Screaming, kicking and sometimes biting. Toddler tantrums, if you have not witnessed one, you’ve certainly heard about them. They are the result of the toddler’s limited ability to cope with frustration.
While these mini-meltdowns are a normal part of a child’s development, there are ways parents can help toddlers to experience tantrums less often and with less intensity—something that can make both toddlers and parents happier!
What causes toddler tantrums?
We’ve all heard of “The Terrible Twos,” but in many children tantrums begin far before the first birthday, sometimes as early as nine months. With a consistent approach to dealing with tantrums, your toddler will most likely outgrow them by the time he reaches three or four years of age.
Toddler tantrums don’t happen because toddlers are willful and disobedient, or because you have raised a dreadful child! They simply occur because toddlers haven’t learned to accept frustration. When they want to do something but can’t, they are overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness and dissatisfaction. The toddler tantrum is simply a release of those feelings. It might help to know that tantrums are common among toddlers. It’s estimated that the majority of 2-year-olds have a tantrum at least once a week, which may last from 15 to 30 minutes.
Preventing or Avoiding toddler tantrums
- Take the time to play and talk with your toddler regularly. Just as feeding coins into a parking meter all day long protects you from dreaded tickets, many five and ten minute helpings of playtime throughout each day ward off temper outbursts and create a growing relationship of cooperation and caring with your toddler.
- Have clear rules and guidelines for your toddler.
- Treat your child with respect. When your child is trying to express her emotions, take the time to try to understand her message. She’s much more likely to listen—and to obey you—if she feels like you’re listening to her concerns regularly.
- Limit your toddler’s access to toys and activities that are fascinating but too difficult for his/her age.
- Watch for fatigue and make sure your child has adequate rest. Sometimes easier said than done as toddlers will sometimes avoid daytime sleep like the plague!
- Look out for signs of over stimulation. When they occur switch the child to a calmer activity.
- Try to keep “no’s” and “don’ts” to a minimum. Instead of “no’s” offer distractions and alternatives: Show how to smell the flowers instead of picking them, for example.
Getting through tantrums
- Ignore the behavior and do not establish eye contact.
- Remove the child from the situation if necessary.
- Give your child positive attention when he/she is being good.
- Redirect your child’s attention for milder tantrums.
- Do not give in to the child’s demands during the tantrum.
Tantrums at home are one thing, but tantrums in the middle of the library, grocery store, or another public place are quite another. Be consistent with your approach to your child’s tantrums at home. If your child has a tantrum in public do what you would at home, even if that means leaving the store or a friend’s house.
Remember, that these are guidelines and that each child is different. There will be days when you’ll be that perfect parent and there will be days where parenthood is more a matter of survival. When those difficult days come, remember that parenting is a learning process for both you and your toddler. As you help your child deal with her emotions, you’ll be setting up a relationship and trust that will extend from the terrible twos into their teens and beyond.
Remember to take time for yourself so that you can be calm and focused when those tanturms do occur.