We can’t control everything our kids do and feel, and that includes their tantrum throwing. If you’ve ever thought to yourself “how can I stop my kids tantrum,” then you’ve come to the right place. Today in this exclusive UM Club episode we’re talking to former guest Mariko Fairly from Parenting Fairly (Supporting Our Child’s Socialization with Mariko Fairly), covering all things tantrums.

We always try to bring you useful and interesting content, but this episode might take the cake for most helpful – who doesn’t want to prevent tantrums before they even happen? In this episode, we’re teacching you how to handle tantrums before and after they happen, talk about taking a big pause before we do anything, and help you understand and manage your kids’ behaviour. We’re covering the how’s and why’s behind our kid’s behaviour, and all their motivations for tantrum throwing.

At the end of the day, tantrums are going to happen. They’re a huge part of parenting, and managing and helping our kids through them is part of our job as parents. This episode is going to help you learn how to manage tantrums and about the different motivations our children have for their behaviour. I can’t wait for you to listen to the episode and share your thoughts in the UM Club Facebook group!

Are you interested in this exclusive episode? Join the UM Club! Every week we go over a new topic with an amazing guest, so sign up and check all our episodes out!

Related Content

Supporting Our Child’s Socialization with Mariko Fairly

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Mom Anger and the Overwhelm of Motherhood with Bryce Reddy

Thriving as a Single Parent with Parent Coach Jay Skibbens

Guest Expert

Today we’re here to talk with Mariko from Parenting Fairly about managing and helping our kids through tantrums! Mariko Fairly is a Board Certified behaviour Analyst, parent coach, and mom of two. She provides positive and proactive strategies to increase your child’s cooperation and your calm and confidence as a parent.

Mariko supports families to tackle tantrums, transitions, hitting, throwing, potty training, bedtime/sleep challenges, sibling interactions, communication, and play skills

In This Episode We Talk About

00:28 – Who is Mariko?
02:07 – How does understanding the why behind our kid’s behaviours help us?
5:40 – The four motivations for our child’s behaviour.
11:49 – How to pause before we react to our kid’s behaviour.
13:59 – Figuring out the why behind our kid’s behaviour.
18:13 – Digging deeper into behaviour motivations.
27:39 – Connection time with our kids and when to do it.
38:19 – Things we can do in the moment to help with tantrums.
42:02 – Giving our kids a redo for bad behaviour.
46:53 – The best time to teach our kids more desirable behaviour.
49:40 – Giving in and when to do it.
55:00 – Where to find Mariko!

Watch the Video

Listen to the Audio

Resource Links

Join the UM Club!
UM Club Facebook page
Parenting Fairly
Mariko’s Instagram – @Parenting_Fairly

Read the Full Conversation

Hello and welcome to another episode inside the Unapologetic Moms Club. Today, I am very excited to be welcoming back Mariko Fairly from Parenting Fairly to chat with us all about understanding the why behind our child’s behaviours and give us some tools to help in those different challenging situations. So welcome, Mariko.

Thanks for having me. Happy to be here.

Thanks for coming back. We just had such great conversation last time when you were here talking about kids’ socialization, and I just love how practical you are and the insight you provide to really understand the situation in where kids are at. I’m so looking forward to digging into this particular topic with you. So for those that haven’t listened to that previous episode yet, can you tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do, and why you’re so passionate about it?

Sure. So I am a board-certified behaviour analyst, which means that I study the science of behaviour and behaviour change. And I’m also a proponent of respectful parenting. So I kind of bridge sort of the science background with the respectful parenting approach. I’m a mom myself, I have two kids, a seven-year-old daughter and a five-year-old son. And I started my practice Parenting Fairly during the pandemic. I had worked as a clinician for 18 years, and then all of a sudden was home with my kids 24/7, struggling, like many of us, and just thought, “gosh, you know, I’m sure there are other parents out there who could use some support.” And so that’s sort of how Parenting Fairly was born.

Love it, we must have just connected right at the beginning of your journey with all this. It’s really been nice to watch you grow throughout this time.

Thank you. I always appreciate your support and insights as well.

Thank you. Yeah. All about supporting the community and just other women that are out there doing great things. So to start this off, why do we want to understand the why behind our kids challenging behaviour? How is that helpful?

Yeah, that’s such a good question. It’s an important question. I think so often, as parents, we react, right? Life is hard, life is busy. If you have more than one child, it’s extra busy. And so much of the time, we have these great expectations for our kids and for their behaviour, sometimes forgetting that they’re still little humans who haven’t fully developed their communication and coping skills and impulse control. And we expect them to behave in a certain way. And when they don’t we react to that. 

But what is really going to change behaviour, and what is really going to support them in learning the skills that they need, is to figure out why they’re behaving that way. And it’s really only when we figure out the why that we can address the situation in the most effective way. And actually, if we don’t understand the why and we react, or we don’t understand the why and we make a guess, and we implement maybe some sort of consequence or we try to teach them something that they should be doing. If it’s not the right way, it can actually increase the challenging behaviour that we’re trying to stop. So getting to that underlying reason, figuring out what need our child is trying to meet by doing that behaviour. That’s really how we can teach them to do something else, that’s more appropriate, that we want them to do.

