Hang in there: Ways to put an end to temper tantrums

Tantrums are completely normal, but they can be prevented

little girl crossing her arms upset

Have you ever been around a child who is throwing a tantrum? How does your favorite toddler throw them? 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 his or her 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.”
  • 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 applesauce 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 dinnertime.)
  • 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.

Posted In Children's, Health Information, Parenting

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