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Pause Button for Tantrums and Whining

By Debra Kissen

Have you ever wished you had a remote control for your child? Imagine, at your finger tips, the ability to fast forward past temper tantrums, rewind the sweet moments, mute the “nails on chalk board” whining. Well, I have yet to stumble upon a full functioning remote control for children but there is a tool out there, which offers some of these benefits. I use the pause and on/off button of the TV remote for some key parenting moments. (As a disclaimer regarding my TV/parenting philosophy, I believe that kids deserve and need to live a rich, action packed life while at the same time, see nothing wrong with 1 to 2 hours of age appropriate TV a day).

When my kids are at the earliest moments of melt down mode, I find a well time PAUSE of their favorite show is enough of a punishment, to head off an oncoming tantrum. It is like a teeny tiny shock to their system, reminding them their behavior is not in their best interest. They then quickly gather their internal resources, calm themselves down and return to their desired activity. The key element in reinforcing (growing) effective behaviors and extinguishing (reducing) ineffective behaviors is that you have to get the timing right. If a child pushes a sibling and ten minutes later the child receives a time out, the child’s brain will have a difficult time retaining the link between pushing and time outs. But it is often difficult to swiftly catch a behavior (whether it be effective or ineffective) as it is unfolding.  TV time with my kids offers a unique opportunity to bring home the point of cause and effect.  For example, if you whine, the TV is paused (or as I said to my son this morning, as I paused his favorite show, “Super man does not whine.”)

Dr. Debra Kissen is CEO of Light On Anxiety CBT Treatment Center. Dr. Kissen specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)...

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