Absolutely. So it’s really about supporting our child in the most effective way. And to be able to kind of raise them and instill those values and teach those lessons, in an actual productive way that will eventually kind of help with our expectations, but is in a way that works for our kid. Rather than just kind of reacting, putting things on that makes us think they’ll act a certain way, but really, there’s still that underlying stuff. So things will keep coming on if we can’t get to the bottom of it.

Yes, exactly. So a lot of times, you know, let’s say our child is engaging in a behaviour that is dangerous or stressful to us like hitting or throwing things. We often try to punish that behaviour in the moment to make it stop, and certainly I understand why parents are doing things like that. But if we don’t figure out sort of that underlying reason why the hitting or why the throwing is happening, then we can’t teach them a more appropriate replacement behaviour to do instead of that thing. So they’ll keep doing the hitting, or the throwing, if that’s what’s getting their needs met. And that’s the tricky thing about punishment, right, is like it might work in the moment, but it’s not a long-term solution because they’re not learning what they should be doing instead.

Absolutely, it’s like providing them the tools to be able to do that particular behaviour in a more constructive way. 


So what should we do when we’re facing these challenging behaviours? I know you have four points, perhaps you can just mention what each of them are. And then we can dig into each one.

Yeah, sure. So I think the first thing when you see a behaviour that you don’t particularly like is to identify it. Figure out, “okay, what does it look like? What does it sound like?” And just really be able to say, “okay, this is the behaviour that I want to change, I want to change my child hitting other kids.” 

And then the second step is really to observe when it’s happening – and I encourage parents to jot down what they’re noticing, because I think a lot of times, we think, “okay, I saw that once, I know that I don’t like it.” But sometimes the behaviour looks different in different situations. And so, you know, if they’re on the playground and they’re hitting, that might be one situation; if they’re playing with a sibling, and they want that toy, it might be a different type of situation. So it’s really important to sort of observe and take note of what you’re seeing, what patterns do you notice about that behaviour? I promise you there are patterns there, if you take a step back, and you kind of observe what’s been happening. 

So like I said, you know, is there always a certain situation like they’re playing with their sibling, and they want something that their sibling has? Or if there’s a new baby in the house, are they starting to act out more since the baby arrived? Are you noticing that every time you tell your child “no, I’m sorry, you can’t do that,” they have a tantrum.

There are going to be certain patterns that you can identify over time. And the way that you do that is by looking at what happens before the behaviour and what happens after the behaviour. So before the behaviour, like what’s the trigger for the behaviour to occur. The sibling walks in the room and takes their toy, that’s a trigger, or mom telling them “no, you can’t have that,” that’s a trigger for the behaviour to happen. And then again, what happens after the behaviour is our reaction, right? We can control that. And we can know what’s happening. Do we give them what they want? Do we punish them and send them to their room? Does their sibling start to cry? There’s always something that happens after. And those two things, what happens before and after the behaviour, really impact the behaviour itself. 

And the cool thing is because – again, this is a science, right? We can change what happens before and after the behaviour to change the behaviour itself. So we have to figure out what’s going on though, in order to be able to do that effectively. So that’s step two, is kind of observe, take note of what’s happening. 

The third step is then figuring out the why. So I know we’re gonna go a lot into that. But there are four main reasons why people do what they do. They want something, they don’t want something, they’re looking for attention and connection, or it feels good. So based on the kind of observations that you’ve made, you can figure out probably it fits into one or two of those four categories. And once you know the why, then you can put a plan into place.

It’s very systematic when you break it down like that. And it’s nice to have kind of a clear path to follow, to kind of go through the steps like, “okay, they’re doing this, what’s the setting,” looking at what’s happened before, kind of reflecting on our reaction. And I feel like when we have those kind of concrete systems, it’s a little bit easier to be intentional about what we’re doing and what we want the future to look like, where we’re trying to get to. Because I know in parenting we can be so in the moment, so many different things are going on. It can be very reactive and just kind of coast through, working on instinct a lot of the time. And that’s definitely helpful in some ways, but in other times we can kind of be stuck in those patterns where things keep happening. So it’s nice to be able to have that kind of systematic system to work through and make those changes for the positive, for everybody.

Yeah, I think that’s such a good point. You know, it’s not an easy process, right? And I want to encourage people to think of it as a process: you’re not going to get it right every single time and that’s okay. You know, I would really celebrate those baby steps. If you can just get to the point where you can pause and not react right away, and think, “okay, I see what’s going on here. You know, my child wants something that their sibling has, okay, they want something.” That’s the why. As opposed to just saying, “oh, I’m gonna take that toy away.” If you take the toy away, and you don’t teach the communication skills for them to get what they want in a more appropriate way, that behaviour is gonna keep happening, right? So that’s the first step. Maybe that should be the first step, is for us to just pause. I always say, exhale instead of yell, exhale instead of making a threat. If we can do that, it will allow us to sort of follow those steps. And hopefully be a little bit more successful in the moment but also in the long term.

