How to deal with toddler tantrums
Your toddler has just taken exception to a life choice you’ve made for them and is now thrashing around face down on the floor screaming like a banshee.
Toddler tantrums can throw even the most confident parent off their game. Few things will fill us with more pride than when our little ones are a shrieking, stomping defiant mess in a supermarket aisle having an epic meltdown. In fact, nothing makes our day more than having a dozen disapproving eyes on us while we try to diffuse our toddling time bomb.
Believe it or not, tantrums are a normal part of childhood and you most certainly don’t have an extraordinary situation at your hands. In other words, it’s not a reflection on your parenting.
Why toddler tantrums occur?
Toddler tantrums are basically a small person who can’t yet express themselves saying they’re tired, hungry, anxious or, more often than not, furious that you won’t let them play with your mobile phone. Or any other precious item they may flush down the toilet or give to the family Great Dane.
Children often express their anger and frustration by screaming, crying, throwing items, falling to the floor, hitting and kicking. 90% of children between the ages of one and four will have occasional temper tantrums.
They’re frustrated because we adults are clearly unable to understand their needs. And that is how they see it. In their tiny, developing way, they’re expressing themselves perfectly articulately. Yet here’s this lump of a parent shrugging and shouting words that don’t sound a bit like ‘butterfly’ or ‘cat’.
This is the first thing we have to understand. We’re frustrated and stressed because we don’t know what their problem is. And they’re frustrated and stressed because we just don’t understand.
So let’s take a few deep breaths and a big step back from the frustrated parental outbursts and see how to cope with toddler tantrums in more proactive ways.
How to deal with toddler tantrums?
It’s fairly simply in theory, a little more difficult in practice, but here are our top tips for toddler tantrums:
- Don’t shout or scream back. Don’t smack, scold or react in an equally frantic manner. And don’t tell your child they’re bad. So that’s the things not to do even if every frustrated fibre in your body is screaming at you to be annoyed, disappointed, angry and upset.
- Here’s what to do: take deep breaths and ask them quietly what’s wrong. If you know what’s wrong – you didn’t give them the candy from the fridge, you wouldn’t let them play with your phone – don’t placate them by giving them what they want.
- Distract them away from the tantrum – be it “What’s that up there?” or “Where’s Teddy?” – and reward them with a hug or special treat only once they’re being calm and good again.
It’s pretty much that simple, or hard. But it does work. Reinforce bad behaviour by giving your kids what they want to shut them up and they’ll still be having tantrums when they are older. Only reward them for good behaviour and they’ll soon work it out for themselves – tantrums are a bit of a waste of energy.
Looking for ways to keep your toddler busy before he or she goes to bed? Read our blog on 5 Teaching Activities for Children.
How to stop toddler tantrums before they start?
That’s what we’d all love to do; to be able to see the warning signs and stop a ‘situation’ before it starts. And we can.
We tend to jump on bad behaviour because we have to. But what if we jump on good behaviour with equal vigour? Any good behaviour praised is a behaviour your child will want to repeat.
Don’t leave all the forbidden stuff within reach – mobile phones, glasses, remote controls – or be ready for the tantrum when you take it off them. If you get in good habits, you’re inviting them to develop less bad ones.
Oh, and don’t decide you’re going to go to the supermarket exactly when your child is due for a sleep. A tired toddler in a supermarket is a trolley-full of trouble.