In my earlier article, we discussed the Reasons Why Toddlers Throw Tantrums (click here if you’d like to read more on it to better understand how you can deal with it!).
In a nutshell, no matter how trying these tantrums are, remember toddlers never have these tantrums just to ‘annoy’ you. Rather, it’s because your toddler is small and is going through a series of developmental stages and can go through times when he is feeling frustrated. At around the age of two children have an enormous explosion of brain development. With this development comes increased independence and personal preferences.
To touch on a few points on last week’s article; the reasons behind toddler tantrums are as follows:
- Limited vocabulary
- Limited physical abilities
- The need to assert independence
- Feeling lack of control
- Having either too many or too little limits
- Hunger, fatigue, overstimulation and boredom
We know that tantrums are all about simply expressing frustration. Though their demands during these tantrums might seem ‘irrational’, the way we deal with these tantrum are important. We need to teach our children that throwing tantrums is not a means of getting them what they want. The way we deal during these early years will set the tone on how parent-child disagreements will be in the future.
So here goes, these are some of our tips for controlling tantrums:
- Remember that tantrums usually come from a lack of understanding or control.
This is the most important tip of all. Lack of understanding situations, lack of control and limited physical abilities are the primary reasons of toddler tantrums. No matter how frustrating it is for you as a parent to ‘deal’ with these episodes, you need to stay calm and collected and comfort your child. Never resort to tough discipline, loud words or full on melt-downs. It may be tiring but these stages will pass and the calmer you are, the faster he will come out of this phase. Also, don’t forget, you are setting an example on how he should behave, so your response to his frustrations should not be a full-on meltdown.
- Look for triggers, carry plenty of snacks & plenty of water.
Analyze your child’s behavior; look for patterns where your little one starts getting frustrated. Do you think your little one gets more frustrated when he’s close to nap time or is hungry? Make sure you carry snacks around with you and make sure that you have wind down time at the right time so that he doesn’t start getting frustrated. If there are certain things that you can avoid, for example, certain toys and other off-limit items store them away so that it’s less likely to start a tantrum. Same goes for visiting certain places, if you feel you can avoid it, do!
- Try distracting.
Is there a much coveted toy that’ll take his mind of things? Perhaps a soothing song that will calm him a bit? Or a favourite cartoon that’ll help calm him down? Distract him when he’s about to start a tantrum!
- Offer physical comfort.
Your little one is simply frustrated! He’s annoyed that he can’t get something to work like he wants it to or is unable to assert his independence or is unable to verbally communicate his needs. He needs you, his Mother, to hold him and comfort him. Hug it out, maybe rock a bit. If he’s at a stage where he is having a full-on meltdown and is squirming away from you, that’s fine – verbally express that you love him and try your best to soothe and comfort him.
- Ignore the Tantrum
If your little one’s tantrum is not a full on meltdown (and he doesn’t seem to be able to hurt himself), you can chose to ignore it. Remember though, if your little one has many tantrums through the day and is left ignored repeatedly, you may have a ‘straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back’ situation on your hands. And it’s not going to be pretty my friend! So if you do chose to ignore a tantrum, make sure it’s not a series of tantrums through the day.
- Choose your battles.
Choose your battles and you will win the war! Pick which tantrums you’d like to give into and which you absolutely can’t. Last week’s article mentioned this specifically, if there is anything that compromises your little one’s safety, you obviously can’t give in. If however, you can compromise and you think it’s alright – do so.
- Express your own feelings appropriately.
If your little one is very young, he may not fully understand what you are expressing. Nevertheless, explain to your little one as simply as you can that you are hurt or unhappy with the way he is behaving. Explain to him why you’d like him to behave differently. Once again, I can’t stress enough – do not lose your cool! You have to be the example which he will follow.
- Offer some wind-down or quiet time activity.
One of the reasons why your little one is having a tantrum maybe due to him being over stimulated. Let him wind-down. Your little one may look like those energizer bunnies but in reality, they get mentally tired before they physically do.
9. Give Your Kid Incentive to Behave
Giving an incentive for your child to behave is not the same as ‘bribing your child.’ Though it may sound the same, it’s really not. If you know that your child may throw a tantrum, for example if you have to go to the super market or to buy a gift at the toy store, offer an incentive beforehand. So prepare your child before your visit. You can say ‘If you behave properly at the supermarket, I’ll buy you a milkshake on the way home.’ Or ‘If you won’t be naughty at the toy store, you can buy something for less that Rs. 1000.00’. Never offer a bride while a meltdown is in progress, you will just be fuelling it and telling your child that he can get bribed again and again.
As tiring as toddler tantrums are, remember, your little baby is just going through some changes that he is trying to manage (not quite successfully though!). Be the example that he needs and help him through it. Your ability of being calm and managing these tantrums will reflect on how quickly he comes out of them. Rather than turning away from them (ignoring them), or turning against them (getting frustrated with them), we can turn towards them and offer the emotional support to help them work through their challenges.