Temper tantrums are really common with toddlers… we are talking kids from about age 1-3 years old. Certainly older kids can have them but if your older kids are having a temper tantrum, it probably means you haven’t dealt with it properly.
Let’s first look at a few reasons why temper tantrums happen:
#1) The child is hungry, tired, bored or overstimulated. These are all very common. Hey, we as adults feel these too. The hope is just you aren’t crying, kicking, and screaming when you you are hungry
#2) They don’t understand emotions yet. Think about it, a 2 year old may get angry, just as a 45 year old does, but the 2 year old has no idea what that emotion is or how to deal with it. (insert emotional video card)
#3) They don’t know how to communicate how they feel – Just like not understanding their emotions, they certainly don’t know how to communicate what they are feeling. A temper tantrum is often just them trying to communicate in the only way they know.
#4) They don’t know how to self-regulate – They don’t know how to calm themselves down. Heck it wasn’t until my mid 30s until a learned about meditation or breathing techniques to calm myself down. It’s really up to us to begin teaching them how to manage this stuff.
So how do we deal with a temper tantrum?
#1) Keep calm – You have to remember that when a child is throwing a temper tantrum, you can’t as well. Getting anger or yelling is NOT going to solve it. You need to remain calm. Whether it’s pretend or you are really able to, you must be calm in your approach. Do not take it personally either.
#2) Use empathy – If they are old enough to understand you, acknowledge your child’s feelings and understand where they are coming from, “I know you want that cookie and it makes you really upset when you don’t get it.” Empathy can often diffuse situations. Of course if it work doesn’t there are more things to try.
#3) Do NOT give in – If your child is crying, kicking and screaming because they want a cookie, do NOT give them the cookie.
Let me give you another example so you don’t miss this one. If your child wants to play on the swings longer, but you have already providing warnings that it was time to go, and they start crying and throwing a temper tantrum, do not stay longer.
When you give in, you are re-inforcing their behavior. You are letting them know that the temper tantrum works and they will get what they want.
#4) Use the Distraction Technique – This work a lot better with young kids than older kids. You also have to catch them typically before a full blown temper tantrum erupts. If you get to that, getting their attention might be difficult. But if you can…say they want the cookie, grab a toy instead and begin playing with them.
If you are at store and they want a toy, give them something else to hold instead. Don’t give them food but give them a toy, keys, or something else to play with.
#5) Wait it out – The storm will pass. If you remain calm and the child realizes they are not getting their way, the temper tantrum usually only lasts so long. If you are using these techniques, it will pass quicker.
#6) – Let them take a break – Don’t call it time out, call it taking a break or cooling off. Maybe it’s in their room or you have a special location or furniture in the house. It’s important for them to begin learning how to self-regulate. It’s not a punishment, it’s having them take a break so they can get back into control.
#7) Positive re-inforcement – catch them behaving good. When you are in the store and they are calm, you say, “I really appreciate you being calm and helping me at the store”. or “I noticed that when I told you we had to leave, you came over right away. That was super helpful, thank you.”
Here’s the thing, all children experience temper tantrums at a young age….and it’s hard. They can be embarrassing when you are in public, they can strike emotions in you that get you worked up. But you have to remember these techniques so that you can STOP (or at least minimize) the amount of temper tantrums.