You’re at the end of your rope. It seems like the crying never stops. The tantrums begin with a powerful, “NO!” and end with tears and embarrassing, frustrating exits from social events and public places.
You know that giving in and just giving your toddler want might pacify them, but you also know it’s the exact wrong thing to do. So what you should do in this situation?
When it comes to toddlers and their behaviour, it seems like every parent is an expert on the subject. All you need do to receive a barrage of unsolicited advice is to mention your child’s latest outburst while in the company of similarly challenged, understanding parents.
Ideally, along with the wealth of suggestions you may receive, you’ll at least be the recipient of some knowing sympathy. It’s a far nicer contrast to the unpleasant looks and comments you may be subject to in public with your child while they’re acting out.
Unfortunately, that kindly, well-intentioned parental advice may not be very useful.
Parenting is an incredibly stressful, challenging job.
It’s understandable to look for outside help when it feels like your child is melting down on a regular basis. There are a few things that need to be emphasized before proceeding:
- Temper tantrums are a normal part of child development.
- Your child’s temper tantrums do not mean you are a bad parent.
- There are successful ways of addressing acting out.
- What works for one child may not work for another.
While I believe all four points are extremely important, I can’t emphasize the fourth point enough. As you read through this guide, understand that the suggestions you find in here may not suit your particular child and their needs. It is hoped that you will find suggestions that, when tried, work to help calm those periodic bouts of upset.
The approach we’ll be taking in this guide will be to focus on veer away from the scattershot methodology of crowd sourcing parental wisdom and focus on the science of child development. The sources for the suggestions found here will be trusted, authoritative sources.
Within this guide, we’ll explore the reasons why your toddler is acting out, ways of mitigating that behaviour, how to properly incorporate discipline. So let’s begin by getting to the heart of the issue by discussing why your toddler is acting out.
Why is My Child Having Temper Tantrums?
The play session seems to be going well. Your child is being friendly with other children, though still playing off by themselves. Perhaps they’re even sharing. You’ve made it clear that you need to leave and tried setting expectations, but when it comes time to leave your toddler is starting to say no and cry.
Why is this happening?
As previously mentioned, temper tantrums are a normal part of growing up. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, temper tantrums begin at the around the ages of 12 to 18 months. These increase in intensity around ages 2 and 3 – parents know these ages as the “terrible twos” and, increasingly, the “terrible threes” – and are reduced after age 4. Bear in mind that they may not go away entirely at this age!
Though tantrums are normal and manageable, it’s important to be cautious about them as well. There are cases in which you need to have your child work directly with a professional. The American Academy of Paediatrics suggests you should refer to a paediatrician or family physician in the event tantrums get worse after 4, if they hold their breath frequently, hurt themselves or others, destroy property, suffer from stomach aches, nightmares, and headaches, and regresses into earlier childhood behaviours.
In fact, if you have any concerns at all regarding the intensity or the symptoms of tantrums, it’s a good policy to consult a paediatrician.
Children with special needs and developmental delays may require further adjustment to the means and approach to discipline. Work with a paediatrician in this scenario as well.
For less extreme tantrum situations, emotional outbursts are a natural result of communication limitations. Your child’s ability to communicate at this age is very limited and they’ve become frustrated.
When they can’t make themselves understood or when they can’t emotionally accept the boundaries you have set, they respond in a way that they know will have your attention. It’s an easy way to make their triggered anger known, and, perhaps, get the results they want.
There are other factors that come into play. Just like you, toddler’s moods are impacted by their physical and emotional thresholds.
Being overly tired, hungry, or thirsty can all more result in more severe tantrums, as can having already reached a certain level of frustration from a previous denial of the child’s wants.
Speaking of hunger, if a child is older, able to communicate, and is possibly bored, you should find out if they are genuinely hungry or just bored. Like adults, sometimes children want to eat because they’re bored. If they’re hungry, definitely feed them. If not, a little redirection with an engaging activity might be all they need.
What a toddler wants may be unreasonable or simply directly oppositional to the boundaries being set. These emotional upsets can be triggered by extremely unreasonable demands, like wanting to run into the street or hit others.
In those instances, it is natural that a parent or caregiver will need to physically intervene by holding onto the toddler and not giving them the ability to put themselves or others in danger.
Some of the things adults can do to deal with these naturally-occurring tantrums are to prevent the meltdown from ever occurring and by trying to work through the communication limitations. We’ll also discuss how to deal with a tantrum as it’s occurring.
One thing to definitely keep in mind at all times: you are the adult. Naturally, these situations can be extremely stressful and result in upset for the parent as well. You love your child and want the best for them.
If you maintain a calm, adult attitude when your child is throwing a temper tantrum, you are going to keep far better control than you would if you show them you’re angry as well.
Symptoms of Toddler Tantrums
Most of the time, toddler temper tantrums last for only 30 seconds to 3 minutes and are most intense during the first 20 to 30 seconds. When a child is angry, he or she may throw tantrum doing the following things:
- Scream, shout and cry loudly.
- Wave the arms.
- Arch the back or harm the body.
- Roll on the floor.
Toddler temper tantrums mostly have the tendency to occur when a kid is afraid, overtired or somehow uncomfortable in the current situation. The tactic of holding breath is part of an angry child’s tantrums.
Holding-breath spells are not done intentionally. These are mostly involuntary reflex actions, that is, children do not have any control over these actions. Even though it may look terrifying for parents seeing their children in trouble, breath-holding spells are not that harmful and pose no severe health risks to your child.
Typically, this kind of spells last for a minute or so until your child is about to faint. When they regain consciousness they start to breathe normally and are usually ashamed of their actions.
