Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tantrums and a sick child

Questioner: Soni

Subject: How to deal with

Question: QUESTION: There is plenty of info on how to deal with tantrums, but I feel like when a child is sick (or tired), one needs to take that into account and usually the articles don't take that into account when talking about how to respond.

My daughter (2y 8 mo) has begun healing from chickenpox and I had to deal with this today, though it has been a question for a while with me. My daughter still breastfeeds on once or twice a day. Today she got so mad when I didn't do everything she wanted ordered me to do that she started yelling at me and screaming and then ordering me to breastfeed her in bed. I know she wants the comfort, but I can not breastfeed a child who is totally disrespectful, bossy and rude to me. But really my question is, how does one respond to very disrespectful and rude behavior when a child is sick and really might need extra comfort. When I dont respond to the behavior it spirals into a full fledged tantrum and leaves me feeling guilty. If I dont seperate myself from her, she hits me and throws things at me and yells at me. When I left today I felt like she feels sick and sad and abandoned and I feel so bad. She cried herself to sleep alone.

These tantrums have happened before in the past when she has been sick.

Also, with the tired thing, my daughter is super active (most likely gifted). She has a hard time winding down to go to sleep, and though we usually have it under control, she occasionally has phases of several days where fights sleep, which leads to over-tiredness and the tantrums. For this I ask about tantrums when tired.

ANSWER: Dear Soni,

First of all when she throws tantrums you feel guilty? Why do you feel guilty for her behavior? You need to throw this out the door. She is two. She is capable of learning that when she acts out she DOES NOT GET WHAT SHE WANTS!

Remember this is more than about nurturing. She is also learning from you how to treat you and eventually others. If you don't want to be around her when she behaves this way why would anyone else?

I think removing yourself from her and waiting until she is behaving appropriately is the best solution. I would tell her to reinforce, "When you use your indoor voice I will be back." Make sure your reinforce her appropriate behavior with lots of eye contact and tell her how much you like her behavior. Positive reinforcement gets you more of the behavior you want.

I suspect somewhere along the way she has been reinforced for the tantrums or they would not be persistent. Children do not continue with ineffective behaviors unless it gets them something they want.

Also, she is old enough to develop feeling vocabulary words. Get the books with the feeling faces that teach feeling words and work with her to develop her feeling vocabulary. There are books for children that teach them "hands are not for hitting, feet are not for kicking, etc..." age appropriate books on age appropriate behaviors. Read them everyday!

Best Wishes!

M Kay Keller

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: So if a child has been sick for five days with the chickenpox and throws a tantrum, she should be responded to in the exact same way as not sick? She doesn't normally throw tantrums, and she never gets what she wants when she does.
Answer: Dear Soni,

I would not give in when a child throws a tantrum regardless of whether or not they are sick. However, understanding she is sick and knowing she may feel more like throwing a tantrum may help you as well.

Best Wishes!

M Kay Keller

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