Toddlers are little creatures that are filled with BIG emotions. Between the ages of 1-4, they have trouble managing these emotions and expressing themselves. They’re still developing their language, social, and emotional skills.
They might cry, scream, flail their limbs, throw themselves on the ground, hit, break things, vomit, and more. Meltdowns happen with every toddler, regardless of special conditions, and it can be hard not to get frustrated yourself.
So let’s discuss some ways you can deal with toddler tantrums.
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Between the ages of 1-2, tantrums mainly happen because of a need to communicate. They may be trying to express to you that they’re hungry, they want milk, they want to play with their plush toys, or similar. When we can’t understand and respond appropriately, it can be overwhelmingly frustrating.
When children have language delays, tantrums can become intense. At the ages of 3-4, the cause of tantrums tends to shift into power struggles. They now have a vocabulary, and they use it to get what they want.
Toddlers also have a growing need for independence, and they can become frustrated when something they’re trying to do isn’t working, and they need help. Remember that tantrums are a normal part of a child’s development and not a sign of bad parenting. With our help, tantrums help kids learn to manage their emotions.
Every child reacts differently during tantrums, and this is true even with siblings. So the answer to how you should deal with tantrums will take trial and error. And, even when you think you’ve found the perfect method that works for your child, you’re suddenly thrown for a loop because your child is constantly growing, changing, and moving into new phases of their life.
You may feel that the days of tantrums will never end, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Here are some tried and true methods that are worth trying throughout your child’s toddler days.
Learning your child’s triggers can be key to preventing tantrums. For example, some children are susceptible to becoming ‘hangry’, where their frustration can be easily activated when they haven’t eaten recently. Keeping healthy snacks handy is an easy way to ensure they don’t get too hungry while you’re out and about.
Other triggers might include advanced toys that aren’t recommended for their age group, loud and overwhelming places like fairs, or older kids that have a tendency to be unfair. Whatever triggers you have learned so far, do your best to avoid those situations.
Our first inclination may be to raise our voices and match their energy, but it’s important to keep our emotions in check so as not to escalate the situation. When a tantrum starts happening, take a deep breath and do your best to remain calm.
We want to show our children the model of behavior, which is how we want them to act in emotional situations. However, even the most calm and collected parents can lose their cool in the midst of a frustrating tantrum.
In that case, calm yourself and start over. Let your child know you’re sorry for yelling and that everyone makes mistakes. Just try to correct your own behavior as quickly as possible.
Simply hugging your child can be very beneficial during a tantrum. Let them know you acknowledge their feelings and that it’s OK to be angry. Practicing deep breathing is also a method that can help calm your child down.
It’s common for kids to hit during tantrums. They may hit a sibling or playmate when they don’t want to share. They may hit you when you don’t give them what they want. Children can also turn to biting, kicking, scratching, shoving, and throwing things at other people.
It is recommended to stop this behavior immediately by removing them from the situation. Unfortunately, that might mean cutting the trip to the park short or taking a break from a long-planned family outing. Be sure to let them know that being angry is OK, but hurting other people is not.
In cases where children are throwing a tantrum because they can’t do something on their own, sometimes it’s best to let them work it out.
For example, if the child is trying to put two pieces of a puzzle together or open the latch on a toy, and they start crying and yelling, just let it happen. You can ask them if they need help, and if they want it, help them. But if they don’t acknowledge you and keep fussing at their problem, just let it play out. They may eventually solve their problem on their own or ask for help.
While we want to set boundaries and rules for our children, it’s OK to sometimes bend and break those rules for your own sanity. For example, if they are only allowed to have one dessert a day, and they are throwing a fit at a birthday party for more treats, it might be best for you, the party guests and your child to give in a little.
However, be very careful how often you use this method, as you could reinforce the tantrum behavior.
And it’s also important to explain WHY you’re allowing them to bend the rules just a bit this time so that they won’t think this is an allowance you will always make.
For example, using the birthday party example, you can explain that since you’re at a birthday party and it’s something that you only do every once in a while, you’re allowing them to have an extra treat. You can also negotiate by explaining that if they drink another cup of water, you will let them have another treat.
The power of distraction can be a very powerful tool for parents. Offer another fun activity like coloring, reading kids’ story books, playing bubbles or playdough, or anything that will take their minds off the current frustrating situation. If you want to show them something as a distraction, be sure to hype up how cool and interesting it is!
Changing activities can be hard for children. It’s a good idea to give them a five or ten-minute warning, or even two warnings, before switching gears. You may also want to set a timer on your phone so they can hear the alarm when it’s time to go.
Remember not to take tantrums personally. Children may say hurtful things to their parents, but it’s simply a response to their own frustrations. The tantrum period in a child’s life is relatively short-lived, and you’ll both get through it before you know it!