Temper tantrums are a normal part of child development. They are ultimately a reaction to a situation a child can’t handle in a more grown-up way. From infancy, children rely on screaming when they are uncomfortable. If they are tired or hungry, they cry until they get attention merely because this is the only way they know how to communicate. Because young children don’t have the language skills to effectively communicate what’s bothering them, they resort to screaming, hitting, breath holding, the list goes on. You may notice as language skills improve, the tantrums tend to decrease.
As a parent, it is easy to believe that you are doing something wrong when your child throws a tantrum. What you need to remember is the behaviour is normal and there is no foolproof way to prevent them. What you can do however, is encourage good behaviour by using the following tricks:
1. Establish a daily routine
What this does is teach your child when to expect to do things they may not normally like to do until it becomes normal, such as brushing their teeth, having a bath, and bed time.
2. Plan around your child’s needs
If you have established a regular routine, you will know when your child is likely to get hungry or tired. Pack extra snacks if you know you are going to be out for a while, or wait until before or after nap time to run errands.
3. Give your child a sense of control
A tantrum is sometimes caused by a power struggle. To give your child a sense of control, allow them to make some choices they can handle. For example, “What fruit would you like to eat today?”
4. Praise good behaviour
Giving your children extra positive attention when they behave well will encourage good behaviour. If they pick up a toy when you ask them, make sure it doesn’t go unnoticed.
5. Avoid situations likely to trigger tantrums
Tantrums are triggered by difficult situations or when a child wants something they can’t have. To avoid this, maybe steer clear of areas you know your child will act up – the toy isle at the supermarket for example.
The best thing to remember when dealing with a tantrum is to always stay calm. The last thing you want is your child imitating your angry outburst. Instead, try to distract your child or offer helpful solutions to make their situation a little easier. It is important to remember, young children don’t plan or frustrating or embarrassing their parents, they’re just finding a way to express their frustration.
If your child becomes destructive at any point, it is a good idea to remove them from the situation and enforce a timeout. What’s so good about this technique is it gives your child the opportunity to calm down. It is important to stick with the timeout for the whole duration (usually one minute for every year of your child’s age). This means, no responding to anything he or she says, returning him or her to the designated spot if they wander, and calmly discussing the reason for the timeout when the time is up.
At Angel’s Paradise, we offer constructive ways to handle conflict and encourage each child to become familiar with how emotions affect them.