Tantrums are par for the course for children, especially those with weak language development. Worse than dealing with a tantrum, however, is dealing with a child who just can't seem to calm down on their own.
Whether they are angry, tired, frustrated, or just plain having a bad day, children who have trouble calming themselves on their own get upset more easily - and unfortunately- stay upset for longer.
Some parenting experts suggest "letting them crying it out." But perhaps you tried that, with this disturbing result: a child who instead of settling down, ends up looking a lot like the Energizer bunny on an illegal substance.
Or perhaps you've tried running at the first moment your child shows signs of a tantrum, in hopes of heading her off at the pass. This may work, but after a little while your child seems to need you to comfort her for every little upset.
It’s actually not uncommon for children with delayed language development to have trouble calming down on their own. They don’t become attached to the traditional childhood “loveys,” and seem to be completely reliant on an adult to help pull them out of their hysteria.
In reality, what you need to do is help your child learn to calm themselves down on their own. This doesn't mean, of course, that you leave them to suffer on their own. Instead, it means helping your child learn how to draw from her own resources when she's upset.
That will give you a child who can help herself go to bed more easily in the middle of the night, who will handle separations more easily, and who will handle conflicts with other children more effectively.
The reason that children with language delays have trouble calming down on their own is because they have trouble visualizing things in their mind. When you say you're just going to the store, they have a hard time connecting the word "grocery store" with an image of the supermarket down the road.
So when you leave, they feel bewildered and upset; they can't imagine where your going, or when you'll be back.
Children with language delays also have trouble connecting two unrelated things together. You may find yourself telling your child dozens of times not to walk away from you at the mall, but they just don't get it - even when you tell them all the horrid things that could happen to them.
That's because they can't form a picture in their minds of being kidnapped or lost, nor can they connect that to their action of walking away from Mommy.
So what can you do to help your child –despite these difficulties- learn to calm themselves on their own? Here are 3 tips you can use to help decrease your child's tantrums and learn to calm down on their own:
1) Engage in pretend play with your child.
Pretend play gives your child plenty of practice in visualizing something that isn't right there in front of them. If your child is thirsty, offer him a play cup full of “juice.” When your child slides down a slide, pretend it’s a mountain. When your child is unhappy, have a puppet or a doll speak to him and ask him why he’s sad.
2) Give your child a lovey.
Give your child a doll or a stuffed animal. Choose one that isn’t hard to replace, just in case it gets lost. Pretend the doll is real: when your child eats, ask her if her doll is hungry too. Then pretend to feed the doll food.
When your child cries, go over to the doll and remark, “Oh, your doll (give it a name) is sad too! Is she sad because she hurt herself?” Then let your child help you put on a pretend band-aid.
Once your child begins to play with the doll on her own, you can start offering it to her when she needs comforting. Eventually she will choose the doll on her own.
3) Help your child express her feelings.
Next time your child starts to throw a fit because he can’t button his shirt, help him verbalize how he feels: “Can’t do it? Makes you mad?” Be sure to use very simple language. If your child speaks in 2-3 word sentences, then so should you.
If you regularly engage in pretend play with your child, you’ll soon find that not only will your child's imagination be stronger, but they'll be more successful in calming down on their own as well.