Yes, pause has been a big word for me lately, I think there’s a lot of power in the pause and being able to just stop, breathe, put that oxygen through your body and take the time to think and be more intentional for whatever the situation may be. It works for so many different things. Even just stressed out in the grocery store line, or whatever it might be.

Totally, totally, driving in your car, all of it.

And so in terms of identifying, that first step, kind of pausing, I guess it is fairly intuitive to be able to identify what the behaviour is. And then the setting you had mentioned recording. So a phone, I’m guessing, would be a really great way to kind of quickly do that and jot down some notes, if you’re having repeated challenging behaviour. Do you have any other tips or thoughts on that particular step before we dig right into the why?

Yeah, absolutely. Yes, I think the phone is probably the easiest for most parents – I actually can send you a sheet that you can distribute to your listeners, if they’d like to download it. And you can put it on your refrigerator, and just walk by and make a couple of notes on it. And it’s sort of broken down into the before and after the behaviour so that, you know, they can just make a circle, “okay, I asked them to do something and they screamed” kind of thing. Or, you know, their sibling was crying and they hit them, it’s really set up for an easy tracking system. 

Easy is great. 

Easy is great. Put something on your refrigerator, use a post it note, you know, jot something down in your phone. But I really encourage you to try to start tracking these behaviours over time. Because what happens is we tend to either think about the most recent event that happened, or the one that was most challenging. And that sort of jades our perspective. So we really want to be a little bit more objective and notice those patterns over time, as opposed to only pulling out one example in our mind, if that makes sense.

That’s a very good point. Like I know personally, like say, dealing with the hitting, thinking of kind of the worst situation, but it really is about stepping back and seeing that pattern and how things may escalate to that particular big thing. And so being able to get ahead of it. 


Okay. Let’s go into the why. How do we really dig in to figure out what that is? Because it can be so vast, there’s so many different situations. How are we able to identify what it is? 

So the way that we really figure out the why is, again, looking at what happens before and after the behaviour. So let’s take a behaviour like whining. Common one very triggering for so many of us, I’m one of them. So, if you notice, let’s say, every day at 4pm, your child starts whining, right? That’s something that is really good information to have. Okay, so that’s sort of like one part of it. 4pm is happening before the behaviour, it’s what we call the antecedent, right? It’s one of those triggers, a time can be a trigger. 

And then you notice that they’re sort of going around the kitchen and maybe looking in the refrigerator and saying, “mommy, mommy, when’s dinner ready?” And, you know, that’s probably a pretty easy cue that “okay, they’re hungry.” Right? So in that moment, are we saying, – again, this is our reaction – “oh, are you hungry? Here, have some crackers, or you can have a snack.” And if that behaviour then stops, we can say that they were whining because they wanted something, they were hungry, they needed something to eat. And that’s just a really simple example. But that’s really how you break it down, right? 

If, maybe you have toddlers, right, you notice that your child is pointing and they want something. And they want their favourite blue bowl, but it’s in the washer, it’s in the dishwasher, it’s not available, and anything else you offer them, they’re throwing it on the floor and they’re screaming. That’s an example of them really wanting something. And in that moment, literally their favourite blue bowl is not available. So you have to figure out how you’re going to respond to that. Because it’s not like you can even give it to them. Or maybe they wanted their favorite food, but you ran out of it and you have to go to the grocery store. There’s going to be those times when your child wants something, and they literally can’t have it. So in that moment, you know, I think our best reaction is to just offer a choice of two things that are available. 

Yeah, I’m a huge proponent for the choices and it helps so much in those situations and kind of gives them control instead of like, “we don’t have the blue bowl, you need to have this.” And it’s understandable with those emotions getting to that state. But again, when we can take the moment to pause, give the options, gives them some control, they’re more a part of the decision. And being able to kind of meet them at their level instead of kind of raising the intensity, like you touched on, the after from that behaviour can really affect it.

Exactly. So yeah, if your child wants something that they can’t have, sort of the best response in the moment is to offer a choice of two or three things that are available.

And I love that you said two or three, because too many choices can also be a trigger for a lot of kids too.

Absolutely, yeah, I wouldn’t in that moment, especially if they’re sort of escalated and having a hard time making it open-ended and just saying, “well, what do you want?” That’s not going to help the situation because they’re dysregulated, they need some structure. Certainly there are going to be those kids who don’t want anything that you offer. And that’s okay. You know, I think that means that they’re probably not ready, right? Like they need to calm down a little bit before you present that choice again.

And that’s where your reduce comes into play. And so you had mentioned there’s a few different whys that we can tend to categorize things into. So the wanting something is one, what are the others?

So not wanting something. This might be every time you put broccoli on their plate, they throw that broccoli on the floor. Every time you say “it’s time to brush your teeth,” they’re running in the opposite direction. You know, anytime you are either offering them something, or telling them to do something, and they’re reacting and not wanting to do that.

That’s another big one.