The spells of holding breath can take place in healthy toddlers between the ages of 6 months to 4 years. The spells differ by cause and features:
- Cyanotic breath-holding spell
This occurs when kids stop breathing and their face turns blue. This kind of spells often occurs when children become upset, such as when they are being overly disciplined, or when they are forcefully made to do something which they do not want to do.
Parents who have experienced this situation know exactly when the next attack is going to happen in the future. The face of the child slowly and gradually turns from light blue to almost purple just before they faint.
- Pallid breath-holding spells
The pallid spells are less commonly seen in kids. These are more unpredictable as they take place when a kid gets suddenly fright and startle with fear, just like being surprised from his or her behind.
Unlike the previous spells, the face of a kid having pallid breath-holding spells become very pale, almost white-looking during the attack.
Both kinds of spells cause children to stop breathing and hence they lose their consciousness for almost a minute. If the worst case scenario, children start to have seizures.
Experiencing seizures does not normally cause any long-term damage or put a toddler at risk of developing a seizure every time he or she gets scared.
If your toddler experiences breath-holding spell, such as stops breathing, turns white, purple, or blue in the face, and knocks out for some time, stay calm and:
- Check your kid’s mouth for any food or another object that can cause a choking hazard when your child returns to consciousness.
- Roll and lay your toddler over onto one of his or her side.
- Remove all things or furniture within the vicinity of your child’s reach and clear the area.
- If your kid does not resume breathing, start performing CPR and take him or her to an emergency.
Extreme behaviors of children that often last for longer than 20 minutes, take place more than 2 times in a day, or is more aggressive can indicate that your child is suffering from emotional, medical, or social problems that need immediate attention and be solved. These tantrums are not considered normal.
Extreme behaviors include the following:
- Throwing or breaking objects.
- Head-banging or causing self-injury.
- Kicking, biting, hitting, hair-pulling, scratching, pinching or punching other people.
Required Tests and Exams
Consult a professional and talk in details to your doctor about your child’s unusual extreme behaviors and temper tantrums. A doctor can assess your kid’s behavior based on the following:
- The way you describe the situations. It may be useful to keep a written record of the child’s temper tantrums for at least a week before visiting your doctor.
- Doctor will physically examine your child and will also consider any possible medical history. While examining your kid, the doctor will ask your child several questions to find out whether the extreme behaviors and temper tantrums are just part of growing up and hormonal development, or there is any medical issue or other behaviors responsible for triggering the reactions.
In order to eliminate other emotional or behavioral issues as the root cause of the tantrums, the doctor may ask you and your spouse to fill out a behavioral assessment questionnaire. Sometimes the child’s school teacher and caretakers are also examined thoroughly.
Preteens and teens may be required to fill out a questionnaire about their viewpoint of their own attitudes. The doctor can also examine the completed questionnaires to find out whether the child requires medical help and whether the parents and the people around the child need assistance dealing with the kid’s attitudes.
If a doctor suspects that your kid’s temper tantrums are an indication of another disorder, the doctor may order tests to see if there is any other illness or condition, such as seizures, learning problems, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Techniques for Preventing a Meltdown
If a great deal of your child’s upset is a result of an inability to communicate, it stands to reason that bridging the communications gap should be a priority, if possible. It’s true that communication won’t guarantee that tantrums will end entirely.
However, it might help to defuse some problems and reduce your child’s frustration. The following are some tips to developing those communication skills.
1 – Language Development
From two years old and up, your child probably understands far more than they can say! They may have around fifty or more words.
However, they may have difficulty using those words and it’s far from certain that they can be understood outside of the family. This can be difficult and frustrating for your child.
Normally and over time, your toddler is going to develop their language skills just be listening and practicing.
It may not seem like it, but little ones are constantly soaking up everything they hear and observe. At two, they’re learning the basics of a story and are picking up some of what they’re being read in books.
Don’t be surprised and alarmed if there’s some delay. Children learn at a different pace. Girls may start earlier than boys, but it’s not a definitive rule, so don’t count on it.
If your child is having language comprehension or speech difficulties, be sure to have them examined for a physical exam and a hearing test.
Early intervention is an important means of overcoming speech delays. Check with your local community to see if there are speech resources available for your child, if it’s needed.
2 – Baby Sign Language
One method for meeting your toddler’s communication needs is to take up the practice of “baby sign language.” This is particularly useful for children who aren’t two or who are struggling with speech delay. The American Academy of Paediatricians approves of this approach as a means of “breaking the language barrier” and notes that it “really does deliver on its promise of improved communication.”
While a baby from ages 6 or 7 months of age can begin to learn sign, they may not be able to use them until 8 or 9 months at about the age babies begin to understand what they want. They may also begin to really use the signs between ages 18 to 24 months- right at the time parents will most want to be able to communicate with their children.
While a child can learn the letters of the alphabet, at this age you will want to focus most strongly on basic concepts. A list of phrases suggested by the APP include airplane, baby, ball, bird, blanket, book, cat, cup, cold, daddy, diaper, dog, done, drink, eat, go, good night, happy, help, hot, hurt, I love you, milk, mommy, more, nap, no, outside, please, sit, sleep, star, thank you, up, water.
Expect that teaching and learning these phrases will take time! There should be no rush.
Teaching and learning signs can be a creative, fun way of interacting with your child. The results will be much appreciated when your toddler is able to make it known to you that they’re hungry, thirsty, tired, or need to be changed.
While learning and teaching these simple signs, it’s essential to continue to work on helping your child develop speech. Baby sign is meant to assist, not replace vocal practice for hearing children.
