Your child throwing temper tantrums can be frustrating.
Instead of looking at temper tantrums as disasters, treat them as opportunities for education.
Why Do Kids Have Tantrums?
Temper tantrums range from whining and crying to screaming, kicking, hitting, and breath-holding.
They’re common in both boys and girls and often happen between the ages of 1 to 3.
Though temper tantrums may be a frequent occurrence to some kids, to others, it rarely happens.
Temper tantrums are how young children show that they’re upset or frustrated.
They may happen when kids are tired, hungry, or uncomfortable.
Kids can have a meltdown because they can’t get something (like a toy or a parent) to do what they want.
Learning to deal with frustration is a skill that children gain over time.
Tantrums are common during the second year of life when language skills start to develop.
Because toddlers can’t say what they want, feel, or need yet, a frustrating experience may cause a tantrum.
As language skills improve, tantrums often decrease.
Toddlers want independence and control over their environment — more than they can handle.
This can lead to power struggles as a child thinks “I can do it myself” or “I want it, give it to me.” When kids discover that they can’t do it and can’t have everything they want, they may have a tantrum
How Can We Avoid Tantrums?
Here are some ideas that may help:
- Give plenty of positive attention. Get in the habit to catch your child being good. Reward your little one with praise and attention for positive behaviour.
- Try to give toddlers some control over little things. Offer your baby choices such as “Do you want a mango or a watermelon?” or “Do you want to brush your teeth before or after taking a bath?” This way, you aren’t asking “Do you want to brush your teeth now?” — which inevitably will be answered “no.”
- Keep off-limits objects out of sight and out of reach. This makes struggles less likely. However, this isn’t always possible, especially outside of the home where the environment can’t be controlled.
- Distract your child. Take advantage of your little one’s short attention span by offering something else in place of what they can’t have. Start a new activity to replace the frustrating or forbidden one. Or simply change the environment. Take your toddler outside or inside or move to a different room.
- Help kids learn new skills and succeed. Help kids learn to do things. Praise them to help them feel proud of what they can do.
- Consider the request carefully when your child wants something. Is it out of reach? Maybe it is not. Choose your battles.
- Know your child’s limits. If you know your kid is tired, it’s not the best time to go grocery shopping or try to run one more errand.
What Should I Do During a Tantrum?
Be calm when responding to a tantrum.
Don’t complicate the problem with your frustration or anger.
Keep in mind, that your job is helping your child learn to keep their cool.
So you need to be calm too.
Tantrums should be handled differently depending on why your child is upset.
Sometimes, you may need to comfort your child.
If your kid is tired or hungry, it’s time for a nap or a snack.
Other times, it’s best to ignore an outburst or distract your child with an activity.
Attention seeking tantrums should be ignored.
If a tantrum happens after your child is refused something, stay calm and don’t give a lot of explanations for why your child can’t have what he wants.
Move on to another activity with your baby.
If a tantrum happens after your child is told to do something she does not want to do, it’s best to ignore the tantrum.
But make sure that you follow through on having your child complete the task after she is calm.
Kids who are in danger of hurting themselves or others during a tantrum should be taken to a quiet, safe place to calm down.
This also applies to tantrums in public places.
If a safety issue is involved and a toddler repeats the unacceptable behaviour after you tell them to stop, use a time-out.
Preschoolers and older kids are more likely to use tantrums to get their way if they’ve learned that this behaviour works.
For school-age kids, it’s appropriate to send them to their rooms to cool off while paying little attention to the behaviour.
Rather than setting a specific time limit, tell your child to stay in the room until he or she regains control.
This is empowering — kids can affect the outcome by their actions, and thus gain a sense of control that was lost during the tantrum.
Do not reward your child’s tantrum by giving in. This will only prove to your little one that the tantrum was effective.
What Should I Do After a Tantrum?
Praise your child for regaining control; for example, “I like how you cooled off.”
Kids may be vulnerable after a tantrum when they know they’ve been less than adorable.
Now (when your child is calm) is the time for a hug and reassurance that your child is loved, no matter what.
Make sure your child is getting enough sleep.
With insufficient sleep, babies can become hyper, disagreeable, and have extremes in behaviour.
Getting enough sleep can dramatically reduce tantrums.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
Talk to your doctor if:
- You often feel angry or out of control when you respond to tantrums.
- You keep giving in.
- The tantrums cause a lot of bad feelings between you and your child.
- You have questions about what you’re doing or what your child is doing.
- The tantrums become more frequent, intense, or last longer.
- Your child often hurts himself/herself or others.
- Your child seems very disagreeable, argues a lot, and hardly ever cooperates.
Your doctor also can check for any health problems that may add to the tantrums, although this is not common.
Sometimes, hearing or vision problems, a chronic illness, language delays, or a learning disability can make kids more likely to have tantrums.
Remember, tantrums usually are not a cause of concern and mostly stop on their own.
As kids mature, they gain self-control.
They learn to cooperate, communicate, and cope with frustration. Less frustration and more control will mean fewer tantrums — and happier parents.