relationships:

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

How to Stop Your Children from Swearing and Using Unkind Words

Have your children started using some not-so-nice words? They may have picked them up from friends with older siblings, from TV and the movies, from all kinds of possible places (even you!).

Even “shut-up” and “stupid” can be hurtful. It’s nice to have a home that is completely clean of hurtful and unpleasant words. It’s not the words that hurt, of course, it’s the intent or feeling behind them that gets you.

THE SOLUTION:- Quarter-in-the-Jar Game

1. Find a small cup or jar and tell your kids that from now on, anyone who uses a swear word or a mean word has to put a quarter in the jar.

2. Have the family sit down and make up a list of “quarter-in-the-jar” words. Start with “all swear words” and add any other words or phrases that you find unpleasant or hurtful.

3. If someone slips and uses a nasty word, someone shouts “QUARTER IN THE JAR!” Then the perpetrator must put a quarter in the jar.

4. Parents too! If you don’t want your children using nasty words at home, you have to set an example and give up those words yourself. This solution will only work if everyone in the family agrees to the rule. And the kids love it when one of their parents have to put a quarter in the jar, too!


This is a game, and kids love games. They love catching you and their siblings using a nasty word. It’s fun.

It helps if they have an allowance or earn some money with chores. Once they have a little money in their wallet or drawer, they don’t want to give it up.

It won’t take long at all for everyone in the family to stop using nasty words. After a while, you won’t even have to contribute a quarter to the jar. The point is made. Everyone has become aware of the words they use and you’ll rarely if ever hear nasty words at home anymore.

Now, I’m not saying the kids will never use these words at school or elsewhere. But, I have to tell you, once you’ve begun this game, it’ll be rare. And the point is, you’ll rarely hear them at home!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

How to Stop a Bully

One day when our daughter was in 4th grade, she came home from school upset. She told me a boy at school kept calling her names. He would often say, "You're a jerk!" Our daughter is very sensitive and even this relatively tame abuse made her want to cry. Whenever he did this, it ruined her day.

I didn't know what to say. I tried logic: "You know, he's probably unhappy about something else and he's taking it out on you."

I tried turning it into something sweet: "He probably has a crush on you and doesn't know how to show it."

Then, I tried giving her advice: "You know, if you can just learn to ignore it, he'll probably leave you alone. He probably does it because he gets a reaction."

At least some of these statements were probably true. And they all made her feel a little better. But, none of them gave her something to do about it. And the boy kept calling her names.

Then I had a brainstorm. I suggested that the next time the boy called her a name, she should throw a compliment at him! She looked at me with surprise, but I urged her to try it and she promised she would.

The next day at school when our daughter was on the playground with her class, this same boy came up to her and said, "Hey, you're a jerk!"

She stopped what she was doing, turned to him and said, "Well, you're... you're... you're a nice boy!" It was the first compliment that popped into her head.

"Huh?" said the boy.
"You're a nice boy," she repeated.
"Oh," he said. He looked at her strangely and then walked away. And he never called her a name again.

If you want to try this technique with your children, try the following:

1. Ask your child to think of three nice things about the bully. Write them down. It could be the color of the bully's hair or eyes. He/she could be smart or funny, have nice sneakers or a jacket, be good at art, anything.

2. If your child can't think of anything nice about this person after several minutes and some prompting, help the child make something up! Have fun with it! (Remember the boggart exercise from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ?) These first two steps are very important. These exercises not only give you ideas for compliments, but it shifts the way the child feels the bully. His/her perception changes. Two favorite books of mine, "The Secret " and "The Attractor Factor " teach that we attract people and situations into our lives in response to our thoughts and feelings. You'll be amazed at how quickly things change after these exercises.

3. The next time the bully treats your child badly, he/she can throw a compliment!

Why this works: First, there's the element of surprise. The last thing a bully expects to hear is a compliment. It's the opposite of the reaction he/she expects.

Second, and most important, a bully usually picks on someone who is sensitive and easily cowed. Once they treat your child badly, your child will likely see the bully as a threat. By making a list of likable traits in the bully (and everyone has something likable about them) you are changing those vulnerable feelings. The outcome of the next interaction has to change, too.