Featured in Infants & Toddlers
Temper tantrums are just like summer storms – they come on suddenly and usually are quite fierce. You could be sitting in a restaurant with your child, enjoying dinner one minute and then the next minute he’s screaming. Don’t fret – temper tantrums are common for children between the ages of one and three years old. Most parents worry that their child is going to become a tyrant, but at this stage your child is not trying to manipulate you, but instead is responding out of frustration.
Methods of Discipline
While temper tantrums are often a phase that many children go through, how parents handle these stressful situations can help or hinder the severity and extent of the phase.
1. Using consistency when dealing with your child having a temper tantrum is paramount. Routine and order can play a role in the frequency of temper tantrums as typically these factors provide children with a safe haven. When children have routine and predictability they usually feel more secure and therefore may be better behaved as they know what to expect.
2. Try to avoid stressful situations with your toddler. As a parent, you will probably know your child well enough to predict what will trigger a reaction is your child. Common triggers include sleepiness, rushing around and hunger. Try to plan your day in advance to avoid these common triggers as much as possible.
3. Try to put yourself in your toddler’s shoes and think like him or her. Most parents forget that toddlers are not mini-adults and they often have trouble understanding things that we take for granted. For us parents, following directions is easy but for toddlers, this can be a source of frustration – especially if they don’t understand what is being asked of them. Try to see the scenario from your toddler’s perspective to ward off a possible tantrum.
4. Give appropriate choices to your toddler. This demonstrates to your toddler that you respect their feelings, as well as giving them some control over situations. It can be as simple as asking if they would like to bring a snack along on a car ride.
5. Your toddler has a short attention span so use it to work for you. Re-direct their attention to something else that is more productive when the signs of a meltdown are beginning. This strategy is often much more useful (and less stressful for all involved) than waiting for the meltdown to occur and punishing the child.
Helping Your Child Cope
The best thing you can do to help your toddler get through a temper tantrum is to stay calm. Losing your cool only makes the situation even more stressful. Remember that when your toddler is in the midst of a tantrum, he cannot reason, listen or respond rationally. If you are yelling or threatening punishment, this will make the situation worse. Most parents find that just staying close to the child and sitting quietly has a positive impact during tantrums; so much so that the severity and length is lessened. Many parents don’t realize that when toddlers are having a tantrum, they are actually frightened by the emotions. By leaving the child alone, the child may feel abandoned or even more scared which makes the situation worse. By you sitting there quietly, you are reassuring the child you are supporting him or her.
Many parents give time-outs to toddlers throwing tantrums. This may work for some toddlers however, for most it is not a best approach. Instead of calling it a time-out, use the quiet time more positively. One idea is to create a “cozy corner” where the toddler can feel safe and free from stimulation. This allows the child allows to chill out for a few minutes until they feel better.