Temper tantrums are an unfortunate (but unavoidable) aspect of raising children, particularly those aged 1-4. Why? Because children of these ages haven’t yet learned how to manage their emotions.
Children between 1 and 2 tend to have tantrums when they become frustrated by not being able to communicate something they want or need – whether it be more milk, a nappy change or their favourite toy. Kids between 3 and 4, however, are more autonomous. They are aware of what they want and need, and they want to assert this and test the boundaries of what they can have.
Tantrums often come at the worst times – when you’re out in public or enjoying a nice day with friends or family – and for parents, they can be a very stressful experience. Here are 5 tips for defusing temper tantrums – which we’ve learned from years of working in the childcare industry!
Toddlers are creatures of habit, and this can make them quite predictable when it comes to their tantrums. Common tantrum triggers include tiredness, hungriness, teething, feeling sick or reacting badly to certain foods. So, if your little one has missed her/his nap or seems a little under the weather, it might not be the best time to go for lunch with friends or take them grocery shopping. They probably just need a cuddle, a snack and the chance to rest before you go about your outings.
This won’t always be possible, but it can be very effective. While your child is experiencing a tantrum, it’s very unlikely that they will be open to compromise or sensible conversation. Instead, a simple change of scene can be enough to calm them down. If you’re in the grocery store, take them outside. If you’re at the park, take them for a walk or go back to the car. If you’re at home, change rooms or take them outside. It’s not a guaranteed fix, but the change can refresh the situation, provide distractions and break the tantrum cycle. Public tantrums can be embarrassing for parents, but try not to overreact or lash out due to your embarrassment.
As a parent, you need to pick your battles. Listening to your child properly will give you the chance to consider whether saying ‘no’ to whatever they want is really necessary. Allowing your child to have some autonomy – over what they wear, eat, read, watch or play with (etcetera) – can empower them and help to avoid frustration (both yours and theirs).
Remaining calm while your child is working through their emotions is not easy- but it is important. After all, you are your child’s role model for handling emotions and reacting to situations. State your position calmly and if you are finding it hard to stay calm, walk away and give yourself (and your child) some space. Don’t start arguing or yelling – once your child sees that their tantrum isn’t having an effect on you, they will begin to calm down. Try to remind yourself that the tantrum will pass, and remember to hug your child once it’s over.
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