Toddler tantrums can be a nightmare, especially in public. One minute everything is fine and the next, your little one is screaming her head off, crying and twisting and writhing. You’re embarrassed at this behaviour, and you’re wondering whether you’re actually raising a spoilt brat. Take heart; you are not alone. Here are a few questions that will help both you and your child navigate this phase.
1. Do you understand why toddlers throw tantrums? At this age, it’s unlikely that your child is being deliberately manipulative. Even for those who have started talking, their grasp of language is still limited, so the inability to properly express how they feel and what they want leads to mounting frustration which often erupts in a tantrum. You need to be patient and helpful until your toddler learns how to control and express herself.
No two children are the same.
2. Have you been yelling back? You’re the adult here, never forget that. It is from you your child will learn that shouting and screaming are not the best ways to resolve issues. Be calm. Depending on your child’s personality (and you won’t figure out what works and what doesn’t until you’ve tried) you may sit quietly with your child until they calm down, or you may ignore the child and walk away until they stop. Some children respond well to the former and may feel abandoned and more distressed if you walk away. Other children may be encouraged to misbehave by your continued presence. No two children are the same but whatever you do, don’t lose your cool and don’t reward bad behaviour either. When it’s over, talk things over and let your child know how she could have gone about expressing herself instead of throwing a tantrum.
3. Have you been giving in? This is a no-brainer. If you’ve been inadvertently teaching your child that their screaming will make you cave in and submit to their wishes, then of course, they will continue to do just that. Do not give in to unreasonable demands no matter how tempting it may be. Also, don’t negotiate with a screaming toddler. As you stay firm they will soon learn that it doesn’t work and that they will have to stop screaming and calm down if they want daddy or mummy to listen.
Don’t negotiate with a screaming toddler.
4. Do you treat your toddler as a person? Bearing in mind that frustration over inability to express themselves properly is usually what triggers tantrums, you want to make sure that you’re providing the support they need in that area. They are not adults but they have desires and preferences too. For instance, don’t just turn off the TV or say “it’s time to leave” when you’re out together somewhere. Give them a few minutes to adjust by saying something like “we’ll soon be leaving, dear” or “Sweetie, you have 5 more minutes and the TV will be off.” Show them some consideration. Also, it’s never too early to start offering your child options instead of just forcing what you want on them. “Do you want a banana or an apple?” “Do you want to go swimming or would you prefer to go and play with your cousins at their house?” Not only does it help them learn to choose, it gives them a sense of control. Of course, it’s you who gets to decide what choices to offer, but at least they get to say which one they want and it helps them stay calm and happy. Nobody likes being told what to do all the time, not even a small person.
[Toddlers] have desires and preferences too.
5. Is your toddler stressed out? Children are more sensitive than we often realise, even at this age. If you are away from home more than usual, overwhelmed at work, expecting a new baby, or even going through a rough patch in your marriage, they can sense it, and the disruption adds to their frustration. If this is the case, stay firm, but also be sympathetic and understanding. This, too, shall pass.
Do you have any tips that have worked for your toddler’s tantrums? Do share in the comments.