September 19, 2003
If your child is throwing temper tantrums, Dr. Phil says he might be trying to communicate a need.
Uncover the Need
Remember that all behavior is a way of communicating. When your child is screaming or throwing himself on the floor, that behavior is telling you about a need. You need to find out what need your child is trying to convey. Does he need some autonomy? Does he need to feel safe, feel accepted, loved or appreciated? Once you understand your child’s needs, you can meet him in more effective ways instead of trying to simply maintain power over him.
Manipulate the Schedule
You know your schedule and you know your child’s schedule. Plan ahead if you anticipate a temper tantrum. For example, if your child throws a fit because he doesn’t like you picking out his clothes for him, don’t pick his clothes and fight about it five minutes before you have to leave the house.
If your child has the temper tantrum you anticipated, you have planned for it and have the time to allow it to happen and for the child to see that it doesn’t work. There are times when you have to say, “There are some things that Mommy decides and when we get to those things, Mommy decides.” Then you can let your child decide some other things. Dr. Phil tells parents when their kids fall on the floor and throw a tantrum, to walk away. “Take the power away from them by showing them that behavior doesn’t work,” says Dr. Phil.
The Bottom Line
If you listen to your child’s needs instead of the awful racket he’s making, you can better control his behavior and teach the child better ways of getting what he needs. During this process, remember to avoid confrontation with your child at all costs. But when you do have a confrontation, never lose.