Lydia e-mailed the parent consultancy:
My daughter is nearly three years old and keeps having these terrible tantrums. When I say “no” to her or she doesn’t get her own way she has a tantrum. I try to ignore the tantrum but she then bangs her head. She bangs her head on the tiled floor or on the walls; she then cries and comes to me saying it hurts. I can’t ignore her if she is hurting, so ignoring the tantrum goes out of the window. I am not sure of how to break the habit, her behaviour is having an effect on the whole family. I avoid taking her out as I am terrified that she is going to tantrum and bang her head in public. She goes to nursery every day from 9-5, she never tantrums at nursery, she usually waits until we are getting into the car and has a tantrum about where she wants to sit or that she wants to open the door. Anything can spark a tantrum and they can go for up to an hour.
After some detailed e-mails from Lydia about her family and Millie. Kate was able to draw up a plan of action to support Lydia, and explain exactly how to react to tantrums and how to avoid them escalating. Here is the edited version;
I would like to reassure you that head banging in small children is not uncommon and head banging alone does not signal a serious problem. As Millie has had her ears checked recently we can rule out ear pain.
Millie is head banging out of frustration, attention and anger. When you try ignoring the tantrums, it makes her angry so she resorts to head banging to get a reaction from you. Which is working, as understandably you are worried about her seriously hurting herself. Give her attention for everything else but not for tantrum’s or head banging. Millie needs some clear boundaries and to be taught that you will not give her for attention for tantrum’s or banging her head anymore.
When modifying a child’s behaviour it can often get worse before it gets better. Millie will put you to the test she will try and push the boundaries, so you must be consistent and not ‘give in’. If you do ‘give in’; the level of bad behaviour will increase and you will confuse Millie. By sending her mixed messages; will lead to her being more frustrated.
I recommend that you praise all of Millie’s positive behaviour with simple incentives. As Millie is keen on stickers I suggest you make a chart with Millie. Write down the activities that trigger tantrums; for example getting into the car, sharing toys, turning off the TV etc… When she manages to do any of these things without a tantrum; she gets a sticker. She is only given a sticker when she has performed the task without a fuss. Stickers should be used rewards and not as a punishment, you only acknowledge good behaviour. The key is reduce the amount and the severity of the tantrums, you can do this by not ‘giving in’ to them and giving Millie coping strategies.
Millies needs to be taught new ways to express her frustration and anger. Give Millie simple sentences to use for different situations for example; “toy please” “hungry mummy”or “I sad”. I am sure that Millie can speak in longer sentences and this could seem a bit basic, but we want to her to remain calm and communicate with ease. Give her a place to go for when she thinks she needs time out, a bean-bag or cushion where she knows she will get your attention if she needs it. Reinforce the positive behaviour and make a really big fuss of her when she is managing to control her behaviour and temper. I know it’s really hard not to give her attention for head banging but by doing so you are encouraging the behaviour. You don’t have to leave the room; just no eye contact or talking to her until she has finished. When a child is tantruming, the reasoning part of the brain is switched off so any intervention will exacerbate the situation.
Don’t under estimate how your tone of voice and expectations can affect her behaviour. All these techniques together will work, so be confident. I advise that you take some time to read this plan and really think about the content as there is no quick fix to this problem. I will support and guide you via e-mail, should you need me to.
Lydia e-mailed The Parent Consultancy with this update:
6 weeks later:
Millie is so much happier now. She loves the bean bag she even takes it to her grandparents and friends houses, just in case she gets cross! She still has the odd tantrum but has not banged her head for 3 weeks, which is a huge relief. Her tantrums don’t last as long now. The plan and reassurance from you made me feel less guilty for ignoring Millie when she banged her head.We went to the transport museum as a family, which was our first day out for nearly a year; Millie behaved really well and we all had such a good time. Millie lost interest in the sticker chart after a few days. But it was just what we needed in the beginning to focus our attention and make it really clear to Millie what we expected of her. It has been hard work, but we are enjoying the calmer Millie!
Have you experienced this with your child? let me know what works for you…..