When your toddler has learned some of these words, it’s important to share the signs with other regular caregivers. If your little one expects their sign to work with you, they’ll certainly have the same expectation from others and could be very upset if they’re unable to make themselves understood!
3 – Discussing Moods
our child’s moods may change rapidly. That’s natural. But one thing that can help is to identify negative moods, show empathy, and discuss what sadness is with your toddler.
For example, if your toddler is sad that they didn’t get invited to a party, you might say to them, “I bet you were sad not to be invited to the party.” Let them know that you know how they feel and give word to that emotion. Talk through the issue with your child and see if there is something you can do to make them feel less sad.
If your child is anger, don’t tell them not to be angry. Suppressing emotions isn’t natural or helpful. Instead, identify the anger and manage it, in particular if the child is behaving badly.
You may say, for instance, “I understand you are angry about not being able to go to the playground. You can feel angry, that’s okay. You can’t scream.”
There are ways of helping to let go of anger; exercises, calming music, and disengaging from the situation that caused the anger can be big helps in returning to a neutral mood.
It may well be that your own moods and behaviour are impacting your child. It stands to reason; we all affect one another with our moods and attitudes, and it can’t be helped to some extent.
If you are suffering from depression, consider consulting a professional if it is a persistent, recurring problem for you.
The Role of Parents
Managing the temper of young children can be a big challenge. Sometimes parents win by keeping their cool, other times the kids claims the victory by creating chaos. Whether you are dealing with regular outbursts or handling occasional temper flare-ups, keeping yourself under control when the situation gets heated up will teach the children to walk in your footsteps.
Try to be your child’s friend in order to help him or she tame the temper. This is essential to enable your child claim triumph over his or her anger that leads to problems in the first place.
You need your patience the most during the episodes of your child’s constant talk back, disobedience and argument, even though you may burst with anger yourself. It is completely natural to become furious at these moments, but what matters the most is how you handle the situation.
If you yell and shout at your children pouring your own outbursts over them at their meltdowns will only encourage them to do the same thing and will further enhance our child’s negative behaviors. By calmly handling a frustrating moment and by keeping your cool will teach your child proper ways to deal with anger and emotional turnovers.
Suppose, you hear your children screaming and fighting over a toy in their room. You may tend to ignore it hoping they will solve the matter themselves.
However, some time later you hear that the arguing turns into door slamming, screaming, smack of hitting and crying. Without being able to restrain yourself, you decide to get yourself involved before someone gets seriously hurt.
By the time you reach the crime scene, the climax already gets over. But the noise of screaming and constant bickering seems very upsetting and you may become furious wondering why are the children not share their things or try to get along.
Your frustration becomes elevated thinking that the very toy over which the siblings are fighting today will eventually be ignored or broken or be lost somewhere.
Then what is the whole point of this fight?
As parents, then you might be wondering what is the best way to react? Maintaining your own self-control, the most powerful tool against the temper tantrums of your toddlers is by guiding your kids with examples.
You need to speak clearly, firmly and calmly. Remember, things will go out of your hand if you speak with threats, harsh criticisms, put-downs, blame, and anger.
Obviously, all these may seem superficial, but you need to keep in mind that you are trying to teach your young children how to manage their anger issues. If you threaten or shout, you will rather drill in the exact kind of attitude in your children which you want to dismay.
Your children are your reflections. Whatever you do, they will do the same. They will learn to scream and create tantrums if they see you loose control over yourself and behave violently.
What Actions Can You Take?
Managing behaviors and regulating emotions are skills that develop in people gradually during childhood over time. Just like any other lessons or skills, your children need your help to acquire this knowledge and act on it.
If your child is not likely to make any tantrum but suddenly did one day, then you should calmly and clearly explain the rules again.
In order to regain composure, all your child may need to hear is “I am listening to you, but first stop screaming and name-calling please”and then instruct them saying “please say sorry to your sister for your behavior and tell me why are you upset”. Thus, you are bringing your children back in their track and establish self-discipline.
As parents, you also need to clearly tell your kids about the consequences if he or she does not stop screaming. For instance, you can say that if they do not calm down then they will need to go to their rooms and stay there until they are in normal state.
Some children outburst with a temper at a regular pattern due to lack of self-control. For this, they are unable to manage their anger and frustration well and need their parents’ help to cope with difficult feelings. Below are given some steps which can help your child deal with emotional ups and downs:
- Assist your child to express their feelings in words
When your child is experiencing temper outburst. Try to find the main cause of their reactions. If needed, give them a time-out until they calm down and firmly remind them about the expectations nd rules of the house like they cannot throw things or shout, they need to stop those immediately and stay cool.
Tell them to explain their problems without whining, screaming, crying or creating any scene. Once the kids become composed, ask them what is bothering them or what they are upset about.
This will help your kids figure out their complex emotions and put them in words if anything is required to be done to solve the issue. However, you should not force them to talk at that instance since they may need some time to think over.
- Listen carefully and act accordingly
Once the kids explain their feelings and problems in words, it is now our responsibility to listen to them carefully and assure them saying that you understand and you are there for them. Sometimes your child may become so baffled that he or she may not be able to it in right words.
In that case, you can offer some to help them, like “this must have felt bad”, “so that is the reason”, or “that’s why everything seems so annoying”. If there is any conflict to be restored, issue to be solved, or sorry to be said, offer your child assistance to solve the matter.
Often, kids only need your attention and just hearing them out solves the problem in a jiffy. However, while listening to your child, you must make it clear that whatever the problem is, it can be solved but under no circumstance bad behavior is allowed.
At the end of the discussion, offer your kid solution to try in solving the problem or just dealing with the strong emotions in the future. Many times kids only need to be heard.
