It’s a scene in which every parent can relate. You’re at the grocery store and all of a sudden your adorable little angel breaks out into a tantrum that would give Satan a run for his money. Temper tantrums may be difficult to deal with but unfortunately they are a fact of life for young children. The important thing to remember is that temper tantrums are a part of growth. Small children do not have the communication skills necessary to express how they are feeling or what they are thinking and that usually results in frustration on their end. For older children, tantrums may come from simply being told no. No one likes hearing the word “no” and it’s especially worse when you are a child that is testing their limits. Setting boundaries is an important part of effective parenting and unfortunately those boundaries won’t always be met with enthusiasm.
So now that we understand the why, the big question is how can I help my child calm down? Thankfully there are several ways to help your child stop screaming just in time to save your sanity.
Relax: The first thing to remember is to remain calm. A child in the middle of a tantrum can easily test the patience of even a saint. Daily tantrums with kicking, stomping, and screaming are not uncommon and they don’t usually end too quickly either. However, with that said, I can promise you that your ability to remain calm and in control during a tantrum will affect the severity and length of that tantrum. Negative emotions and tension will only make the situation worse. Do whatever you can to try to remain cool and collected. Count to ten, do deep breathing exercises, or even walk away for a few moments as long as your child is in a safe environment. I did not say it would be easy but remaining calm will encourage your child to share their thoughts more openly (in whichever way they can) and will give them a great example of an appropriate response to the situation.
Know Limits: The best way to handle a temper is to try to avoid them altogether. Knowing your child’s limits when it comes to things like hunger, sleep, and boredom will make a huge difference. Avoid doing things like scheduling play dates during naptimes, doctor’s appointments at lunch, or expecting your toddler to sit still for extended periods of time. While some children may be ok doing these things, changes in daily routines are likely to cause a tantrum for many toddlers.
Give Options: For anyone that’s ever tried to reason with a toddler, they will know that it is about as effective as putting a t-shirt on an octopus. In other words, it probably won’t work. Instead of trying to reason with them divert their attention to other positive options. Children at this age want to assert their independence. Help them feel that they have control over their choices by giving them some. For example, if their tantrum is because they want to go to the park, instead offer them another activity that they enjoy such as assembling a puzzle or playing with playdoh. This strategy may not work all the time but it can be quite effective once you get the hang of it. Helping them feel in control is a great way to diffuse the situation.
Stand Your Ground: Tantrums may be tiring but it is important to stand your ground. Consistency is key with this one. If you don’t allow treats before dinner, do not allow them just to avoid or calm down a tantrum. Never bend the rules just to calm a tantrum or your child will begin to learn that they get what they want if they throw a tantrum. If you are consistent from a young age, they will be less likely to challenge household rules as they get older. Rules help them to understand what behavior is expected of them. Don’t be afraid to set limits but be consistent in enforcing them.
Show Love: One of the most important things to remember is to show your child unconditional love. It is important for children to know that they have a safe comfortable environment in which to express their emotions, regardless if they are good or bad. One of the most powerful things we can do for someone is to accept them and love them for who they are. Give hugs, kisses, and tell them that you love them no matter what.
While temper tantrums may be an aggravating part of growing up, they are a sign that your child is growing and maturing. Think of tantrums as an opportunity to teach your child the proper way to react during a difficult situation. A skill that will most likely be invaluable to them throughout the span of their life.