5 Ways To Manage Toddler Tantrums
Tantrums are a common factor in toddlers between the ages of 1 and 4 years and most children will succumb to their temper at some stage or another. They also come in various forms too; crying, screaming, stiffened limbs, arched backs, kicking, throwing themselves around and even running away are all manifestations of a typical tantrum episode.
- In younger children (1 to 2 years old) they tend to stem from the simple inability to express themselves adequately – they need something, they need it now but they are failing to make you understand exactly what that need is, whether it is food, a toy or just your full and undivided attention.
- For older children (3 to 4 years) tantrums are generally the result of a power struggle. They want their own way and will do more or less anything to win because they don’t have the necessary skills to negotiate for a little power.
When your child decides to throw a tantrum it can be tough to refrain from having a meltdown yourself, particularly if you are in a public place. As parents we may as well accept that tantrums can and will happen so it is certainly more practical to get ourselves armed with some strong handling tactics ahead of time:
1. Understanding The Underlying Reasons
Although knowing the reason for a meltdown won’t necessarily help you to prevent or forestall it, understanding the reasons behind erratic behaviour may help you recognise the onset.
- If it stems from tiredness, hunger or actual pain you may be able to divert your child’s attention before they hit the full blown screaming stage simply by attending to these basic needs.
- Frustration may turn out to be the most difficult cause to easily manage. As your child develops they will begin to value their independence from you and may find it very stressful when they need your help.
2. Maintaining Your Own Calm Exterior
Whatever the cause of the tantrum, keeping your patience will be vital if you are to make any headway in managing meltdowns.
- Moderate the volume of your voice and your child should end up matching your quieter tone. Ultimately they will want to engage with you to try and communicate why they are feeling angry, sad or frustrated.
- If you are at home it is always best to try to ignore a tantrum unless your child could actually harm themselves in any way. If possible place them safely in their room (timeout), returning every few minutes to check on them.
3. Set The Boundaries
Your child needs to know right from the onset of this stage that you will not be an easy target and won’t cave at the slightest sign of trouble.
- Never engage in an argument with a child who is creating havoc. In joining the meltdown you are showing acceptance of negative behaviours.
- If your child starts hitting, kicking, biting, or throwing things during a meltdown, stop him immediately and remove him from the situation.
- Make it clear that hurting others is absolutely not acceptable. If necessary you must remove a privilege for this extreme behaviour.
- If you are in a public place try and find a quiet corner where they will have a chance to calm down without too many onlookers. Attention from outsiders may encourage your child to continue a tantrum and it certainly won’t help your mood.
- If the tantrum is the result of a demand which you have refused to meet don’t give in just to gain peace. Equally, if your child has refused to comply with a request you have made you will still need to follow through once they are calm. Giving in will only reinforce negative behaviour. Once they have successfully done what you have asked then you should offer praise.
4. Create A Diversion
Persuading your child to engage in something more interesting may divert their attention away from their own angst. Young children tend to have fairly short attention spans so several variations of tactics can help.
- If you can catch the beginning of a meltdown you may be able to use favourite toys as a form of diversion.
- Singing favourite songs can also help, particularly if you are driving or otherwise engaged and unable to physically use other tactics.
- Sometimes sympathising with their anger and frustration can help and a big hug may help them to settle down again.
5. Give Your Child Strong Incentives To Behave
There are certain situations where a pre-emptive bribe could be the answer to a more pleasant experience.
- A visit to a restaurant, for example, could be a sure-fire excuse for a meltdown. However, being positive beforehand may work wonders. Tell your child that you are sure that they are going to have a lovely time and enjoy all of their food. Explain that afterwards you can look at their favourite book/watch a cartoon together because you know they will have been a very good and well-behaved child.
- Find an incentive to offer which is sufficiently engaging to ensure that they have a good reason to be compliant. If they begin to show signs of becoming petulant or fussy remind them about their forthcoming treat.
Coping with this stage of a child’s development may seem daunting but if you already know that you have these practical tactics to hand you will be halfway towards managing the stress successfully. Always remember that it’s just a phase and they will grow out of it provided that you stand firm and don’t instantly cave the moment the going gets tough.