Tantrums: Testing Every Parent’s Patience

Toddlers have many skills but controlling their temper is not one of them. Nearly all toddlers have temper tantrums at some time.   If your child is having tantrums, you are not alone.

Temper tantrums are common between ages 1 and 3 because toddlers are becoming independent and developing their own wants, needs, and ideas. They start to have minds of their own and strong ideas about the way they want things to be. Toddlers begin to do things for themselves and to make their own decisions. During this time you can expect to see some tremendous intellectual and emotional changes in them.

However, toddlers are not yet able to express their wants and feelings with words. Since your child is unable to communicate any other way, tantrums often result when they get angry, upset, stressed and frustrated often because there are many things they want to do but can’t yet. Also, toddlers have a tantrum when they feel tired, hungry, unwell, scared, jealous, insecure, unloved or unwanted.

What you can do to tame your toddler’s tantrums?

If you sense a tantrum is brewing, think quick and act immediately. You need to quickly decide whether to let your child have their way or to confront them before they throw a tantrum. Should you give in or not? Is it worth fighting over? Is it negotiable?

If you decide the tantrum seems to be something small, something that is not worth fighting over and is not negotiable, don’t give in. Be consistent. If you give in easily, your child learns that tantrums work whenever things do not go their way. In other words, they will use tantrums to manipulate you, especially if you are busy.

What should you do once your child starts to whine? Take a deep breath and try not to worry. Your child is not going to hurt themselves or suffer emotional damage from not getting their own way.

Here are 10 ways you can tame your toddler’s tantrums:

  1. Stay calm. Spanking or screaming at your child will only make the tantrum worse. It just communicates that you are out of control too. Set a positive example for your child by remaining calm.
  2. Direct your child’s attention. Try to distract your child with an appealing object or by giving them something else to do. Do something fun. Let them help you cook dinner or do anything that could draw their attention away from a situation that may spark a tantrum.
  3. Consider that your child might be tired or hungry. Make sure your child gets enough sleep and don’t let them get too hungry.
  4. Give them choices. When possible and whenever necessary diffuse a looming tantrum.  Allow your child to make choices. Can they choose their snacks? If your child can’t play with a phone, would they be okay with toys? Can they choose what books to read for bedtime? This helps toddlers feel they have some control over their day and learn decision-making skills.   
  5. Establish schedules and routines and stick to them as much as possible. Tantrums may be less likely if your child knows what to do and expect during the day. Routines allow a child to adjust their behavior without throwing a tantrum and to recognize that certain things occur at about the same time and in roughly the same sequence each day.
  6. Provide challenging yet age-appropriate activities. Provide your child with age-appropriate activities but make sure the skills required should be things your child is capable of doing. Otherwise, they may throw a tantrum out of frustration or just to escape the activity.
  7. Call a time-out. Use time-outs to help your child calm down. Send them to a specific chair to sit for a few minutes or to a room to be away from others. When time-out is over, talk with your child about their behavior. Use this opportunity to teach them how to practice good manners and handle their anger and frustration.
  8. Set expectations. When your child is required to move from one activity to another, it is best to give your child reminders about the upcoming change. For example, give them a 5-minute warning before leaving a friend’s house or tell them it’s bath time after playing outdoors or watching a cartoon.
  9. Be firm but flexible. Make clear to your child what kind of behavior you expect from them but try not to be too strict. Acknowledge their feelings and learning potential and don’t get too hard on them while they are throwing tantrums.
  10. Ignore the behavior. Sometimes, the best strategy to use, if possible, is to completely ignore the tantrum while not allowing your child to get anything they may be seeking or wanting to avoid.

Parents take heed. It is never helpful to punish a child to try to stop a tantrum. Tantrums last only a short time and your child’s emotions are not totally out of control.Take comfort in the fact that most children outgrow tantrums by age 4.

Image by gfergu1 from Pixabay

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