A Mommybites reader asked:
I know that tantrums are normal, and I also know that I should not give in to them, but it can be hard. I just want it to stop and to get on with my day. What is the best way to deal with tantrums?
Tantrums are loud, powerful, dramatic, big, and emotional, but do not fear them. Do not fear the tantrum.
So now that you are not fearing the tantrum, what do you do? Stay calm, quiet, and rational – someone has to be – and it is NOT gonna be your enraged toddler. Give your child space and time to work through his feelings. For example:
“I know that you are mad that you cannot have a cookie, but I will not change my mind. You can be upset and I will give you room to do so.”
Move across the room or go into another room if your child is in a safe space. Some children may want you to stay while they are in the midst of it all. That is fine, but stay calm and quiet. This is their time to feel and cope. Do not interact or converse. The more grown ups talk to or try to rationalize with a tantruming child, the more intense it gets.
The child will get more defensive (fight for her cause) and upset. Give the child space and quiet. They can only go so long without someone to bounce the anger off of. In addition, do NOT give in. It is tempting to do so, but in the end you will just reinforce the tantrum behavior that you are working so hard to stop.
Here are some general things you need to know about tantrums:
Does Your Toddler Have a Tell?
Can you see when a meltdown will happen? Does her lip quiver, does she ball her fists, does she get quiet? If you can find the tell, you can head the tantrum off. “You look like you are getting upset. What do you need?”
You can problem-solve, work things out, and find a solution instead of a tantrum. An important life skill. Maybe even just get a cup of water or change the scene. Try to figure out the tell.
Sometimes the Tantrum Just Happens
As long as your child is safe, let it go. Don’t talk to him – it will only make things worse. If he is safe and you need to, walk into another room to keep your cool, then check on him. When he has calmed down, talk to him about the tantrum. Did it help? How did it feel? Did it get him what he wanted?
Stick to Your Word
Even after the tantrum, stick to what you say, even if that is what set it off. The tantrum is not the consequence, so if you said, “No more crayons” because your child wrote on the wall, there are still no more crayons. If your child has to eat healthy foods before a treat, he still does not get the treat.
Tantrums Are Part of Life
Even we have tantrums from time to time, so be empathetic. Toddlers feel BIG – I mean HUGE – so their reactions to those feelings are big. Stay calm, stay clear about what you are expecting, and move on. Do not hold a grudge. The less attention that you give the tantrums, and the less that they get a child to change your mind, the faster you will see them disappear.
Here are a few of professional Parenting Coach, Parent Educator, and Author Brandi Davis’ best tips to avoid tantrums:
Take Note of When the Tantrums Happen
Is it when your child is tired, hungry, rushed? If you can figure this information out, you might be able to ward off some blow ups. It is easier to prevent fires than to put them out. Move up nap-time, carry snacks, give your child more time to finish tasks. These little changes can do so much.
Learn Your Child’s Pre-Tantrum Look.
Does he ball fists? Do she purse lips? Can you see it in his eyes? Once you learn the cues you can jump in fast and try to problem solve: “You look upset. I know that you want a cookie, but I was clear that dinner will be ready in 5 minutes. What can you do to fill those 5 minutes?”
“I know that you want a cookie, but it is almost dinner. How about a slice of cheese or some berries?” The idea is to not just say no, but to add in a yes. Find a sub or help your child find one for himself. Kids do not like to hear a blunt, NO. Well, neither do we, right?
We ALL get mad from time to time and, admit it, we ALL have tantrums (ours are hopefully when we are solo). Kids need to have the opportunity to feel all that life has to offer, even the not-so-pretty parts. We do not want to rob our kids of experiencing anger, sadness, or frustration because they are loud, powerful feelings that can be hard to watch happen.
Let’s put it all together:
Be calm and clear: “Dinner is in five minutes, so no cookies, but you can have cheese or berries.”
“I see that you are upset about this. That is ok. I will not change my mind, but feel free to be upset.”
End it there. Let your child express and experience the emotions. We have no right to tell a child how to feel – WE don’t like to be told how to feel. No need to fix the tantrum or punish it either, and when it’s over, it’s over. Don’t hold a grudge. Just move on. Staying calm and clear will help tame those tantrums while teaching your child important coping skills that will last a lifetime.
Here are a few of blogger and parent of three, Ellen Peppercorn‘s best tips to avoid tantrums:
For some reason once our children become toddlers they inevitably begin throwing huge, embarrassing mind boggling tantrums and it is no fun for anyone. While I wish I could say there is a magic cure, just do these things and your child will never tantrum, I can’t. But I can give you a few tips on how to avoid creating situations that trigger tantrums. Often once our children become more independent we can forget how young they are and start asking them to do things that they are not quite ready for. For example young kids need food about every 2 hours. So spending the whole morning running from store to store is asking for a very big public tantrum. Here are a few suggestions on how to avoid and diffuse toddler tantrums.
Feed Your Child Every 2 Hours
Keep snacks with you at all times whether you have them in your car or your purse never go out without food. When your child gets hungry they most likely will not communicate this verbally instead they will become very crabby and difficult to deal with. If you anticipate there hunger and keep them fed and hydrated you can avoid meltdowns.
Be Strict about Sleep
As inconvenient as it can be, especially during the summer, do not mess with your child’s sleep schedule. Make sure they are still going to bed at the same time and still napping at the same time. It is tempting to let them stay up later in order to enjoy an activity but you will pay for it for several says with a grouchy child.
Have Clear Expectations
If your child knows the expectations in a situation it is easier for them. Often times a tantrum happens when they feel overwhelmed or unsure. If they understand the situation they feel more secure and less need to act out.
Have Clear Repercussions
If you are going to punish your child for certain behavior make sure they are aware of the consequences and follow through. Empty threats only make things worse for both of you.
Do Not Lose Your Cool
If you get upset because it is embarrassing to have your child act out you will just feed the situation. If your child is tantruming in a public place simply remove them from the situation quickly and calmly. Sometimes the cart has to be abandoned in order to deal with your child.
Remember They Are Still Young
Sometimes it is hard to remember your child is not trying to drive you crazy they have a real need that they are unable to express. Whether they are hungry, tired or just overwhelmed try to find the cause of the tantrum and deal with it accordingly. Getting upset only makes the situation worse. I find it helps to be compassionate when seeking to find the root of the issue then you can both get what you want a calm child and calm mom.
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Brandi Davis, ACC, is a professional Parenting Coach, Parent Educator, and Author of O.K. I’m A Parent Now What? She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and be sure to catch her parenting podcasts on iTunes. The goal of Brandi’s practice is to bring respect, calm communication, teamwork, and FUN into the home or classroom. To discover all that Child and Family Coaching can bring to your family stop by www.childandfamilycoaching.com.
Ellen Peppercorn, a mom of 3 girls ages 4, 2 and 10 months and has abandoned a shopping cart on more than one occasion. You can find her blogging daily at Thrifty & Chic Mom.
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