Consider this. You’re in the grocery store and notice a mother attempting to persuade her toddler to sit in the shopping cart. The mother tries to beg forgiveness. She suggests using the racecar cart. As a bribe, she offers a snack. The toddler is not interested. Finally, out of options, the mother picks up the toddler and places her in the basket. The wailing then begins. But don’t worry, if you’re afraid of that situation happening to you, here are strategies for coping with your toddler’s tantrum.
Most of us have witnessed similar toddler tantrums, and many of us have been that parent. We were all that toddlers who lacked the verbal and emotional skills to express our frustration. Adults may have forgotten what it’s like to lose their cool when they don’t get their way, but everyone can recall the havoc a toddler’s tantrum caused when they weren’t getting their way.
A child’s tantrum can start out mild and then escalate rapidly, with the child going from being calm to screaming and kicking in a matter of seconds. Temper tantrums in children are difficult to witness and manage. They are, however, a normal part of a child’s development. Take a deep breath and continue reading.
What Causes Temper Tantrums in Children?
A kid’s temper tantrum is essentially your child’s way of expressing deep frustration. A tantrum-throwing child is telling you, “This is too much for me! I require assistance!” Toddler tantrums are most common between the ages of one and three. Infants and toddlers may not have the words to describe how they feel or what they want, but they are adept at using their bodies to convey messages. A toddler may scream, bite, or throw himself on the floor rather than use words like “I want you to read to me right now” or “I don’t want to go yet.”
A tantrum allows you to see into your child’s mind. He (or she) wants to please you while also gaining independence. When things don’t go his way, he looks to you for safety, comfort, assistance, and approval, but he also lacks patience and self-control. His brain is learning how to deal with difficult situations, and he can be easily overwhelmed by strong emotions at this stage.
Contrary to popular belief, a toddler tantrum does not indicate that a child is spoiled or manipulative. Young children lack the reasoning skills required to manipulate their parents. They do, however, require strong and secure relationships, particularly when they are overwhelmed. What you need are strategies to assist both of you in getting through it.
How to Handle a Toddler Tantrum
Tantrums occur when a toddler’s frustration manifests itself in a physical and emotional outburst. Tantrums typically last about 10 minutes, but they are exhausting for both parents and children. What is the best way to handle a tantrum?
Tantrums were once thought to be a way for children to manipulate their parents to get what they want. We now understand more about brain development and recognize tantrums as an indication that the child is emotionally overloaded. Parents are still advised to ignore tantrums, but only after explaining why the child is upset and ensuring his safety.
Guide to Tantrums in the Moment
Here are some strategies for dealing with difficult toddler tantrums:
1. Maintain your cool.
Take a few deep breaths to relax and consider how to handle the situation. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to observe quietly and give your child a few minutes to calm down. If that isn’t possible, try to keep your voice and demeanor as calm as possible. Using a loud voice or making quick movements may aggravate your child.
2. Encourage your child to speak up.
Even in the midst of a tantrum, you can assist your child in expanding their vocabulary. “I can tell you’re desperate for that cookie. You must be disappointed that you can’t have it before dinner. I apologize for your distress.” Your words should be sympathetic in order for him to feel safe and understood. When he is emotionally overloaded, never criticize or threaten him with punishment.
3. Distraction is an option.
If your child is sad, try making a funny face or giving him something else to do. Tantrums in toddlers can be intense, but for many children, they pass as quickly as they begin.
4. Maintain your child’s safety.
Ascertain that your child is not in danger of injuring himself or herself or anyone else. If the tantrum occurs away from home, gently lead him to a quiet, less crowded location, such as the bathroom or the car. As an added bonus, removing the audience allows you to focus on your child and help him calm down faster.
5. Try hugging someone.
Gentle physical contact can help a child relax, regulate his emotions, and end a tantrum. When holding or hugging a child, it’s important to do so calmly and with the kid’s permission. If he squirms, don’t try to restrain him.
6. Ignore the temper tantrum.
If your child is safe, you can leave the room or go about your business. A toddler tantrum is, on some level, a cry for attention. Ignoring the behavior teaches your child that tantrums are not a good way to get what he wants.
7. Don’t give up.
When you give in to a toddler’s screams and tears, the child learns that tantrums are effective. Continue reading for advice on how to avoid tantrums in the first place.
Toddler Tantrum Prevention
One of the most useful strategies for avoiding toddler tantrums is the use of positive reinforcement. Make it a habit to give your child attention, praise, and smiles for good behavior. This teaches your child that words are the best way to get your attention. Here are six ways to keep your child from having a temper tantrum:
1. Provide options.
“Would you like to wear your blue or red shoes?” “What should we read tonight?” Giving your toddler options allows him to feel more in control and explore his independence. This may make him more willing to follow the rules and instructions when they are required.
2. Give invitations rather than orders.
As parents, we constantly tell our children what they need to do. Making these requests sound like an invitation rather than an order may make your child more agreeable. Instead of saying, “Pick up your toys,” say, “When you finish picking up your toys, we can go see Grandma.”
3. Maintain a schedule.
Children who are tired or hungry are more likely to have temper tantrums. Ensure that your toddler gets enough sleep, including naps, and that he or she eats enough, including healthy snacks. Toddlers can eat and sleep more than usual during growth spurts.
4. Let the minor details go.
Choose your battles wisely. Is it worth arguing with your child about whether he should wear rain boots to school or if he only wants to read one book over and over? Standing firm in your decision is always worth the risk of a toddler’s tantrum if he wants to do something dangerous. Otherwise, you should let him make his own choices.
5. Determine your child’s stressors.
If your toddler has tantrums when he’s hungry, keep snacks on hand at all times. If he complains about leaving his favorite spots, give him several warnings that it will soon be time to leave. This will allow him to be more prepared when the time comes to leave, and he will be able to begin to let go of the situation on his own. Understanding what triggers your child and assisting him through these difficult times teaches him how to deal with disappointment and reduces the likelihood of tantrums.
6. Experiment with time-ins.
A time-in is when you use your attention to reward positive behavior. Make an effort to “catch” your child doing something good and praise him. Tantrums will be less appealing if you give your child more attention through time-ins. A time-in could include the following:
- Praise such as, “You’re doing a great job cleaning up!”
- I’m reading a book.
- Making up silly games.
- Songs are being sung.
- Talking and laughing.
Assist Your Child in Managing His Emotions
Toddlers should be comforted rather than isolated after a meltdown. Tantrums are one of the first ways children express disappointment and strong emotions. Toddlers require assistance in learning how to manage their strong emotions.
You can assist by giving your toddler time to calm down after his tantrum and by attending to his immediate needs, such as a snack or a nap. After you’ve calmed down, reflect on what happened for a few moments. Congratulate him on regaining control. Practice ways he can use words to tell you what he wants in the future.
Teach him some phrases to use when he wants to yell or throw things. Use words to express how you feel about his tantrum. The best way to educate your child is through conversation, and it’s always early enough to start. You can teach your toddler better ways to deal with his emotions while showing how his actions affect others.