Even the best behaved, calmest children can have a tantrum. These outbursts are not restricted to toddlers. They can occur at three and even four years old and can start as early as 15 months.
A temper tantrum is the way we describe a full melt-down. This isn’t just tears from grumpiness or tiredness. It’s a screaming outpouring of rage and frustration. They can be very shocking for parents the first time they have to deal with one. How has this sweet little child turned into a raging monster? And more importantly… how can we stop it?
Coping with your toddler when she is having a full-on tantrum can be not only extremely difficult, but also toe-curlingly embarrassing if it happens in public, which it more often than not does.
In the heat of the moment it can be hard to know what to do for the best, but here are some quick tips on how to cope...
Although you might be feeling anything but, it is important to appear calm and in control. Use calming techniques such as deep breathing to lower your own stress levels. Simply telling yourself ‘I will keep calm’ can really help.
If she is safe (and it is not too embarrassing) try ignoring the tantrum by carrying on with whatever you are doing or going into another room. Toddlers soon tire if they are not getting the attention they are after. If this is really not an option (you are in the supermarket and everyone is staring), it can be best to pick her up and take her to a quiet place to deal with it.
Sometimes just getting her to laugh can diffuse the situation. Try hugging or tickling her, sing a silly song or distract her with a toy or a new game. Give your child lots of praise when they are behaving well.
If your child sees some sweets she wants and has a tantrum because you say she can’t have them, never give in. To use an old expression, you are making a rod for your own back! She will learn that if she kicks and screams she will get what she wants and she will attempt to use that tactic again and again.
Get down to her level so you have eye contact. Tell her you understand why she is reacting the way she is: “I know you are frustrated because you really want those sweets. Let’s go home, have dinner and see about getting you a little treat after that.” Don’t keep repeating she cannot have what she wants as this will make it worse. Showing you know why she is feeling angry and offering her a solution is respecting her feelings and will hopefully take the edge of her tantrum.
There will always be times when what you say has to obeyed, but try to be tactful about it. If she doesn’t want her coat on, perhaps say she doesn’t need to do the zip up. Or if she has two coats, let her decide which one she can wear. Giving her a choice will give her back some control.
Shouting at her and giving harsh discipline usually only make tantrums worse. Raising your voice is also a sign that you have lost control – try to resist, however tempting it is.
You are not alone. Try to remember that every parent has been through the same at one point – it doesn’t make you a bad parent, it just means you have a normal child.