That’s another big one for many of us, right? I mean, we all kind of relate to not wanting to do something. I don’t want to take out the trash. I don’t want to do the dishes. I don’t want to have to write a report. But we do it because there are certain – for the big kids I call them have-to’s, right, there are have-to’s and want-to’s. And sometimes you have to do a have-to: you have to brush your teeth, you have to take a bath. 

But if your child doesn’t want to do something, then again, this is a huge thing. Choices can come into play here. They may not have a choice of doing that thing, but they can choose how they do it. Do you want bubbles or no bubbles in your bath? Do you want a bath or a shower? Do you want to brush your teeth with the bubble gum toothpaste or the strawberry toothpaste? Do you want to wear your spider man jammies or your Superman jammies? You know, there’s always going to be a choice of sort of who does it, who helps them, where they do it, how they do it, when they do it. Do you want to brush teeth or go potty first? That type of thing.

Yeah. And the timers are a big one for in our house too. If they’re not necessarily wanting to do something, my son gets very immersed in his play. And so say, “okay, we’re going to be doing this, do you want to do it in two or three minutes?” And then we set the timer, he gets to pick how much time and it kind of helps with that transition.

I love that. I love that you’re giving him some control, right? Somuch of being a child is seeking control, because my son says it to me all the time, “how come you always get to tell me what to do? When am I going to be a grown-up? I’m going to do whatever I want,” you know. Yeah. And I try to give him a lot of control, but they seek it, right? They’re trying to be independent. And I think that’s so important that we remember that, right? Like they’re being told what to do all day long, they’re being told no, and don’t, and stop all day long. Even if we try so hard not to use those words. So any semblance of control that we can give our kids is so key. 

And I love what you said about the timer. And I would say you know what, let your kid push the start button on the timer, let them push the stop button on the timer, that also gives them some ownership and some control, and will help your transition be a little bit smoother. 

I love those simple little things that again, when we take the time to pause and think about it, we’re actually able to incorporate these different tools. 


And I really liked that you touched on our kid’s perspective, and how they really are being told what to do all day long in different kinds of capacities. And when we can take that moment, again, to pause and really think about that. And even thinking about all the befores leading up to that behaviour, it really helps us to kind of put ourselves in their shoes, and understand where they’re coming from a little bit more and kind of meeting in the middle to move forward from that. Because it’s a lot. I don’t like being told what to do. And being surrounded by that all day long, it’s understandable to push back in different ways.

Yeah. And I think, you know, I love what you just said. I think just simply acknowledging what they’re communicating to us, right? Because all behaviour is communication, even behaviours we don’t like to see. They’re telling us something, that tantrum is communicating something, “I don’t want to do this right now.” So it’s okay for us to say, like, “I hear you, I understand you don’t want to brush your teeth.” And then set it up in a way like “first brush your teeth, and then we can read the story that you picked out.” That first “then” is so helpful as well, because it’s setting up sort of that next good thing that they’re motivated by, right? 

The reason we all engage in any behaviour is because we’re motivated to do it, it’s getting our needs met in some way. And so sometimes, you know, we do it with ourselves, right? “Okay, first, I’m going to send these emails out, and then I’ll get to relax and watch my show.” 

That’s so true!

All the time, you don’t even realize it, right? Like, “okay, I just have to get these dishes done. And then I can sit down and have my glass of wine.” We’re doing it all the time, we need to teach our kids to do that, too. Again, there is a have-to, but then it’s followed by a get-to or want-to. And that’s a really good strategy. It’s an evidence-based strategy, that first “then” setting up a more fun sort of reward at the end. And when I say reward, it’s not like candy or whatever. It’s just an activity that they’re going to enjoy.

Yeah, doing something they want to do in some sort of way. So we touched on want something, don’t want something. What are the other two?

The next one is needing attention or connection. And people, kids especially, are wired to need our attention and connection. And obviously, from infancy, babies cry to get their needs met, because they don’t have another way of communicating. And so, I just think it’s important to sort of recognize that our kids may act out in a certain way because that need is not being fulfilled. Again, they’re being told what to do all day long, by teachers, by us. 

And so, one of the easiest ways to sort of reduce those acting out behaviours for attention is to just give it to them every day, I say 10 minutes a day, one on one time, no distractions, put your phone away, try to get the siblings out of the room and just spend some focused time with one child, do whatever they want to do. They want to play blocks, play blocks; they want you to bark like a dog, bark like a dog, it doesn’t matter. It’s really about giving them your undivided attention, building that connection. 

I know a lot of parents are like, “I don’t have time to do that.” Or if you have time, like “I don’t know how to play, or I don’t want to play what they want to play.” That’s okay, just start somewhere. You can either sit back and watch them do something that they enjoy, and like occasionally make a comment. But again, focus, you’re not on your phone. Or find something that you guys enjoy doing together. 

