The dreaded temper tantrum. That panic-inducing feeling when your toddler is on the brink of a temper tantrum in the middle of the grocery store is a moment every parent dreads. All parents have lived through it, both publicly and privately. It is between the ages of 1½ and 3 when children experience the most concentrated onset of meltdowns. At this age, children are not yet able to say why they are upset because they are just beginning to develop their speech, which only adds to their frustration. Once they can communicate more effectively, the meltdowns tend to fade. So for all parents in the midst of the tantrums – there is light at the end of the tunnel. Here are some tips on how to calm toddlers having a temper tantrum.
Understand the Cause of the Meltdown
It is essential to understand WHY your child is having this meltdown. Knowing the cause can often help to improve the situation, but it is also helpful to understand what your child is feeling in this moment of stress. The three main culprits are when children are: tired, hungry or uncomfortable. They’re not trying to shame you (although you should never be ashamed if your child is having a meltdown); they’re just having a difficult moment because of one of these indicators. Consider the time of day, when they last ate, when they last slept, etc. You can also give them some control by asking, “Are you hungry?” or “Are you tired?” and watching their response. Another factor that has been identified is “new baby syndrome”. When there is a new baby at home, older siblings may be worried that they are no longer getting the same amount of attention they are used to.
If It Is Within Reason, Resolve the Issue
Ideally, you will be in a position to release the stress of your child. When you are at home, you can put them to bed, feed them or let them take off some clothes. Ideally, this would solve all the meltdowns, but – as many of you know – that’s not always the case. If you can quickly remedy the situation, it will usually diffuse the situation before it becomes a full-on tantrum. However, when it comes to naps, they can be a bit trickier. If, for whatever reason, they miss their nap entirely, it is often better in the long run to put them to bed earlier rather than add another nap.
Wait Them Out
Although this may seem at odds with our last tip, it is crucial only to remedy meltdowns, where possible. If you know you’ll be pushing their bedtime beyond their usual bedtime by taking longer, you’ll want to get them to bed as soon as possible. However, if it is a case of ‘give me that toy’ meltdown, this is where you want to draw the line. While it can be tempting, you often have to survive the tantrum of demands to avoid setting it as a precedent to get what they want. One piece of advice is to tell them, “when you are ready, come and see me,” so that you allow the child to have their moment but ensures they know you are there for them when they are finished.
In those moments when you either can’t find a reason for the meltdown, or you are unable to fix it, distract. If they’re angry because you won’t buy them the toy they want, distract them by singing a song or doing something else in the shop to get their attention.
Pro tip: always carry foolproof distractions in your handbag. A snack is always a good choice, or a small toy or fidget device that will grab their attention. A comfort item would also be a valuable item for moments that your toddler is in distress because of over-stimulation.
While your child’s stress can often bring out your stress, be sure to keep calm so as not to escalate his or her emotions. A general rule of thumb is that the louder they scream, the softer you speak.
If the tantrum is subsiding, give as much positive reinforcement as possible. Express how happy you are that they calmed down, and if they indicated something that upset them in some way, focus on that instead of getting angry. This would be a good time for a hug and other reassurances that a tantrum does not change how you feel about them.
Tantrums are a normal part of growing up. No matter how relaxed, cool and collected the other parents are in the shops or on social media, they are also dealing with meltdowns – you are not alone. They do not make you a poor parent; it is impossible to avoid all meltdowns. The important thing is to listen to your child and understand where these tantrums are coming from.
What has been your experience with tantrums? Do you have any tips that we did not share? Let us know in the comments!