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Procek: Three antidotes to your tot’s tantrums this holiday season

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013 2:28 p.m. CDT
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Brad Procek

Especially this time of year and for those who have young children, that appliance we typically call a television could easily go by another name: tantrum maker.

Already, between daylight savings time and holiday events throwing off kids’ schedules, they are a fragile bunch. Add those relentless TV commercials that bombard our senses and you have a recipe for tantrum upon tantrum when their desires for all those fun goodies aren’t satisfied on the spot.

So should we vow to DVR every show and skip all the commercials? Maybe just shut off the TV altogether? Avoid every store out there? How can we help our children have a good holiday season that isn’t riddled with tantrums every half hour?

Here are three steps that will help dilute those commercial messages, and the emotional fallout – for both you and your child – that they so often produce:

Set limits (but don’t be too rigid)

You should limit how much television your child is watching. Similarly, you ought to think about what kind of time limit to place on allowing a tantrum to go, as well as a limit on the scale of your reaction to that tantrum—lest you exceed your child’s tantrum with one of your own.

Keep in mind that there are many events throughout the holiday season that throw off your child’s schedule. Find ways to help keep other components of their lives consistent.

Be alert to the potential for your child to suffer from exhaustion or over-stimulation. Children crave structure. If you do not provide it, they will seek it out on their own and that often includes acting out.

Offer creative alternatives

Explore fun activities to enjoy with your children, such as an inexpensive craft, viewing Christmas lights or some of the many community events occurring this time of year.

We need to take an active role in nurturing our children’s natural inclination to explore and learn about their environment. Our children view us as entertainment. If we do not provide appropriate activities to occupy them, then they will resort to behaviors that they know will get your attention.

Prepare yourself mentally

Meeting our child’s repeated pleas with patience is a difficult, but worthwhile, task.

Take the time to understand that your young child views the world much differently than you. Children’s brains are still very much developing. They think in terms of wants and because the world revolves around them, they lack an understanding of others’ needs around them.

In the face of that reality, recognize that attending to your own personal health is also looking out for your children. They enjoy the byproduct of that self-care. Pay attention to what replenishes, rather than depletes, you and be proactive about taking time to take care of yourself.

Depending on how you are wired, that could mean a walk in nature, a trip to the health club – or simply curling up on the couch and watching TV. Just remember to fast-forward through those commercials if they drain you mentally or emotionally.

Woodridge resident Brad Procek is a therapist at St. Charles-based NOVO: Renewing Joy in Life. He and his wife have an infant daughter.

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