Temper tantrums are the nightmare of parents (and expecting parents) everywhere. Just hearing the word can give you chills, and you may even start to imagine the shrieks and screams in your head. Although temper tantrums are absolutely stressful and unfortunately inevitable, when you are prepared, they can be manageable.
When it comes to dealing with toddler tantrums, it’s all about being prepared and staying calm in the face of a meltdown. Use these tactics and tips to make sure that you are equipped to handle the next time your toddler has an episode.
Try to Understand Their Point of View
You can’t figure out how to calm down a toddler without first thinking like a toddler. The first thing you need to understand is that when a toddler throws a tantrum, they are not intentionally trying to make you look like a bad parent at the grocery store or get on your nerves.
Toddlers and children have developing brains and are not yet fully in control of or able to process their emotions. They are so young and new to the world that every minor inconvenience feels like the most tragic event in their lifetime.
Young children are also limited by their vocabulary and may not be able to effectively express their wants or needs. This can be incredibly frustrating for them and confusing for you. To avoid this, try using yes or no questions. Ask your child questions that they can easily understand and answer with a simple yes or no. If this still doesn’t work, try asking your child to point to what it is they want. It isn’t exactly foolproof, but it might open up an avenue of communication that words cannot yet provide for them.
Young children can get overwhelmed by challenging tasks such as tying shoes alone or overstimulation by things like crowded or noisy places, and they don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. They may respond by shutting down, getting over-emotional, or panicking.
By taking the time to try to see things from their point of view, you can gain a little perspective and patience when they start to melt down.
Preventing Temper Tantrums
A big factor in avoiding temper tantrums is understanding two of the main triggers: hunger and tiredness. When your child is hungry or tired, they are already on edge. This makes the likelihood of a tantrum in light of an inconvenience much more likely.
Have some snacks on you at all times in case of the former, and if possible, offer up some rest and relaxation in case of the latter. Stick to regular routines such as nap times whenever you can.
The best methods to preventing tantrums start well before the tantrums even begin.
It all starts with modeling proper ways to handle anger and frustration. Whenever your child handles their anger appropriately, make sure to point it out and praise it. When you get frustrated, handle it like an adult should and demonstrate that overreacting gets you nowhere. If you do end up overreacting, explain to your child why it was wrong and apologize for it.
It’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s important that your child understands that too.
Don’t Give In
Another likely cause of tantrums stems from you drawing a line and your child not reacting positively to it.
Tantrums are a trying test of your parenting. Although it’s stressful, each tantrum is a crucial moment in your child’s development. Your child is young and still learning how to interact with you and the world around them.
Every day is a new learning opportunity, and children are constantly learning causes and effects for their actions. When they throw a tantrum, it tests your authority and the rules that you have put in place.
It is undoubtedly uncomfortable and embarrassing when your child is having a tantrum in public, but you need to endure. If you give in and give your child what they want after you clearly stated that they cannot have it, they begin to learn that throwing a tantrum will give them what they want. This learned behavior is incredibly hard to reverse, and it can follow them throughout their entire lives.
Of course, it’s important to pick your battles. For example, if your child has a tantrum in the middle of a ceremony like a wedding, you may be better off biting the bullet and giving in (within reason). However, later you should gently pull your child to the side and calmly yet firmly explain that their behavior will not be tolerated in the future.
Dealing with a child’s temper tantrum may make you want to throw a tantrum yourself. But, that’s obviously not how to handle a temper tantrum in public.
You have to remember that you are the adult in this situation and although it may be tempting to do some screaming of your own, you need to stay calm.
The best way to do this is to refuse to match their volume level. You yelling at them is only going to make for a bigger scene and possibly frighten your already-frustrated child. Instead, combat their yelling by using a soft and low voice. Calmly yet firmly ask them why they are so upset. Then, explain to them how you can help them with the problem or why they cannot have what they want. It may take a while to calm them down, but eventually, the anger should subdue.
Flee the Scene
If you’re in public and it’s possible, sometimes it’s best to leave in the event of a tantrum. Not only is this more considerate to the people around you, but it’s also shown to be helpful to your child.
A change of scenery can help them to calm down and process their emotions better, and it might even offer up some distractions so that they forget about what was causing them to be upset.
This obviously might not be possible in a situation such as a flight, but if at all possible, it’s best to remove your child from the situation to a new location where both of you can calm down.
Give Them Space
If the tantrum happens at home, the best thing you can do is give your child some space. So long as they are not hurting themselves or others, it’s perfectly okay to go to the other room for a bit while they cry it out.
They need time and space to process their emotions, and when you give it to them, they can be capable of working out their problems independently.
This also gives you the opportunity to show your child that you won’t be attentive to this type of behavior. They will soon learn that if they want to get you to help them out or get your attention, they will have to use other methods to do so.
Distract Them or Use Incentives
When a child is throwing a tantrum, it’s usually because they have their attention focused on something currently unattainable. They can’t focus on the bigger picture.
Don’t distract them by giving them what they want, but use other methods of distraction or incentives to get them to calm down.
Maybe they want a toy from the store. Tell them, for example, that although they cannot have the toy, if they are good for the rest of the day they can have ice cream after dinner.
This teaches them that good behavior gets rewarded while still not giving in to their original demands.
For more tips on the proper way to “bribe” your child, read this article from Parents magazine.
Use Positive Discipline
Obviously, your child will need to learn that temper tantrums should not be a regular thing and that they won’t be able to continue this behavior forever. You will need to discipline your child for this behavior, but it’s important that you do so in a positive matter.
Focus just as much on controlling yourself as you do on controlling your child. Give attention to the behavior that you like, and ignore the behavior that is bad. At the end of the day, a child just wants the love and attention of their parents.
It’s also a good tactic to use the “energy/time drain” to your advantage. Tell your child something like “This is taking up too much of our time, so I don’t think we’ll be able to go to the park today.” This puts the “power” in the hands of your child, and they will learn that they are responsible for their actions.
There is no way around it — temper tantrums aren’t fun for children or for parents. Each and every parent is going to deal with temper tantrums at some point in their child’s life, but if you stay calm and focus on these tactics, the tantrum will blow over before you know it.
Don’t give in to the old, outdated methods of yelling at your kids or spanking them to get them to stop! For more parenting advice you can ditch, read our blog on the 10 Pieces of Outdated Parenting Advice That You Can Ignore!