- Make clear rules and maintain them
Discuss with your kids about the rules and regulations of the house regularly so that they know your expectations of them. Clearly, state about the Do's and Don'ts without implying any threats, put-downs or accusations.
If you make simple, clear and precise statements about what’s not allowed and instruct them what exactly you want them to do, they will get the message. But your yelling will not get through them at all.
Some examples of good house behavior rules is given below that you might want to announce.
- No screaming or shouting is allowed.
- No name-calling is allowed.
- It’s bad to say mean things to hurt people.
- Don’t push, shove or hit anyone.
- It’s bad manners to slam doors in this house.
- You must never break or throw things willingly.
Coping Tactics for Children
Young children who are taught not to hit, yell or throw things when they are angry to require other strategies to divert their minds and calm them down when they are upset.
Suggest them some ideas to assist them in adapting new ways to deal with anger, or offer them some activities to set a better mood.
- Keep oneself away from the situation
Tell your children that it is completely alright to walk away from the conflicting situation to prevent them from outbursting anger. By going away to another place, like in backyard or another room, your kids can get some breathing space and work on relaxing them.
- Find a safer alternative for temper outburst
In order to vent out your kid’s anger, you can suggest your child to draw a picture or write about what is making them so upset or why it is so.
There should not be any wall punching or break stuff, but you can offer them to take a long walk in the lawn, do jumping jacks or drive cartwheels to relax when they are angry. Drinking water is a very effective way to calm one’s temper.
- Teach them to shift
This strategy is tough for both adults and children. The technique of calming down involves one to shift his or her mood from a, extremely furious state to a more self-controlled mood.
Teach your kids that instead of thinking of the situation or person that is arousing the anger, try to divert their minds into something which will make them happy. It can be dancing on favorite music, strolling in park, bike riding, digging in the garden, reading favorite novels, playing games etc.
Try doing something like this or other and notice the instant change in mood.
Making a Firm Base
Luckily, furious episodes do not take place very often for most young children. Most of the time, those who have anger issues tend to possess an active, strong-intended and excess energetic attitude that need to be released.
Parents can try the following steps on their kids when they are in the calm state. These can assist in preventing issues from starting by teaching the children to learn and practice required managing the rage during the temper attack:
- Ensure children have enough sleep
Sleep is a very important factor to your children’s well-being. Lack of sleep does not always necessarily is linked with a kid’s behavior. Adults get grumpy or have low energy when they are tired, but young children can become furious, disagreeable or lose their cool at any times.
The sleep requirements for most children usually lay within an anticipated range of hours, depending on their age, but the individual kid has unique needs and hence distinct sleep requirements.
- Assist kids in tagging emotions
As parents, it is your duty to help your children develop the habit of telling about their feelings and the reason behind the emotions.
For instance, “I have to do a house chore when my favorite cartoon is on television”. The discussion will not spare the kid from doing the task, but it can surely cool down the situation a bit.
Thus, you are having a normal talk instead of the argument. You should give compliments to your child for having a normal conversation with a matured person without slamming the door.
- Make sure children have enough physical activity
Playing outside and being physically active can help children with temper issues. Parents should encourage their kids to play outside and get involved in sports, such as running, karate and wrestling.
These can be beneficial particularly for kids who are trying to get their control their temper. Extra energy and stress can get burned off by rapid pumping of heart due to rigorous activities.
- Appreciate successes
Often parents tend to ignore achievements and successes of their children. For this, the kids feel unimportant.
That’s why it is very important to praise your child saying that they have managed the difficult situation very well with their positive attitude.
- Teach children about self-control
Toddler temper is like an untrained puppy who still does not know how to behave properly and keeps on running around everywhere jumping onto things. Puppies do not intentionally appear to be bad, but they need to be trained to stop licking shoes, prevent them from jumping on sofas and people, and so on.
The main point is just like a puppy your kid’s temper also needs to be trained properly to learn all appropriate behaviors and rules of being civilized.
- Be more flexible to kids
Parenting can be a tiring job. Try not to become excessively strict to your child. They can become disheartened hearing series of “no” from you all the time.
Obviously, sometimes you have to say no, suppose when they want to tear your important documents. But other times, like when they clean dirt from the table, appreciate them for their effort.
Also, if your child wants to play ball with neighbor’s kids a bit longer, sometimes allow them for 10 more minutes.
Try to be more proactive and look out for dangerous situations. If your kids have trouble with transitions, warn them in advance.
Also, you can set them the duration of watching television and give a 5-minute warning alarm. You should enforce this agreement with sincerity.
Anyone who has experience of being very furious knows that during temper attack following sensible advice is not always so easy. Sometimes give your kids small responsibilities to keep them under control, but be there to guide them on how to fulfill the task.
Over the time, many of the young children learn and adapt new ways to control and manage their anger and frustration in a better way. However, if you notice your kids getting involved in the argument too often with siblings, elders, and friends, then you might need additional help.
It is parents’ duty to observe their children and their needs. If needed, talk to your kid’s teachers, coaches, school counselors or other adults related to your child for help.
You might also consider consulting a psychologist or a professional counselor recommended by your child’s doctor.
Pick Your Battles & Prepare For the Worst
You absolutely shouldn’t give in to your child in every situation, nor should you be in a hurry to appease their every whim just to stop crying; this is universally true when the child is fully acting out, screaming, and acting out.
However, there are some times prior to the tantrum when you may need to decide whether a screaming fit is worthwhile for a particular situation when a small appeasement will suffice. Decide whether you are being overly firm in that situation or whether you are correct to put your foot down in this instance.
