Not only are temper tantrums a normal part of raising a toddler, but they come in all shapes and sizes. From crying to screaming to stiffening limbs, these fits of anger are common among children aged one to three years, so there’s no need to fret.
Here are some reasons why your toddler might be acting out as well as some top tips on how best to react to testing situations.
Why is my toddler having tantrums?
Toddler tantrums are by and large a result of underdeveloped social and emotional skills. Young children do not often have the words to express big emotions or feelings of frustration, so they rely on communicating their emotions physically.
For example, your toddler might be using kicking or screaming as a means of expressing their feelings as well as testing what influence these actions have on the people around them.
Although these mini-meltdowns are a standard part of a child’s development, there are triggers which make angry outbursts a lot more likely to occur. Popular triggers for young children include:
Children who get upset more easily are more prone to temper tantrums. They may react quickly or strongly to frustrating events that are out of their control.
Stress, hunger or tiredness can all affect mood (just as they do in adults). Because children don’t often realise what their bodies need or how to express these needs, they will lash out in their behaviour.
- Tricky situations
Toddlers sometimes struggle to cope in difficult situations, new environments or different circumstances e.g. taking turns with a favourite toy in the playground.
- Intense emotions
Strong emotions such as anxiety, fear and anger can be overwhelming for toddlers; especially if they haven’t experienced them before.
Best ways to deal with toddler temper tantrums
When dealing with tantrums as a parent, we recommend helping your toddler learn to self-regulate. Self-regulation is the ability to understand and manage behaviour and reactions. So, toddlers who feel things strongly and intensely typically find it harder to self-regulate.
You can help your child learn to self-regulate by providing them with support wherever you can. For example, regularly talk to them about their emotions, encourage them to name their feelings and help them find alternative ways to react to overpowering emotions.
While working on self-regulation with your toddler, use these tips in the short-term for handling tantrums:
- Stay calm
Nothing good is going to result from both parties being angry, so as the parent you should try to keep your voice calm and act with a level head. This is easier said than done, but if you react slowly you’ll have a much better chance of success.
- Acknowledge the frustration
Think about what has happened to make your child react in this manner and ask them about it. By opening up a dialogue about the issue, you can teach your child to process their strong emotions.
- Wait it out
Distracting the child is not the answer to dealing with a tantrum. Instead, stay present, remain calm in your approach and wait for the storm to pass. If that means giving your child a time out or leaving the room for five minutes, so be it.
- Be the boss
If your child is trying to get their own way, be that a later bedtime or refusing to get out of the bath, do not give in to them. As a parent you need to take charge, otherwise, the child will revert to tantrums whenever they want something.
Coping mechanisms for parents
Although all children have tantrums, some can be more draining and stressful than others. Here are some ideas on how best to respond to tantrums and keep things in perspective:
- Have a go-to strategy
Failure to prepare equals preparation to fail. But, if you have a clear plan on how to deal with a tantrum, it will help you to remain calm when presented with it. Refrain from yelling, give your child a hug and quickly move on – never take your child’s tantrum to heart.
- Realise you can’t prevent the tantrum once it’s started
As soon as you come to terms with the fact that you’re unable to control your child’s emotions or reactions, your response to the tantrum itself will be more guided. All you can do is aim to make tantrums less frequent in the future.
- Ignore the people around you
If you take notice of people giving you dirty looks, your response to the tantrum will be out of embarrassment and frustration. Other parents will know exactly what you are going through, so don’t think anyone is judging you or labelling you as a bad parent.
Keep your sense of humour, think about your reaction and hold your head held high.
So, the next time your toddler is having a temper tantrum, remind yourself that they are not a sign of bad parenting but rather an essential developmental stage. Always be mindful that you are your child’s role model for handling anger.
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