You know, I personally hate playing Barbies. My daughter loves it. She’s always asking me to play. And sometimes I say yes. And sometimes I say no. But there are other times when she wants to colour or wants to play a board game. And that’s something that I’m much more willing to do. And so I say yes to those a little bit more. But I know that I need to say yes to the Barbie stuff, too. Because that’s important and that’s meaningful to her. And so I guess I just want to give you permission to say yes, sometimes and say no, sometimes. But just do your best to find a moment, a few moments each day, to connect one on one with your child. You will be so surprised, that will prevent so many challenging behaviours.

And 10 minutes a day, that is more achievable. Like we might get in our heads like “oh, we need connection with our child, we need to do this, I’m cooking dinner, I have all these different things going on.” And it can seem like this big thing to do that we just don’t have time for. But when we really step back, think 10 minutes. And even if that happens to be challenging, then start smaller and kind of build off of it, right? But 10 minutes for child, out of the 24 hours of the day – we can find ways to make that work, I think.

Exactly. And I mean, I think once kids become school-aged and they’re gone for several hours a day, it actually is really hard to find the time sometimes, right? We’re stuck in the morning routine or the homework routine or the bedtime routine or you have soccer practice or dance. I mean, kids are so busy and we’re so busy. But yes, exactly what you said, start with one minute, start with two minutes, make those last three minutes before bedtime your one on one special time.

Do you have particular times of the day that can be good for connection time? I believe I might have seen some posts of yours kind of based around school schedules and things like that.

Yes. So the most important moments of a child’s day are the first few moments after they wake up that you see them after they wake, right? The first few minutes after you reconnect after your longest separation, either your work or their school usually, or naptime. And then the last few minutes before bed. So that’s a great place to start, if you’re feeling like “I don’t have enough hours in the day.” I think a lot of us feel that way. Start there. 

When your child wakes up in the morning, greet them, snuggle, show them affection. You can sit in silence with them for a couple of moments or you can ask about their dreams. Or you can quietly talk about what’s going to happen or ask them what they want for breakfast. But this is just like a reconnection time, because think about it. You know, bedtime for most, if you are not sleeping in the same room as your child. Bedtime is their longest separation from you. 8, 10, 12 hours, right? So a lot of kids who have separation issues at bedtime, think about their perspective, like “I’m not going to be with my mommy for 12 hours.” And so take those moments before you put them to bed to just snuggle and love on them and sort of fill their cup so that they’re calm and feeling safe before they go to bed. 

And then once those 12 or 10 hours pass, you’re coming back with them and just giving them a big snuggle, because you’re going to start the hustle and bustle in the day and everybody knows that morning routine is you know a beast to get through. So before you start giving instructions and asking a ton of questions and making them rush, come together and just enjoy each other quietly and calmly for a couple of minutes.

And that’s just a good way to start the day too, when you can do those couple minutes, slow down for a minute, and then get into that rush. 

Oh, totally. 

And I like that you touched on the after the biggest separation in the middle of the day too. That’s something I can kind of fall in and out of. But when I was doing an UM Club episode with Jay Skibbens, it had a lot of great time management tips in there, and he helps single parents. And in our conversation, dinner can be really challenging, especially when kids are really wanting your attention while you’re in the middle of that. But taking a step back to give that one on one undivided attention before you start really helps. And so at the time of that interview, I had fallen out of it, it was a really stressful period. And so I started implementing that again and it helped so much. And it’s something so simple, it really takes the stress and the mental load off of our plates, when we’re doing all of those other things that we need to do.

Yes, I love that you said that. And that was a great recommendation by him. So that is a great proactive strategy. It’s called noncontingent reinforcement. But you’re basically filling their cup before any challenging behaviour can happen. So many of us are working from home or were working from home – before you go into a big zoom meeting that you need the kids to be quiet for, spend 10 minutes with them playing or reading, giving them a lot of attention. So that, you know, for the next 30 minutes while you’re in your meeting, they won’t be coming in to interrupt you. 

Same thing when you’re cooking dinner, you know that you’re going to need to focus on that it’s, you know – me, I’m really horrible at multitasking. It’s like super triggering for me when people are talking to me when I’m trying to do something else. So I would turn, give my attention first for a couple of minutes and then say, “hey, I’ve got to cook dinner. So let’s set you up with something over here. You can sit in the kitchen and color while I’m cooking. Right?” I think being proactive is so so helpful. 

And again, so much of parenting life is so busy, we often react. But if we can take a few moments, and plan and prep and be more proactive, and intentional, it will prevent so many of our challenges. And it feels like more work in the moment. But really, long-term, you’re getting so much more benefit. I feel like the output is easier in the long run when you do it as a proactive strategy, rather than like getting really upset and reacting and having to fix a problem once things go haywire.

Yeah, I’m glad you touched on that. Because as moms, we have so much going on, such a mental load. Thinking of taking the time to actually think about these and do these preventative measures can seem like this whole other load we’re putting on. But like you said, in being proactive, yes, it might take that extra bit of time, those extra thought processes, but you’re able to get ahead of it. And then you’re easing your mental load a bunch down the future for years to come.

Yeah, totally. And you’re also building your kid’s skills and abilities to cope and problem solve because you’re teaching them things that they can do instead, as opposed to only reacting and trying to punish the behaviour.