It may be a tantrum that can be avoided based on your giving their request just a little more thought. A big blow up could be avoided if you simply think through the child’s request and decide whether it can be accommodated or not. If so and it’s not unreasonable, give them the benefit of the doubt.
Another approach is to offer choices. Sometimes, rather than giving an absolute “no,” you could simply offer your toddler a choice between options that you approve of.
This would give them a sense of having more independence and control over their own lives. This is often the major source of their upset rather than anything else.
If your child doesn’t like the shirt you picked out for them, ask them if they’d like to help pick. Then choose from a group of shirts acceptable to you and let your child pick the one that they want to wear.
Be sure you are absolutely okay with the possibilities. If this is a recurring fight, you could allow your child more say each morning by picking a few possibilities out and letting them help you decide.
There are times when you know your toddler is more prone to upset than not. Sometimes it just takes a small change. If you know that at times they get upset if they’re hungry, bring snacks.
If they are likely to be cranky from a lack of sleep, make sure they’ve had enough sleep the night before when possible. Try to be consistent about bedtimes whenever possible.
According to the National Health Service of the United Kingdom, At a year in age, your young toddler needs to have two hours and 30 minutes of sleep during the day and 11 hours of sleep a night.
At two-years old, the nap time should be an hour and a half, while night time sleep should be 11 hours to 30 minutes.
At age three, naps might be 45 minutes or not at all with 11 1/2 to 12 hours of sleep at night.
By ages four and five naps are no longer suggested, while sleep time should be 11 1/2 and 11 hours respectively. Clearly, little ones need a lot of rest, and if they aren’t getting it, this could be the cause of a particular outburst. Head those off with sleep when possible.
Knowing these signs of stress or overstimulation may be the difference between a major meltdown and simply walking it off. If you can take a child out of an over stimulating situation, even if it’s just for a few minutes until they’ve had a chance to calm down, this may be all they need to recover.
A few other notes of prevention can work to help you out. If there are objects your child always wants to see and interact with and you can keep them out of their reach, do so.
If you have more than one child and there are issues regarding dividing up things, make sure you’re paying close attention to being “fair”. Children have an early sense of what they deem to be fair, and will be quick to let you know if something isn’t meeting their understanding of fair!
If you know that your child has a tendency to react badly to changes in routines, give them a five minute warning before the end of one activity. This is particularly important when the activity is something they have very much gotten into!
If you are about to transition from home to going out, it’s a great idea to pack a favourite toy or activity book for them, so they don’t get bored. Boredom can be a cause of tantrums, so keeping the little one occupied while running errands can help a lot.
Tantrum in Progress: What to Do and What Not to Do
It’s too late; you’ve prepared as best you can, tried all the techniques, but the tantrum is happening right now! We are in full meltdown status.
I want to repeat that you may not have done anything wrong at all! Tantrums are a natural part of a child’s development. Now we can focus on some of the do’s and don’ts of handling your toddler’s temper tantrum.
Do Stay Calm
This is the absolute key. Once a child is having trouble controlling their emotions, it’s even more essential for you to be in control of your own.
Be ready to handle this situation as best you can without losing your cool. We’ve already spoken about this earlier in the book, but it’s a very difficult thing to do when your child is acting out, choosing not to act out yourself.
Instead of becoming emotional yourself, remember that by staying calm, you are demonstrating to your child that they are not going to create a reaction from you. Don’t stamp out of the room, replicate their behaviour, or raise your voice.
Your child will not understand what you’re trying to accomplish and will feel that you are also not in control, which can be a very frightening emotion for a child. They expect you to be the calm when during their emotional meltdown!
If they’re upset and you start getting upset, you may cause them to become even angrier. Don’t feed into their anger by reinforcing it. Take a few deep breaths and you’ll be able to show them acceptable behaviour with your own.
Tip: It’s likely that you’re going to get extremely frustrated by tantrums. However, it is essential not to lose your cool.
If you ever feel you’re about to snap or can’t handle a situation, you absolutely should not give in. If at all possible, allow the other parent, partner, or family member to handle the situation.
Do Remind Your Child To Talk
Whether it’s using sign or words, remind your child that whatever language skills they have can be put into play to say what they want. This is going to be most effective just before a tantrum, but could be attempted during the start of a meltdown.
There are no guarantees that this will work. Given that they may already be too emotional to hear you when you suggest using words, it’s possible that this approach won’t work in the moment.
If so, don’t press the point. It won’t do any good and won’t necessarily be heard.
Do Connect With Your Child
After the tantrum has passed, discuss what’s happened with your toddler. They may need to be assured that you understand their emotions and how they feel and that you are aware of their frustrations.
Encourage your child to use words rather than screaming to get across what they wanted in future and, if you can’t give them what they wanted, you may at least be able to work out something that would be acceptable to you and would make them feel better.
Don’t Give In!
When the tantrum is in full force, this is not the time for negotiation or to give in. This lets your child know that their bad behaviour will be rewarded.
Giving in will open the door for future tantrum scenarios in which your toddler will absolutely anticipate that you will give in. Let them know that you’re in charge and that you set the tone, not them.
Don’t Allow Destructive Behaviour
If your toddler is in danger of harming themselves or others or if they’re damaging things, you need to immediately take them out of the situation and be prepared to help them calm down elsewhere.
Be gentle when physically taking your child out of the situation, not aggressive.
Don’t Walk Away
It may seem dramatic and strong to just walk away and let your little one act out until they’ve run out of steam.
Do not do this.
Apart from the fact that they would then be unsupervised and have no one watching over them if they hurt themselves, you need to stay with your child through the tantrum. The exception would be as previously stated, if you are absolutely at risk of becoming extremely emotional as well.
