By Sarah Hamaker
Q: Our seven-year-old daughter has always liked things neat, but during the last few weeks, she has begun to tell us inappropriate thoughts she has. She also tells us what she won’t touch because of germs or dirt. Also, she has started to have screaming tantrums when she gets upset. What should we do?
A: It’s a fact that kids do strange, weird, head-scratching things just because that’s what children do. The more adults try to figure out the whys of some behavior, the more of a problem that behavior becomes. It sounds like she’s getting more attention for these behaviors, which in turn feed her desire for attention and thus she does the behaviors more. Now she can’t stop herself, so you’ll have to help her.
Because these problems have been brewing for a few weeks already, it will take more than a day or two for her to break these bad habits. But stay the course and you will see results.
For the reporting of bad or inappropriate thoughts: Douse the flames by keeping your response to a minimum. Say, “Interesting” or “Hmmm” and then change the subject. If she tries to continue on the topic, repeat the same thing and don’t try to reason with her. By depriving her reporting of interest, she will stop saying those things eventually.
For the screaming tantrums: First, designate a boring room in the house as her special tantrum place, like a downstairs bathroom or guest room. Show her the tantrum room and say she’s to go there whenever she wants to scream and she has to remain there until she’s finished. Tell her that you’ll help her remember to go to special tantrum place whenever she starts screaming. Then do it. A tantrum without an audience quickly loses its appeal.
Remember to not make a big deal of these behaviors—in other words, don’t make mountains out of molehills—and she will stop doing those things. Staying the course and not making mountains out of what’s a molehill will cure her of these tendencies. And above all, remember that children do weird, strange, head-scratching things just because that’s what kids do.
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Sarah Hamaker is a certified Leadership Parenting Coach™ through the Rosemond Leadership Parenting Coach Institute. She’s also a freelance writer and editor. Sarah lives in Fairfax, Va., with her husband and four children. Visit her online at www.sarahhamaker.com and follow her on Twitter @novaparentcoach.