Toddler years can be a tremendously trying time for parents. It is very important for adults to approach this time with patience and skill so that the child’s tantrums do not get worse. In most cases, childhood tantrums are a result of unmet emotional or physical needs. It is important to know that kids grow up quickly, even though it might not seem that way while you are wiping off crayon art on the walls or removing toys from the toilet bowl. Often, the time when a child is 2 or 3 years old seems to cause a battle of wills between the parents and kids. Toddler temper tantrums are a part of child’s development but, with the right approach, they can be avoided. Here are some ways to manage and prevent toddler temper tantrums.
1. Know the meaning of temper tantrums
When a child throws a temper tantrum, s/he may:
- Run around screaming and crying
- Bang their head or pound their fists
- Kick, bite, scream and cry
- Roll around on the floor
- Hold their breath
2. Know when to worry
Toddler temper tantrums typically begin at the age of 18 months and last until the age of four or five years. During this period, there is gradual waning in frequency, duration and severity of tantrums. If your child’s tantrums keep getting worse, then you may want to seek help from professionals. Speak to a child psychologist or your pediatrician to find out if your child has underlying health issues.
3. There is no one-size-fit-all solution to temper tantrums
Imagine the scenario: Jill, a mom of 2 young kids is standing in the grocery aisle with her elder child, a 5 year old Jim. Jim is throwing a tantrum asking his mom to buy the box of peanut butter cookies. After all; he finds that bright yellow and red packaging so attractive! Now as a bystander, what would your advice to Jill be? Next, try and picture the underlying scenario: Jill’s younger son-3 year old, is severely allergic to tree nuts and has ended up in the hospital several times when he unknowingly ate food containing tree nuts. Top it off with the fact that Jill has not slept much for several nights as the younger child woke her up due to a bad cough and cold. Jill and her husband are both out of work too, so they are strictly sticking to a tight grocery budget. Now what would your advice to Jill be, as far as managing Jim’s temper tantrum is concerned? The bottom line is that the solutions to temper tantrums in toddlers need to be handled differently depending on the case. In this example, the mum might want to pick and choose her battles. She will obviously cave in and buy the cookies. However, she should also set limits and boundaries and help her son understand why she is saying No. Jim might be throwing tantrums owing to feeling unloved since the arrival of the baby brother. Jill and her spouse should assure Jim and tell him they love him, more often.
4. Common causes of toddler tantrums
All toddler temper tantrums have following underlying reasons:
- The child’s needs are not met
- There is a new baby in the house and the child feels jealous due to the attention the baby receives.
- The child is tired or sick
- S/he is over excited or hungry
- The child is unable to manage a task but is unable to express its feelings.
- He/she just wants your attention.
5. Make sure your child is well rested
Toddlers need naps. If your child has not slept and you force him/her to go out with you, then it is a surefire invitation to a tantrum. Make sure he/she gets some quiet time to settle down before taking them outside. Avoid going out when the child is tired or sleepy.
6. Avoid overuse of ‘no’
Toddlers throw tantrums when the parents consistently refuse their demands. It is important to explain to the child why you are saying no. Speak calmly and assure your child that you love him despite saying No to his particular demand.
7. Discuss the solution with your spouse
Inconsistent parenting will lead to confused children and behavioral problems. Make sure you and your partner, grandparents and other caregivers are on the same page when it comes to dealing with child’s temper tantrums.
8. Make activities fun for the child
Tantrums often happen in supermarkets or during family trips. In order to avoid your 2 year old’s tantrums from getting out of control, make these activities more fun for him. Talk to your child and explain why you are shopping or why you have taken the trip. Promise him something he likes such as trip to the park after the shopping errand. Ensure that you stick to your promise.
9. Involve the child in the activity
Children just want our love and attention. Temper tantrums often occur when adults do not let kids participate in the activity at hand. Explain why you are doing what you are doing and then allow your child to help. For example, on a shopping errand, assign your child a task such as picking up the bread or milk and putting it in the cart. Use plenty of praise and rewards when you child does a good job.
10. Watch out for ‘triggers’
Most kids have a definite pattern to throwing a tantrum. An intelligent parent learns to watch out for these patterns and avoid triggers that lead to tantrums. For example, if your kid throws a temper tantrum when sleepy, then make sure he understands the need to nap. Strictly maintain your child’s nap and meal time routines. Avoid activities around these times. Do not offer a choice to your child at this point. For example, instead of saying “Do you want to nap?”, firmly state: ‘It is nap-time!”
11. Help your child understand what it is feeling
Talk to your child with love. Do not get angry. Explain that it hurts you when he throws a tantrum. Kids are very perceptive and they understand. They especially understand the language of love. Help your child express what he is feeling. Be involved and pay attention to your child’s unmet emotional needs. Teach your child to use right words to convey and communicate what he may be feeling.
12. Encourage your child to do the right thing
Speak to your child every day, no matter how busy you may be. Help him understand that you love him even if you are preoccupied with other grownup things (another baby, divorce or work related stress). Your child may be too young to understand what you are going through, but when you speak with love and ask for his help, he will cooperate. Encourage your child’s positive behavior with praise and reward. Follow and encourage your child as he explores. Provide him with opportunities to interact with other kids his age and provide him with toys appropriate for his age.
13. Do not have tantrums of your own
Parents often project their negative energy onto their children. Even if you are tired, stressed or dealing with major life crises, make sure you maintain loving tone and positive body language. Smile when speaking with your child, even if you don’t feel like it. Hug your child and tell him you love him. Watch and praise the child when he behaves the way you want him to.
14. Know what to do during the tantrum
Here is what to do when your toddler is in midst of a tantrum:
- Let it pass-ignore it. If your child is older, around 5 years or over, move closer to him. Firmly ask him to stop what he is doing. Tell him what you want him to do instead.
- Stay calm. Do not raise your voice. Count slowly backwards from 10-1. Breathe slowly and deeply.
- Make sure your child does not break things or hurts himself/others.
- As soon as your child calms down, praise him, hug him and tell him you love him.
- If the tantrum continues, move your child to a safe, uninteresting place for a one-minute time out and explain why you have given him a time out. Ask him to stay quiet for a minute. If he obeys, praise him and move him out of the time out.
15. Know what to do after the tantrum
- Remove what caused your child to have a tantrum
- Give him/her an activity to do-preferably one that is calming like coloring.
- Reward/praise your child for good behavior.
- Ask him/her to express what s/he is feeling.
It is not easy being a parent, especially when your toddler is throwing a tantrum. We hope these easy ways to stop toddler tantrums help a bit. Good luck!