In that instance, it’s best to let someone else take over. Instead, stay with the toddler so that you can work through the issues rather than letting them feel as though they’ve been abandoned and potentially increasing the intensity of the temper tantrum.
As hard as it is to simply be there with the child while they’re acting out, you need to be able to show that you are an ally for your child when this is happening and that you will be there with them through it. Many children, after the tantrum, feel strongly about how they’ve behaved, expressing remorse and regret. Your self-control lets them know they are safe and loved with you.
If it helps to remember, someone probably had to do the same with you! While all parents – including our own – weren’t necessarily perfect with us when we were children, we should try to behave the least as we wish our parents had acted when we were confused by our feelings.
Naturally, parents, partners, and caregivers may have disagreements about how to discipline and deal with a screaming toddler, both in public and in private. However… this is not that time!
Do not disagree with one another’s parenting style at this time if you can help it.
By all means, have disagreements. Save those disagreements and those discussions for when you adults are alone, preferably when the child is sleeping. Talk it out then.
There only needs to be one adult dealing with a tantrum at a time. If more than one adult is involved, they simply need to be on the same page.
You don’t want to give your child mixed signals by making them think one adult is going to give them what they want, while the other parent is “being mean.” This is not a good situation to foster.
Above all, if discipline is employed make sure they know they’re loved! A hug given when their behaviour has improved lets them know that you’re eager to reward for good behaviour. Let them settle down before trying to talk anything through of course.
If you have other adult caregivers who aren’t following your guidance on how to handle tantrums, this will send mixed messages for your toddler. Make sure that everyone on your team is on board with the idea of handling tantrums with cool, without giving in during the tantrum, and talking it through afterwards.
There will, of course, be times when discipline is necessary. Let’s discuss those now.
How to Discipline Effectively
With all discipline techniques, it’s important to bear in mind that certain techniques won’t work with all children.For instance, if a child put in time-out is consistently getting angrier and acting out even more aggressively or refusing to stay in a time-out, you may have to consider another approach. Make sure that the discipline is age appropriate as well.
For instance, if a child put in time-out is consistently getting angrier and acting out even more aggressively or refusing to stay in a time-out, you may have to consider another approach. Make sure that the discipline is age appropriate as well.
Though it can seem like they’re the same thing, discipline isn’t necessarily the same thing as punishment and control. The National Center of Biotechnology Information notes that while there is controversy about the right way to discipline, discipline is first and foremost about teaching, setting effective limits, and helping a child learn about self-control.
When considering discipline, remember that discipline should be solely handled by adults, never by other children in the family. It should be consistent and understood to be fair by the children (of course, they may not see it as fair at the moment of implementation).
Discipline should lead to improvements in behaviour and in understanding of the child’s behaviour. It needs to be constructive, not destructive.
Spanking Not Effective as a Parental Tool
Spanking and physical punishment aren’t encouraged as a means to teach your child good behaviour. The Women and Children’s Health Network of South Australia provides a good example of the thinking regarding physical punishment; they note that physical punishment isn’t the same as discipline, which is about teaching, not punishment.
Physical punishment undermines some key components of teaching children about good behaviour. When a child feels safe and secure, they are much more likely to have a close relationship and to follow clear rules.
The American Academy of Paediatrics agrees. Spanking may have been a traditional means of deterring bad behaviour; it has less impact over time. Physical punishment can increase both aggression and anger rather than teaching children how to behave.It may be that the adult starts off intending to remain calm, but it’s impossible to completely control one’s emotions.
One may start off calmly with spanking, but may then become less so; this could lead to a physical struggle with possible harm coming to the child. On the other end of the spectrum, a parent may not want to spank at all, so that when they do the physical punishment is less consistent and meaningful.
Corporal punishment can also be illegal in some places. As reported by the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, 46 nations have prohibited corporal punishment from all settings, including the home. This prohibition includes all of Scandinavia, Germany, Spain, New Zealand, Portugal, the Netherlands, Hungary, Turkmenistan, and a number of countries in South and Central America, Africa, and Europe.
There is an ongoing legal debate about corporal punishment in a number of countries.There are other harsh punishments as well that should never be used, including name-calling and shouting.
Don’t humiliate your child as a means of punishment. NLBI warns that this sort of behaviour will “make it hard for the child to respect and trust the parent.”The key concept is to make sure the child knows that there are consequences for their bad behaviours.
12 Ways to Tame Toddler Tantrum
- 1 - Ignore the child
This tactic works like magic! Young children get out of their minds when they make tantrums. Driven by their emotions, the kids cannot make proper judgments or decisions since the frontal cortex of their brains is overridden by strong feelings.
Since the reasoning portion of the brain does not work at that moment, no argument or reasoning will help. You cannot teach someone to swim when they are drowning and it is the same case for tantrums. There is nothing you can do at that moment to improve the situation.
In fact, any attempt to do so will only make things worse. That is why you should try to talk to the kids when they cool down.
- 2 - Understanding kids’ tantrums
It is extremely important for parents to understand their kids well and the reason behind their tantrums. Instead of reprimanding the kids for their unusual activities, parents should find the root cause of their actions.
They might be suffering from a serious problem but are unable to say it. After all, they are just kids. It is their parents’ duty to understand the underlying issue of the tantrums and solve it as soon as possible.
- 3 - Give Your Child Some Space
Sometimes children just need to get their anger and frustration out through tantrums. So let them. You need to let the air built up inside a pressure cooker to prevent it from bursting.
Just be careful while making tantrums your kids do not do anything which might harm them. This is a very effective way to tame toddler tantrums as it helps the kids to vent out their anger in a nondestructive manner.
