Anyone who tells you their child has never had a tantrum is either telling porkies or has one very unusual child on their hands! Just as with crying in babies, tantrums are a way in which young children communicate. Until they are about three years old, they do not have a very sophisticated sense of right and wrong behaviour and, whilst a toddler will be beginning to piece together what he knows is not really allowed and what is ‘nice behaviour’, he is still looking to you for guidance.
Dealing with tantrums
If you go into tantrum mode yourself it will simply raise the stakes. It will also tell your child that you think tantrums are a good way of dealing with problems and it rewards your child’s behaviour with all the attention they want.
Of course you can show your disapproval and sometimes all of us are caught at a stressed, tired or exasperated moment when our reactions won’t be ‘textbook’, but it is important to stay as calm as possible and assess what is wrong. If you are in public, calmly take your child away from the situation you are in.
Address the issue that has caused the tantrum
If there is a genuine injustice try to remedy this or explain to your child why it has happened. Although sophisticated reasoning won’t work yet, it is only fair to your child to offer an explanation.
Change the scenery
If your child is getting cross or frustrated because his favourite television show isn’t on or has finished, turn the TV off and do something else like finger painting or reading or even try a nice soothing bath in the middle of the day.
Confronting the tantrum
If you are at home and your child does not calm down, express your own disappointment and tell him that you cannot speak to him while he is behaving like this. As long as he is not in any danger from throwing things or pulling anything over, leave your child to cool off for a few minutes and let him come to you to say ‘sorry’. If he doesn’t, return to the room, sit him down on your lap and let your calming manner bring him down from his tantrum.
Is your child seeking attention?
Think about whether or not you spend enough time interacting with your child and not other adults in places like the shops, the park and even at home. If you do but your child demands more, remind him of the fun times you do spend together and explain why at this moment in time, you really need to get on with mummy things instead.
The tantrum habit
If your child has regular tantrums you will need to agree a strategy for overcoming this phase with your partner so you can put up a united front. Continue the calming presence, think about what triggers a tantrum and try to remove this trigger if possible, and find new activities that bring out a happier side of your child.
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