Mm hmm. It’s really, like we touched on earlier, giving them those tools that help in many different facets going forward. So we got want something, don’t want something, attention. What’s the last one?

It feels good, it feels good in our bodies. And so everybody sort of engages in behaviours that, you know, feel good to us. Some people twirl their hair, some people tap their foot, even when we listen to music or sing in the shower. Those are things that make us feel good. And so for kids, any child who’s using a pacifier or has a lovey that they rub on their face in a certain way. Those are things that make their bodies feel good. And I think sometimes we think our kids are engaging in sort of like annoying or obnoxious behaviours without sort of taking this piece – and it’s like sensory input basically that they’re seeking – into consideration. 

So if you’re constantly telling your child “stop jumping on the couch, right? Why are you doing that? How many times did I tell you stop jumping on the couch?” Maybe they’re seeking some sort of input, and we need to give them an alternative way to get that need met. Right? So okay, maybe I’m noticing like they’re always jumping again, maybe it’s a certain time of day. But they’re always jumping on the couch, even when I tell them not to, can they jump here instead? Can they jump on the trampoline? Can they jump on pillows on the floor? Is there a way that they can get whatever input they’re seeking met? So I might offer a choice to my child. “You can sit on your knees or your bottom on the couch, or you can jump over here.”

Yeah, again, with that choice, giving them the guide for those behaviours we want to see, still fulfilling their needs.

Yes, exactly. Another example of something feeling good to a child, just thinking of a behaviour that your child might do, some kids might be on top of a play structure and like throw things down from the top of the play structure, or spit from the top of the play structure. And you might just be like, “oh, that’s so gross. Don’t do that.” But let’s take a step back. What could they possibly be getting out of it? Do they like the way that the spit feels coming out of their mouth? Or watching it go down? Or do they like the sound that the rocks make when they throw them? And figuring out another way that they can get that input I think is really, really important. I like to ask my kids “what does your brain need? What does your body need right now?” My daughter is very sensory seeking, and she’ll even watch TV or read – it’s really interesting – she’ll watch a show kind of upside down. 

I used to do that.

Okay, she’s obviously – I have no control. She’s having fun, she’s doing her own thing. I’m not intervening in any way. I’m like, “okay, she’s getting something out of this.” And so I think sometimes cueing them into it. “What does your brain need right now? What does your body need right now?” This can really help them identify what that sort of need is, so they can help relay it to us so we can support them in getting it met.

I think that’s amazing that you mentioned asking them, “what does your body need? What does your brain need?” I think growing up, that’s something that a lot of us just never really heard or were taught to be reflective in that way. And if we can teach our young kids as they’re growing up to be reflective in that way, it’s going to raise a very emotionally confident kid.

Absolutely, that self-awareness is so important. And a lot of us didn’t learn that until we were much older. So I think if it’s something that we can kind of instill in our kids and coach them through when they’re even toddlers and young children, that’s gonna set them up for success. And in turn set us up for success too, because then they’re able to communicate to us as opposed to sort of acting out that challenge.

Absolutely, yeah. Helps us with the communication and then them as they’re growing up, being able to slowly start doing those processes themselves. So in terms of responding to these challenging behaviours, we touched on offering the choices and asking what your body or your brain need, what are some other things we can do when we’re right there in that moment? 

For the it feels good category or overall?

Overall, just when we’re faced in that kind of challenging, frustrating situation, we’re breathing. Now what?

Yeah, totally. Okay. So we’re taking a step back, we’re pausing. We’re trying to figure out what’s going on. And, okay, we think that we know the why. And in that moment, I would also say, as you’re figuring out the why, “okay, my child wants something that they can’t have,” think about what you would want them to do instead of the unwanted behaviour, right? Because we really want to teach them a more appropriate way to get their needs met. What’s an alternative response that we could sort of coach them to do in that moment? 

So they want something that they can’t have? Okay. I’m going to teach them to say “I want blank,” right? That’s simple. I just want them to communicate without screaming and throwing themselves to the floor. 

That would be nice. 

That would be nice, right? Or if they don’t want to do something. “Okay, figured out the why, what do I want them to do instead? I want them to ask me what they can do.” So for older kids, again, it doesn’t all have to be controlled by us. And in fact, it’s better if the child is able to play a part in that, because they’re going to be more invested, they’re going to feel more in control. When our kids feel more in control, they don’t need to act out to get control. So for older kids, you know, I would say preschool and up, you can actually teach them to ask for what they want. And so I might, you know, initially when they’re really young, say “I’m sorry, I hear that you want more cookies, you could have a more another cookie tomorrow, here’s what’s available, you know, you can have a banana or some cheese.” And when they’re really, really young, we talked about giving them those choices. 

But as they get a little bit older, put the onus on them, that’s really helpful. So “I’m sorry, cookies aren’t available right now.” Pause. And then you can ask me a question. And you can coach them through it, “Mom, what can I have instead?” Right? Even give them the words and let them practice saying it. And then the next time, they might initiate that, or 10 times later, they might initiate that question, but they’re learning it over time. You don’t want to have to always be the one offering things, you want them to be able to sort of initiate and make appropriate requests. So yeah, I think that back to your question, after you figure out the why you’re also figuring out like, what do I want my child to do instead? And then you respond.