Your children can release their emotions, allow themselves to be composed, and attain self-control without starting a yelling competition, or a war of words with you!
- 4 - Divert your kids
This tactic is all about divert-and-conquer. Engage your children in another interesting activity so that he or she forgets about the meltdown he or she was experiencing.
Parents usually have a bag full of distractions, like video games, toys, cartoons, story books, yummy treats and so on. Whenever your kids have an emotional outburst, take out the tricks one by one until you find something which will draw their attention.
If you can do this just in time, then it can resist any potential storm that may follow the tantrums.
- 5 - Don’t spank, but discipline
There may be times when you will really lose your cool and really want to spank your kids. Don’t do that. Instead, take a deep breath and focus on what you want to teach your kids. It requires a lot of patience to discipline a child.
- 6 - Find the real cause of frustration
This tactic is specially designed for toddlers under 2 ½ years old. Kids of this age barely know 50 words and cannot even arrange words in a sentence properly. Their communication is not yet developed, and hence they have loads of feelings, thoughts and desires bottled up inside them unexplained.
That is why they freak out and unleash their anger when you misunderstand them or don’t get them at all. Try to think like them and teach them basic essential sign language.
Teach them how sign few key needs, for example, needs more milk or food, want to sleep and so on. This trick can work wonders building an effective communication link with your children.
- 7 - Hug your kids
You may think of this as the last option when your child becomes furious and throws tantrums. But believe me, this can really help anyone settle down, even toddlers.
Super soft cuddly hugs will not work in this situation. You need to give a long and firm hug. Don’t utter a word since you are literally putting yourself in a minefield.
Just keep on hugging until they give in. Hugs let them feel secure and make them realize you care about them, even though their actions were wrong.
- 8 - Offer kids food or rest
Empty stomach and tired body are the two best triggers of toddler tantrums. The kids are physically already on the edge.
A little bit of physical exertion can easily tip them over. It is a common complaint of many parents that their children have meltdowns regularly before nap time or lunch and another mealtime.
Kids need to be fed, watered on time and requires enough rest and recuperation, or else they will feel cranky. It is the same with adults.
Lack of sleep and low blood sugar in the brain can turn anyone cranky and irritated. Kids who are fed and watered properly and take enough rest tend to be the happiest little people of them all.
- 9 - Give your children rewards for good behavior
When kids do good things or try to be a well-mannered child, surprise them with treats or rewards. The behavior can include sitting quietly in an office, or maintain courtesy at a restaurant and finishing all food his or her plate.
This is the trick to every possible outburst. Everyone wants good recognition.
Even kids love to be awarded when they try to do good things. This further encourages them to continue behaving nicely. You can also consider this to be a small bribe to your child!
- 10 - Speak gently and calmly
This is one of the most important attitudes of parents that they must practice in front of their children. Although it is not very easy to do so but experts say that it is very important for parents to keep their cool during a kid’s tantrums.
Otherwise, both the parents and the children will get tangled in a power struggle and things will get worse. Moreover, one of the reasons of kids’ tantrums is to get your attention, whether the attention is a positive one or a negative one.
They only care to get your complete and undivided attention. Speaking in a soft and soothing voice will let your kids know that their behaviors will not be tolerated in the house at any cost.
This will allow you to stay relaxed and also enable you to have a strong grip on your children. Whatever you will do, your kid will follow. So, be an idol.
- 11 - Laugh the tantrums off
All parents fear public tantrums, obviously for your own reputation. Parents worry that other parents and neighbors will think of them as bad moms and dads and you have raised an uncultured child due to lack of good teachings.
Thinking like this will only lead you to a peskier situation. From toddlers to young kids are very smart. If somehow they realize that the trick to making you listen to them is to keep on making tantrums and delivering meltdowns, they will always do it whenever they want something.
You should rather ignore it, put a fake smile on your face and pretend that everything is totally great. But what will others think of you?
We all know that people only judge your reaction to the tantrums. If you stay calm and handle everything sensibly without creating a scene, then everyone will appreciate your effort more.
Try to be a more patient and poised parent.
- 12 - Get your kids out of the scene
You can snap your children out of tantrum if you quickly get them out of the scene. This technique really works well, especially when you are outside your house.
For example, in a shop, if your child becomes desperate for candies, then quickly take them to a different aisle or outside the shop. Change in place will quickly bring change in their mood.
Learning about Consequences for Bad Behaviors
When it comes to consequences, age is an essential element to understanding. Realize we’re talking about children who are at minimum 12 months old.
Before this age, your baby can’t comprehend consequences or discipline, as they have no means to plan ahead, be reasoned with, or recall what you may ask for them to do.
From ages 1 to 3, consequences can be very difficult. It’s important at this age to teach some basic consequences. You can do this by making the child aware that there are natural and logical consequences.
When it comes to natural consequences, you can let the child learn what happens when something happens, conditional that they won’t hurt themselves.
For instance, if a child breaks a toy, let them know they can no longer play with the toy. Don’t rush to rescue them from the consequences of their behaviour by immediately fixing the item (though you certainly should take it away if it could harm them)! Let them learn the concept of cause and effect through experimentation.
Logical consequences are a little different in that you will be obligated to create a consequence. As another example, if your toddler refuses to behave and expects to play with a toy, that toy can be taken away as a consequence.
Be calm about this; there’s no need to raise your voice about the consequence. Just make it known that this is a normal consequence of that behaviour, and they will begin to learn that bad behaviour results in the loss of a toy.
When you are communicating with your child that they need to behave and how, keep it short. There’s no need for complicated directions, in particular when a very short “no” or “no hitting!” will make your wishes known. This is simple and easy to understand, and will prevent confusion.
