How To Deal With Tantrums
Are you tired and overwhelmed by your little one's meltdowns? Do you feel like your child is making a scene to manipulate you?
Firstly, let us assure you that tantrums are a normal part of every child's development. Some children have them occasionally, some have them daily, but both are ok. We've collected some tips that will hopefully help you when the next bout of rage is upon you!
Tantrums begin when a child is around 2 years old, hence the aptly named "terrible twos"! At this age your child is gaining more independence while still struggling to communicate their feelings, wants and needs.
You'll find that once your child's talking increases, tantrums decrease. You can help your child in growing their vocabulary by reading books about emotions and saying out loud what your child is feeling. "I can see that you're upset about... I can see that you're angry about...".
Most common tantrum triggers
- Hunger and thirst - Avoid leaving the house when your little one is hungry of thirsty. If you're out for a long trip, take snacks and a drink.
- Tiredness - It's worth planning the day around your little one's nap, when possible. Make sure your little one is getting enough sleep as sleep is vitally important for emotional control.
- Your child wants something they can't have - In these situations, don't give in. Instead, offer something that is more appropriate. If the same item is frequently causing tantrums, move it out of sight.
- Feeling ignored - Is your little one throwing themselves on the floor, crying and checking if you're watching? Ignore the tantrum, but give plenty of positive attention later on. They may just be feeling a bit left out.
- Jealousy - If your little one is jealous over a new baby, you can get them involved by letting them choose baby's pyjamas or story.
- Your little one wants something in the shop - This is probably the hardest one to handle. People are watching, your little one is lying on the floor kicking and screaming... Don't give in! If you do, this situation will very likely repeat itself on next trips. By giving in you show your child that they won, the tantrum worked. What to do instead? Put it on a wish list! Create a wish list, so that whenever your little one wants something, it gets added there. You'll be surprised how well it works! You'll also have a gift list ready for the next birthday or Christmas.
What else can you do?
- Toddlers have short attention spans, so distraction when you notice the beginning of a tantrum might help. If your child is stubbornly refusing to walk the way you planned, pretend something interesting is just around the corner!
- It's very important (as well as challenging) to remain calm. One trick to get your toddler to stop screaming is to get down to their eye level and start whispering. They'll see you and will wonder why they can't hear you, so quieten down to try and hear you. If your toddler is in a full blown tantrum, they'll probably neither see, nor hear you. If you're calm, you can try holding your child tightly. Your toddler has lost control over their feelings, which can be frightening for them. While they can't see or hear you, your touch will provide physical contact and reassurance. Avoid shouting, just quietly be there for them.
- If you feel your anger rising, leave the room for a little bit, once you've made sure your child is safe and cannot hurt themselves. You cannot help your little one if you are also losing control of your emotions.
- Help your child work through emotions by letting them run outdoors! Exercise = endorphins. If they're a little bit older, suggest drawing how they feel. Likely by the time they're finished the drawing, the feelings will have subsided. Something that worked in our house was the 'anger rug' where the kids would go and jump when they were angry.
- Don't start monologing or overexplaining - your little one won't hear you. Plus, they don't really care either.
- Give your little one lots of positive attention when they're behaving well. Reinforce that good behaviour comes with unlimited love.
- Make them laugh. This will work early on in a tantrum. If your little one has a tantrum over a nappy, put it on your head. If your little one doesn't want to wear socks, make a little puppet theatre for them. Put the sock on your hand and with a funny voice say "Oh dear, oh dear... What can I do? I have no little feet to look after and keep warm. What can I see here? A foot!?" and pretend to eat your little ones foot. This will likely make them laugh and they'll let you put the sock on!
Picking your battles
While your toddler can be challenging, you don't need to fight them all the time. You'll run yourself down. Child-proof your house to avoid shouting things like "No, don't touch that!" and constantly having to take things out of their hands.
Give them control over the little things. Does your little one prefer to brush their teeth before or after their bath? Do they want a blanket or teddy for bed? Do they want to go on the swing or slide before leaving the playground? This will help them feel in control of their own lives, and by extension, their emotions.
I would like to share a great example from Jo Frost, that solved our problem when our toddler kept doing a runner! While in the pram they would have a tantrum to get out, but as soon as they were out, they would run away. We implemented the simple rule that once we shouted "STOP" and put a hand in the air, they'd have to stop. If they didn't listen, they'd have to walk holding onto the pram for few minutes. Toddlers love freedom, so they'll get the message quick! You can find more great advice from Jo here.
Don't forget to let people help you. Perhaps your partner can take care of your little one for a bit so you can have a nice hot cup of tea or a relaxing bath. Look after yourself as looking after a toddler who turns into a meltdown bomb can be exhausting and overwhelming.
You can also talk to your health visitor or GP if you're worried about your little one's tantrums.
References: NHS, Jo Frost, kidshealth, familylives.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.