Giving them the tools, helping them to go down that path for whatever the more constructive behaviour option is.

Exactly. And you touched on this earlier, so maybe we can talk about the redo and what that is? 

Sure, yeah. 

So when our kids have a hard time, I think a lot of times since we are reacting and punishing, we miss an opportunity to actually do the teaching. So when I say offer them a redo, what I mean is almost rewind, and play out the scenario again, but this time you’re coaching them through. So if you, you know, from the other room, you hear one kid scream, you walk in and they’re fighting over a toy. So many times parents will be like, “oh, I’m taking that toy away. You can’t play with that anymore. Because all you guys do is fight.” That’s a missed opportunity for teaching. And again, that fighting is going to keep happening because they aren’t learning the appropriate thing to do. 

So taking away a toy is never my first response. I’m going to go in and I’m going to offer a redo, I’m going to be a sportscaster and I’m going to narrate what’s happening. “Hey, I see you guys both want that fire truck. How can you work this out?” So if they’ve had experience with this, they might say, “okay, fine, you can have it first, but I want it next.” Or you might have to say like, you know, “who had it first? Okay, Johnny, you had it first, Mikey, you can wait until he’s ready to give it to you.” But you don’t have to sort of like blow in there and make assumptions about what’s been happening and act as the referee, right? 

Because when we act as a referee, we’re automatically sort of deciding someone is right and someone is wrong, and you’re inserting yourself into their interaction. But when you sportscast, or when you take a step back and just sort of describe what you’re seeing, it helps them problem solve. It’s not always a pretty process, I will admit, but it will allow them to be a little bit more independent with it. And inevitably, they will work it out. Right? You just have to let them – I wouldn’t say like physically fight, but negotiate, right? I mean, that’s a really important life skill, to be able to sort of talk someone through something to end up getting your turn or what you want. It’s okay to sort of sit in that discomfort, I think is hard for us. But it will do them a better service long term.

Yeah, often we want to jump in and fix and make things easier and more pleasant for kids. But when we can take that moment to step back, try and let them figure out themselves. That’s how they’re able to really learn and take on being able to do it more and more themselves without our need to constantly step in. 

Yeah exactly. And if you do need to step in, because I recognize there are those moments like if the kids are hitting right, you’re gonna separate them initially. But then within your redo, you’re coaching and you’re saying, “okay, you want the toy? What can you do?” Even if a child doesn’t have the verbal language, they can put out their hands, they can sign mine. But you can coach them what to say, without making a decision about what the outcome is going to be, if that makes sense. So “you want the fire truck, you can tell I want the fire truck,” and then see how the sibling responds.

Yeah. And it’s really a process, we’re not necessarily stepping back right away. Like you said, it’s kind of doing those redos, coaching them through it multiple times. And then when it seems right, feels right, you can kind of step back, see how it’ll play out, again, you might need to step in. But it’s that evolution of teaching those skills, so they can be more independent to do these different things themselves.

Yes, love that. And when you do see more independence, make sure you acknowledge that, like, “wow, I heard you guys work that out. That was really great to hear,” you know? Just making sure that they know that you heard and you appreciate that they’re doing it. That’s also going to be intrinsically motivating for them because they didn’t have to get the toy taken away. They didn’t have to fight with their sibling. 

Yeah, they feel recognized and know that that behaviour is good. And so kind of get that positive reinforcement through knowing that that other option is a great option. And I don’t need to, say, get attention the other way I can get it this way as well. 

Now say, sometimes things happen. And they escalate. No matter how much we’re trying to kind of give these options or different things to say, things have escalated, we’re right in a tantrum. What are different things we can do in those situations to kind of neutralize and perhaps do teaching moments. I’m assuming right in the middle of tantrum is not the best time to actually teach.

Yes, I think that’s a really, really important point. So when you’re offering a redo, you’re obviously reacting because something happened that you’re having to redo, but you’re doing it before there’s a really big escalation in the behaviour, right? When our kids are full out tantruming, they’re not going to be able to process what we’re saying. I mean, if you think about it for yourself, when you’re really upset and really angry, and someone is just like talking at you and you’re not really hearing them. The same is true for our kids, they’re not processing what we’re saying. So it’s okay to just let them work through it. 

If you have a calm down area, great, if you put them on the couch to make sure they’re safe, if you sit with them in their room. Let them sort of get through that really intense tantrum. And then you can either attempt to redo or just take a pause, and everybody kind of has their own space. But I think that catching them before the behaviour escalates is really where the teaching can happen. 

And then once they are tantruming, you can acknowledge, “I hear you, you really want or you really don’t want.” And then sometimes you can offer a choice of what’s available, but other times, again, it’s okay, sit with the discomfort, be okay with not trying to give them the moon and the stars in that moment, trying not to fix the problem, just let them get through it. And then they’ll be able to focus on what you’re offering and what you’re saying.

