Tantrums – massive emotional meltdowns that’ll leave you wondering, what happened to my adorable child? As frustrating and inconvenient as tantrums may be, they are completely normal for children between the ages of 1 to 3 years old.
Developmentally, it makes perfect sense. At this stage, your toddler’s thinking skills continue to grow significantly while their language skills are trying to catch up. This limits their ability to express desires and feelings. Yet, they expect you to understand everything they want! Tantrums can manifest in the form of screaming or becoming physical.
The best defense for coping with tantrums is, 1) recognize that this is an alternate way for your child to communicate with you about something that makes him/her feel unhappy and 2) try not to lose your temper. There are a few techniques that can be used to manage tantrums. Some techniques may include ignoring the undesired behavior. Even so, there are certain things that should never be dismissed. This includes allowing your toddler to physically hurt others (for example, kicking or biting) or when a tantrum places your child in a dangerous situation.
Hopefully, you find at least a few of the following recommendations useful while handling your toddler’s tantrums.
Redirect or Distract: Toddlers have short attention spans so redirecting can be an effective way of helping your child to settle their feelings of upset. This can be achieved by changing the environment, offering a toy of interest, or switching gears altogether with a new activity.
Ignore: As long as your child is in a safe environment, it is completely acceptable to ignore their tantrums. Simply separate yourself a reasonable distance away and avoid speaking to them during that time. This sends the message that you will not be lending your attention to those outbursts. Gradually, the undesired behaviors will fade away.
Recognize good behavior: On the flip side, reinforcing moments of good behavior will get you more of it. Your toddler will take pleasure in receiving praises. If you don’t recognize the good behaviors often enough, you may find your toddler engaging in the “naughty” behaviors simply to grab your attention.
Give your toddler the opportunity to choose: Providing your little one with limited options, may help calm the dissatisfaction that arises after not getting exactly what they want. Choices will make your toddler feel as if they have some sense of control over the situation. For example, “would you like bananas or yogurt for your snack today?” may be all you need to ask, after denying candy.
Don’t overextend: You may have commitments for the day which end up pushing your child to their limit. A missed nap or meal may tip the scale, ultimately triggering a meltdown. Thinking ahead can minimize these events. For instance, make sure you have a healthy snack available if you happen to be out and about during lunchtime or consider structuring your schedule around nap time.