Child temper tantrums. Whaddya gonna do? Tantrums are going to happen. It’s an inevitability every parent will go through. No parent escapes without at least one or two… or a few dozen-ish. No judgment. We’ve all been there. And let’s be honest. Chances are, this epic, Oscar-worthy tantrum will not come in the privacy of your own home. Oh
Try not to worry too much. Temper tantrums are extremely normal for your toddler. The phase won’t last forever. It will pass. It might pass like a kidney stone… but it WILL pass. According to KidsHealth.org, the ages of 1-3 are the prime season for temper tantrums. And with a few simple tactics up your sleeve, you can navigate those temper tantrums like a pro.
Why Are They Throwing The Fit?
Understand Their Reasons
The first thing you want to try to understand is why your child is throwing the fit in the first place. Is the fit just due to not getting their way? As in, “I wanted the blue cup but you gave me the red cup” or “I don’t want to wear pants today, I’ll go naked”?
Or is it more than that. Is your child frustrated that you don’t understand what they want or that they can’t yet communicate to you what they want? These are the details it’s important to take note of during your child’s temper tantrum, because it may help you the next time this happens.
The majority of all toddler tantrums are due to either being tired or hungry. Chances are they aren’t actually over the small subject they seem to be!
Keep A Journal
If your child is throwing lots of fits and tantrums, keep a little journal and document why, when and how they throw the fit. You may be able to see a pattern after a few times.
Track The Timing
For example, if at 5pm your child is melting down on the regular, they may be exhausted and hungry and any little thing that happens will set them off. If that’s the case, simply implement some rest time and a hefty snack around 3:30 or 4:00 pm each day to head off the tantrum later in the evening.
Or if you notice the tantrum is always about leaving a particular toy, making a transition to another activity or getting a particular item, you can offer warnings about upcoming transitions or leaving behind a toy for dinner. Or if you notice that the choice of cup is always a problem, let them choose their cup that day, and it may diffuse your entire situation.
How Can You Help Your Child?
Above all else, keep your calm. You cannot lose your cool. One of you has to have yourself together, and it’s NOT going to be your toddler. The more upset they get, the calmer you must be. You must keep your voice calm, cool and collected and project the calm that you want your child to feel. Walk away for a moment if you need to collect yourself.
Don’t worry about the Judgment
I know it’s embarrassing when your child throws a very public fit. I’ve been there. Most of us have! Recently my youngest threw an all-out kicking and screaming on the floor fit in the middle of the lobby of my older son’s therapy center. And it sure wasn’t when that room was empty! There were witnesses. Lots of them. And I’d have preferred to just crawl under the chairs and just stay there. I opted for Starbucks on the way home with a pastry too instead of taking up residence under the therapy room chairs.
Don’t Get Embarrassed
Try not to be embarrassed. I know you will be. But try. A fit throwing toddler happens to most people during their lifetime. Most people understand and don’t judge. And if you run into someone that doesn’t understand and does give you the dirty look… ask yourself… who really gives a flying rabbit’s
Think About What Your Child Wanted
Is what your child was asking for that led to the tantrum that big a deal? Did you just give it an automatic no because you were in a hurry when really it was a valid request from your toddler? Be self-aware and make sure you aren’t part of the problem sometimes. In other words, choose your battles!
Obviously, if your toddler is asking for a lollipop the size of their head at 8am, that’s a hard no. But, if it was a simple request, like wanting to put their own shoes on or buckle their own car seat, and you said no because you were in a rush, take a look at that. And next time, build in enough time in your routine that your toddler can take the time they need to do the activity independently.
How to Avoid Tantrums In The Future
Once you have figured out why they are throwing the tantrums, what can you do to avoid them in the future? Does your toddler need to have a few choices to feel some independence? Do they need some help communicating their wants and needs? Do you need to loosen up and let them try a few more things?
Sign Language or Flashcards
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If your child is too small to communicate their wants verbally, implementing some simple sign language can truly help alleviate some frustration for both you and your child. Try this article for help from Parenting.com on getting started on sign language for small children.