So give them the space to kind of have the big emotions and come back down and we can try and support that with, say, quiet space or sitting there with them. Sometimes it can be more challenging if we’re out and about but we can still kind of pause and try and be with them while they get through it.

I have had to take a screaming child back to the car to give them space to calm down. Yeah, I mean, you just do what you can in that moment, sit on the curb, go to the car. 

It happens to all of us.

Yes. Yes, it absolutely does. So.

Now I’m curious about your thoughts on, say, the giving in kind of concept. And I feel like sometimes it makes sense. We want to kind of give them what they’re requesting. But the way they’re acting, it doesn’t feel appropriate to kind of give them that. So what are your thoughts on that?

Yeah, absolutely. So this is a really interesting concept. And I think that if we’re all honest with ourselves, we will admit that at some point we have given in to our kids demands. The key with giving in is to give in low, give in when the behaviour is at a really low intensity, give in at the whining as opposed to giving in at the all uut tantrum falling on the floor, right? 

So I see this a lot, like think about you’re in a grocery store, you’re in target and your child wants a toy. And maybe they might ask nicely at first, and you say, “no, not today, we’re not getting anything today.” But “mommy, mommy, mommy, I really want it” and it starts becoming a whine, right, you can hear the escalation. And you know that if you don’t give them what they want in that moment, they are going to end up having a screaming tantrum on the floor. If you know, at some point, you’re just going to give in, give in when they asked nicely, that’s the ideal situation, or give in at the wine. Do not give in at the huge tantrum falling to the floor. 

Because, again, they’re engaging in this behaviour, they’re communicating to you. And actually, they started communicating to you really appropriately. Wherever you meet the need, whatever behaviour you reinforce, that’s the behaviour you’re going to see again in the future. So are you willing to see that appropriate request happen again? Okay, give it to them when they ask you nicely. Are you willing to see that whine again? Okay, give it to them when they’re whining. Are you willing to see that huge 20-minute tantrum where they’re screaming on the floor? Probably not. So don’t give it then.

Mm hmm. Yeah, it’s essentially reinforcing, to them it’s a positive reinforcement. So it’s like, “okay, I need to get to this stage. And that’s what will work.”

Yes. Whatever behaviour we pay attention to, whatever behaviour we reinforce, that is the behaviour we’re going to keep seeing. So in any given situation, just kind of consider that like, “okay, if I meet their need-” and it’s important to meet the need, right, but you’re talking about specifically giving in. You set a boundary, “sorry, we’re not getting a toy today.” Okay, I’m gonna change my mind here. Wherever I changed my mind, I have to be prepared that the next time I’m in this situation, the same thing is going to happen. Kids are quick with stuff like this.

Yeah. So either give in early, or be prepared to work through it. Because at some point, we will need to work through it.

Yes, absolutely. And you know what, this is the hard part of parenting, our job is to establish those boundaries and hold them. If we don’t hold them and we break the boundary, we let go of it when the kids push back, that actually isn’t good for them either. They want that boundary to be there, because they want to know that that structure provides predictability, it provides security for them. And so when our kids are pushing their boundaries, that’s absolutely their job as little kids, but they actually want to know that we’re going to hold it. As long as it’s reasonable, we’re being reasonable and respectful with our boundaries, then they’re going to learn. And it’s not going to take as much time as we probably think it is.

Yeah, often, we can go to the worst case. And so it’s nice to hear that often it doesn’t necessarily get to that point. And it is a little bit easier and less time-consuming and intensive to really work through those things.

Yeah, I mean, you might have to carry them to the car screaming that time. But probably the next time you won’t have to do that is my guess.

Right. Well, we’re coming up to time. Thank you so much for all of that. I think it was very, very helpful to really go through the process of it all. Are there any last thoughts on this topic or resources you would like to provide for listeners? 

Yeah, I think I’ll just sort of repeat the steps as we just talked about so much, right? When you see an unwanted behaviour in your child, we’re going to pause, we’re going to observe and figure out what’s going on, figure out why it’s happening. Then ask ourselves “what do I want them to do instead to get their need met?” And coach and teach them through how to get that need met in a more appropriate way. And make sure that we’re acknowledging when they are making those baby steps and communicating and coping in a better way.

Absolutely, thank you. And we’ll have that all listed out. Where can everyone go to find you? You’re one of my absolute favourite parenting people to follow on Instagram. So where can listeners go and find you after this?

Thank you. Yeah, Instagram @Parenting_Fairly. And also my website is Parenting Fairly.

Fantastic. Well, thanks again for being here. Like I said, it’s so, so helpful. You’re such a wealth of knowledge and I love your approach to everything. So thank you for coming on here and sharing with us. 

Thanks Jannine, thanks for having me. 

Thanks. And thank you for everyone who’s been listening, you can go ahead and pop into our Facebook group and share your thoughts and we can dig into this, commiserate for the different situations we’ve been in and kind of share some of our helpful tips as well. So I will see you in the Facebook group. Take care!


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*Link How to Prevent Tantrums when it’s posted