Redirection and Distraction
Exploration is a big part of this age, and as children try to discover their boundaries, they’re naturally going to be upset when you enforce some required boundaries on them. This can be a big cause of meltdowns.
However, you may be able to redirect that desire for exploration to a better purpose than breaking all of one’s dishes.
Sometimes, no serious punishment is called for. With every young toddler, those who are between a year and two years of age, a means of disciplining may be to simply provide a firm, clear no. Take the child away from the object or area of interest and immediately redirect them with an alternative activity.
One thing you have working in your favour in this area is attention span. Small children have limited attention spans, số it may be that the redirection will help take their minds off of what they want.
You’ll want to keep a close eye on your toddler after the redirection to make sure they don’t rush to the previous activity. Walking away and assuming everything will go fine is a recipe for problems.
For a child who’s older than two, you may need to take the child away from the place where the tantrum began. As an example, if a child is in a public place, doesn’t want to share their toys,, and is starting to throw a tantrum, pick them up and take them away from where they’re acting out.
Don’t be aggressive or harmful; remain gentle. When they’ve calmed, a brief explanation of how they can behave correctly in future and provide an example of better behaviour if possible.
When it’s time to take something away, a privilege that needs to be taken away, try to connect it to the action. For instance, if your child is reacting over a specific toy, enjoyment of that toy could be the privilege that’s revoked.
Privileges are exactly that; things that are non-essential to your toddler, but that they like and enjoy. You should never deny a youngster a meal as a consequence of their behaviour, though you could take away a desert, of course.
Loss of privileges has less impact if they aren’t taken away as an immediate result of bad behaviour. If there is too much time between the behaviour and the punishment, the child may not associate their actions with the punishment.
Be realistic about the punishments. Suggesting a child will lose a privilege “forever” is a meaningless threat.
Taking away computer time for a day as opposed to “forever” is completely realistic, can be easily carried out, and has real meaning for the child. It’s a good, strong consequence if that is something the child looks forward to in their day.
In the same way, you didn’t cave during the tantrum, don’t give in and decide not to give the consequences. Carrying through demonstrates that tantrums are serious and are very undesirable for the child in future. Hold firm!
Time-outs are a well-known and popular means of disciplining a child. However, they are most effective when used in response to a specific rule being broken. They are most effective between the ages of 2 and 5, though they can be used as a parental tool at any time.
While time-outs away from parents can be a good break on the parent’s frayed nerves, it should be noted that young toddlers struggle with issues of abandonment. Their fears may make it best not to keep time-outs away from parents on a regular basis.
Make sure the time-out location is a known, expected spot. There should be no distractions in the location and they should not have a toy. This is a time and a place for calming down and getting de-stimulated, not to be rewarded with play.
Let your child know that there are certain actions and activities that will definitely result in a time-out; you may need to let them know several times so that it’s fully understood.
When the time-out has been warned about in advance follow-through. Make sure the teaching moment doesn’t pass! The time-out length should be roughly one minute per year in age of the child.
When you start the time-out, make sure it happens immediately. When your child is in their time-out location, explain to them why they are there and do not allow them to wander off.
If you must hold them in place gently to start, do so. Let them know that they’re being held there for the time-out and don’t hold further discussion, as you don’t want to give your toddler the impression that they can negotiate their way out of consequences for their actions.
If this is their first time-out, don’t worry; future time-outs will likely be easier after they understand how time-outs work.
Time-outs shouldn’t be used as a fallback for every time your toddler acts up. They stop being effective if you are simply forcing your child into the corner for a period of time. Instead, use them for those few, limited behaviours and only when other options aren’t available such as redirection or talking through the problem.
When the time-out is over, they can go back to what they were doing. There’s no further need for explanation or lectures. A hug will let them know they are loved, and is always recommended.
How to Avoid Tantrums in the First Place
Parents should try to prevent their kids from creating tantrums in the first place whenever it is possible. Some ideas are suggested below to help parents control their kids’ meltdowns:
- Give your kids some authorities over small things
Ask for your child’s opinion on simple matters, such as whether they want to eat an apple or orange, or which dress they want to wear for the party. In this way, you are giving them a sense of being matured and sensible.
They will also feel important and will tend to make less fuss about petty issues. No child wants to take orders from elders all the time. They also want their opinions to be valued.
- Out of sight means out of mind
Keep the off-limits objects out of your kid’s sight and out of their reach. If they cannot see it, they cannot think about it or make a tantrum take it.
As a result, your struggles will be less. Of course, this is not always possible, particularly if you are outside your home where the environment is out of your control.
- Help children acquire new skills and excel
You should help your children learn new things to do by themselves. Occasionally, praise them for making them feel proud of themselves and boosting their self-confidence. Before moving on to more challenging jobs, start with simple tasks.
- Value your child’s normal demands
When your kids make a request to get something, do not always stand on one leg to say no. Listen to them at first carefully and try to consider their humble requests.
If the demands are not outrageous, then there is no harm in fulfilling those wants as much as possible.
- Identify your kid’s limitations
If you can see that your toddler is very tired and sleepy, it will not be a good idea to burn him or her with another errand, like grocery shopping.
Let them sleep or relax. A tired toddler can become as much troublesome as a mad monkey.
- Be firm on safety issues
If there is any situation where safety issue is involved, but your toddler is not listening to you and he or she is repeating the same prohibited behavior after being resisted several times then declare a time-out.
Hold your child firmly in that situation for some minutes until the hooligan stops. Do not give in or else your child may get hurt.
The Ultimate Guide to Toddler Tantrum – Best Ways to Deal with It - Toodrie