Would some simple flashcards help? Like for snack, playtime, a particular toy or activity? Your child can pick the card of the activity they were wanting to do and help to communicate their wants directly to you. Try some of these options to help with communication:
Is it possible to give them choices? Are they melting down over picking a certain outfit? Or a particular plate and cup for eating?
If that’s the case, try offering them a choice of two or three. Put out two outfits and let them choose one or the other. Or put the different cups on the counter and let them choose.
Sometimes letting your toddler feel independent and like they are in control of some of their choices can really help with tantrums.
Is there a toy that causes frustration and tantrums on the regular? HIDE IT AWAY. Put it away for a while. If they ask for it the next day, simply say, I brought out some new toys for us to play with and that toy will come out another day. Keep it simple.
How To Handle Yourself When You Are In The Tantrum:
So, what do you do when you are in the middle of the tantrum? Well, there are two ways to go in my opinion.
If you are in public
As long as your child is not hurting others (or themselves), take your attention away completely. Ignore them. If you are at the grocery store, don’t take your child and leave. Maybe quickly finish shopping and head to the check out. But don’t teach them that fit throwing is a way you get to leave the store.
PSA – Side Notes
Side note – also, don’t smack the person ringing up your groceries when they say “oh someone’s not happy” referring to your toddler… cause you’ll sure want to! What do you mean someone’s not happy? What was your first clue? Nah, he’s always that shade of purple in the face with snot streaming out of his nose whilst he screams at the top of his lungs. Just smile and say, “No, he’s certainly not happy right now.”
If you are at a restaurant or the movie theater, I would suggest immediately removing them from their surroundings and heading outside to get a quiet minute for them and your fellow restaurant/movie-goers. It’s the polite thing to do.
Stick To Your Guns!
Do stick to whatever your stance was that caused the fit. If it was a “no” to a toy in the store, don’t you DARE go buy that toy to make them happy and keep them quiet. If you said “no”, then today it’s “no” on that toy.
If there is any biting/kicking/screaming happening, do what you need to do to get them to the car so that they don’t hurt you or others.
If the tantrum happens at home
Fuss it Out
If there’s no one around, let them fuss it out. Sometimes they need to get that emotion out and at home is a good opportunity to let them fuss it out and reconcile their feelings on their own.
Take away your attention completely. Get up and go start doing the dishes or folding laundry. And you can calmly say “Mommy is ready to play again when you calm down.” But don’t sit there while they throw the tantrum and pay attention to them. They will find you pretty darn quick once they realize you are not on board with that behavior.
Redirect, Redirect, Redirect!
Is there any way to redirect before the tantrum get started? Offer a different toy or a break with a favorite show and snack. Try for an acceptable alternative. For example, “we can’t play in the sandbox right now, but we can get out the water table” or “you can’t watch a movie right now, but I’d love to sit and play a game with you”.
The louder your child gets, the softer you make your voice. They will take their queues from you on attitude. This is paramount and will help diffuse the situation more quickly than anything else.
Once the tantrum is over
When the tantrum is over, follow through with whatever the request was in the first place. If it all started with picking up a toy, your child still needs to go pick up that toy. Use a lot of positive praise when they complete the task that started the tantrum.
Hug it Out
And then hug it out. Make sure you give a kiss and a hug and that your child knows you love them no matter what. And move on from there. Don’t keep bringing it up and move on and go play.
Wrap Up – Simple Solutions for Diffusing Child Temper Tantrums
To wrap up, toddler temper tantrums are going to happen. The best you can do is be prepared and have your plan of action set in your head before the tantrum ever occurs. Pay attention and keep track of what causes the tantrums and see if you can find any patterns that will be helpful to combat the tantrums in the future.
Beyond that, just hang in there. This phase of parenting will pass. And let’s face it, it will make for some funny stories down the road for sure. Until then, just keep shuffling
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