Ok, I know every single one of you parents of toddlers has had to experience the volcanic explosion of an angry child. Tantrums can come from seemingly out of nowhere: their socks are too tight, the oatmeal is too squishy, the TV stopped playing Frozen when it was over.
The good news? You’re all in this together. Tantrums are totally normal, though admittedly super irritating for the parent. The other good news? They don’t last forever. Most kids usually grow out of them by the time they’re around four or five.
Young kids are still learning effective communication skills, and this can be very frustrating for them. By about three years old they are also developing autonomy; they know what they want and do not like being told they can’t have it.
It might seem to make sense to deal with tantrums by using time-outs or threatening them with consequences, but the problem is that these kids are not at all in control of their emotions, so they can’t be expected to be rational.
Imagine the last time YOU were really, really mad and upset. Now imagine your husband or your best friend saying, “Hey, Lisa, if you don’t stop crying and yelling THIS INSTANT I am not going to the movies with you on Friday.” It’s even harder for young children, because their brains are still developing and they don’t yet have the self-control to put the brakes on their outbursts.
So what can you do about tantrums? Here are some of my top tips.
1. Prevent them from happening in the first place
Tantrums usually happen when a child is tired or hungry, so the simplest solution is to try to prevent the tantrums from happening at all. Don’t go grocery shopping at naptime. Don’t go to the furniture store to look at couches at lunchtime. Stick to your child’s sleeping and eating schedule as much as possible to cut down on potential freakouts. And, as you probably already know, always, always carry snacks so you can curb those blood sugar spikes.
2. Stay calm and just ignore it
Sometimes, ignoring the tantrum is actually the best way of dealing with it. If it happens at home, let the child scream and cry. He’ll calm down soon enough. You can try to comfort him, but if he won’t let you near him, just let him be.
If the tantrum happens in public and your child is out of control, take him outside or to the car where he can yell without disturbing others.
3. Ask your child if she has a solution to the problem
This will only work if your child is not in a state of complete hysteria, in which case you will need to ride it out. But sometimes, if a young child is really worked up and angry, you can still start a conversation. If, for instance, your child is furious because you won’t buy her the stuffed penguin in the aquarium gift shop, try asking her what a solution to the problem would be. If she can’t think of anything except “Just buy it for me!” then you can make suggestions, such as, “You could save up your birthday money,” or “Maybe you could ask Santa for the penguin.”
4. Offer distractions
If you can sense a tantrum coming on, distract your child with a funny song or story, or try to get him engaged in another activity. Get him playing with one of his favourite toys or read him a book. Kids are easily distractible, so sometimes just bringing his attention to something else is enough to stop a tantrum before it even starts.
5. Try to get them to articulate their feelings
Ask your child why she is upset. If she says, “Because I want the stuffed penguin!” you can reply, “I see that’s making you feel angry. What else does it make you feel?” Having your child have to consider the actual feelings behind the tantrum could make her pause long enough to calm down. Sometimes we all just need to feel understood.
Try really, really hard not to yell at your child during a tantrum. I know it’s frustrating when they get so upset, but if you get mad too you’re just creating chaos and not helping solve the problem. Just remember that the child is not thinking clearly, and yelling won’t help him snap out of it. Every tantrum ends eventually, so just ride it out. Before you know it your child will be happy and smiling, the stuffed penguin long forgotten.:)
If you are looking for a child-friendly discipline system for children ages 2 – 12; you can check out Kids: The Manual. I’m having a 48-hour ‘Flash Sale’; you can get a copy by clicking the button below.
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