How to deal with temper tantrums?

Help! How do I deal with temper tantrums?

We’ve all been there. You’re in the middle of the supermarket…friend’s house…bus…and your toddler loses it. You feel all the eyes on you and the pressure to be Super-Mum or Dad is overwhelming. But what do you do?

A tantrum is an intense emotional outbreak. The outburst of negative feelings usually presents itself in your child crying, screaming, kicking, hitting, lashing out, angrily ranting, a resistance to attempts at pacification and stubbornness.

But what makes your child turn from a delightful bundle of joy into this writhing ball of fury?

Well, there are many reasons, but firstly, the good news is that this is a developmental stage that WILL come to an end, particularly if you practice some good ways to deal with it.

Children are learning and growing at a rapid rate, they can become overwhelmed and angry but not necessarily understand, or be able to communicate why. Lots of frustration can occur – for example when learning how to do something for the first time.

Secondly, children start to become independent and want to be in control, expressing their personal likes and dislikes. This, of course, is a good thing! However, there are some things that as the parent, you must have control over and you need to help your child to recognise and understand this.

Thirdly, your child may be expressing their frustration simply because they have some basic needs. For example, they’re feeling tired, hungry or thirsty, or they’re in pain, or their nappy needs to be changed, or they need a cuddle and some reassurance

How do I avoid tantrums starting?

Developmental tantrums:

  1. Try to break learning new things into smaller parts so your child can enjoy the feeling of success at each stage – leaving them wanting to try the next.
  2. Describe your child’s feelings to them, for example: cross, frustrated, sad, happy. Then they will know how to describe their emotion to you the next time they feel it.
  3. If your child is unable to verbally communicate yet, use faces to communicate their feelings which they can point to give you more information.

Control tantrums

  1. Give your child choices over things that you are happy for them to have control in. For example: “Which cereal would you like for breakfast?” or “Which pair of shorts would you like to wear?”
  2. Use positive language when speaking to your child. For example ” Yes, when…”  rather than “No, not until… ”

Basic need tantrums:

  1. Avoid running errands which will upset your regular routine of meal or nap times
  2. Try to anticipate your child’s needs according to their regular routine. For example, mentally noting that by noon they’ll be hungry, by 6pm they’ll be getting tired and so on.
  3. Help your child express their needs, “You feel upset because you are hungry. Let’s go and get some food right now!”

How do I deal with tantrums?

  1. Remain calm! Children need you to be calm, so that they can calm themselves down. Take a few deep breaths and wait before deciding on a response. You are their main role model and as scary as it might seem, your actions have a strong influence on your child’s behaviour.
  2. Ask ‘what’s wrong?’ Children need to be heard. Throwing a tantrum is often the only way they know how to express themselves and get an adult’s attention (at this stage).
  3. Take your child seriously by listening to the response they give! Hold your child and give him or her your full attention so he or she has time to explain.
  4. Give clear explanations instead of just saying “no.” Providing a reason for your actions will help your child make sense of things and feel more in control of the situation.
  5. Hold your ground. Be empathetic, but firm when you talk with your child, don’t back down from your decision.
  6. Help your child feel loved no matter what. Sometimes children throw tantrums because they just want some extra love and attention. Withholding love is never a good policy when it comes to disciplining a child. No matter what, your child should know that you love them.