The Art of Creative Distraction

24 Apr 2012 by admin, No Comments »

Have you been in a situation like this?

Your toddler is upset about something and the only thing he will do is cry, wail and… scream.

Nothing you say or do will help the situation.

The next thing you know, he is throwing tantrum on the floor, kicking and thumping away on all fours. (I have seen this at the supermarkets, bookshops as well as … toy shops.)

Obviously, the tantrum is purpose-driven. And kids are great with this. They are very specific in their demands and will go through great lengths to achieve their objectives.

It seems my own parents (and most of their generation) did not believe in giving in to children’s “unreasonable” demands. And so, my own experience growing up is that my parents will exert their authority and ignore my demands (with loud, stern voices and their hands on their hips). If I had continued with my tantrums, I would have gotten a spanking which is too much pain compared to not getting what I wanted at the moment.

Definitely, getting our children to stop their tantrums by threat of punishment is not the route of choice for most parents today.

Here are some quick-fixes which I have seen parents use instead:

  • Accede to the demand.
  • Pacify the child by proving an alternative – usually candies, stickers, etc.
  • Promise something at a later date – example, trip to Disneyland, a treat at McDonald’s.

I admit that I have used these methods before and I have a nagging concern that they will actually encourage tantrums instead of reducing them since the kids will still get something with their behaviour after all. Very textbook stimulus-response reaction. And so, I have been testing new ways lately.

When my kids are upset now, I try first by getting them to verbalize their feelings and the reasons for them. Then, I ask them how the current problem can be solved and encourage them to solve it while giving suggestions and input.

Personally, I have found it very tiring to get all upset about my kids being upset. I realized that my being angry or frustrated only serves to get my kids more upset. And I certainly don’t want obedience only out of fear and not love.

So, I wanted to help myself first by being in control of my own emotional state. I try to talk calmly and even make funny faces as I spoke. As I started to see the approach working somewhat, I began to add in funny questions or saying things opposite to what they have just said as I spoke with my kids. For example, if my child is complaining that his brother is refusing to let him play with Thomas the train, I’ll say things like, “You don’t want to let your brother play with Thomas?” or “Is Thomas very busy today?

It’s quite funny to see how these questions would stop my upset child on his tracks. They would have to do a double take each time about what I just asked and that distracts them from their unhappiness and focus. And such a distraction changes their emotional state. Before long, I’ll suggest, “Hey, would you like to read the Cat-in-a-Hat book?” and they’ll be happy to come along.

Tension defused.

: )

Leave a Reply

Follow Me!

Follow Me! Follow Me! Follow Me! Follow Me!