Have you ever been around a child who is throwing a tantrum? There can be whining, crying, screaming, kicking, hitting, breath holding and even biting.
Tantrums typically happen between the ages of 1 to 3 years old and are equally common in boys and girls. Keep reading to find strategies to “tame the tantrum” and, ideally, to prevent them.
Why toddlers have tantrums
It’s a great developmental milestone when your toddler is wanting control in their world. But sometimes growing independence comes with growing frustrations. Toddlers may throw tantrums because:
- They want to be “in charge.”
- They have limited language skills.
- They are tired or hungry.
- They are stressed.
How to tame the tantrums
Help guide your toddler through emotional outbursts by:
- Connecting before correcting: Your job during a tantrum is to help regulate and calm your child’s emotional state, not teach a lesson. You can teach after you both feel calm and connected.
- Calming down. Practice deep breathing with your toddler to calm both of your emotions. Focus on what your toddler needs from you instead of your own frustration.
- Giving empathy. Acknowledging what the child wants helps them feel understood, and to be more likely to go along with your suggestions. “I know you would like to stay at the park, but we need to go now.”
- Acknowledging feelings. This is one of the easiest, but often overlooked, ways to get a child’s attention and help them feel connected. “I see you are mad. It’s OK to be upset.”
- Set limits. Speak simply, set boundaries. “You cannot hit. Hitting hurts.”
- Redirecting. Divert your toddler’s attention with another activity. “Would you like to push the stroller, or ride in it?”
Stopping tantrums before they start
Help prevent a tantrum from starting with tactics such as:
- Providing choices. “Do you want apple sauce or yogurt?” Let your toddler have a sense of control over the little things.
- Maintaining daily schedules. Keep predictable daily routines such as nap times, snack times and bedtimes.
- Providing positive attention. Narrate or “sportscast” positive behaviors. What you focus on, you get more of. “Wow, you are being so careful with your cup.”
- Learning the triggers. Watch for patterns as to when and where tantrums are happening. Minimize your toddler’s exposure to these triggers if possible. (Don’t go grocery shopping just before dinner time.)
- Knowing your toddler’s limits. If your toddler is hungry or tired, it’s best to be flexible with continuing your activity.
- Limiting temptation. Put things your toddler isn’t allowed to touch or play with away — out of sight, out of mind.
Be patient as your child learns how to express feelings. Remember, tantrums are normal and won’t last forever.
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