Temper Tantrums. We all know what they are and dread their appearance! Whether it’s in the supermarket bread aisle or at a restaurant, our little cherubs always seem to pick their moments on when the tantrum monster will strike. But let’s look a bit more into what causes these seemingly explainable outbursts of toddler anger.
Why do tantrums happen?
Tantrums are an emotional hurricane, they come on very quickly and build to a very destructive force! One moment you are happily enjoying your meal in a cafe and the next there is salad and water flying around, a deafening yell emitting from your small person and much banging and crashing of plates and glasses.
Tantrums are usual in children aged 1 to 3 years old. By this age toddlers have begun to learn by using their emotions and sometimes these emotions are too huge for them to handle. They are so huge that their limited communication skills cannot keep up. They understand many more words and sentences, but are unable to communicate at the same level as their understanding. This causes frustration and often a resulting temper tantrum.
Regardless of how well behaved your child is, you are likely to still experience a few tantrums through the toddler journey. It is easy to think that your toddler is trying to manipulate you with their behaviour, but often this is not the case. At this young age they do not understand the concept of manipulation, they are simply frustrated at not being able to communicate.
How can we stop them happening?
I don’t think you can ever wipe out tantrums completely but you can hopefully minimise the situations where tantrums may occur. If your toddler is tired or sick then try to avoid having to go out and run errands. Hopefully you can do without milk and bread until after nap time!
You should try and work out situations that might set your toddler off and identify the triggers. Such as, if your toddler has a melt down every time you advise it is time to leave the swimming pools or the playground then give them a 10 minute, then 5 minute warning before you are due to leave to prepare them for the departure. This will give them time to process that the situation is about to change and time to adjust. It’s good to have something to look forward to after leaving, maybe you are going to go home to make a yummy lunch together.
If you find that you are saying No to your toddler a lot then this could be causing unnecessary stress and tantrums. While we need our little ones to tow the line, sometimes it is a case of picking your battles. Is it really the end of the world if they wear mismatched socks?
Toddlers are desperate for their independence and are constantly testing the boundaries, instead of giving them constant instructions, try to give them a choice. Would you like peas or corn, instead of ‘eat your peas!’. They still eat some vegetables and they feel like they have had a win.
How to handle a tantrum
If your toddler is in full swing temper tantrum then try to remain calm. There is no simple way to talk them down when they have reached full velocity, but there are two opposing schools of thought on how you can handle the situation. You will only know which of these suits your child best by testng both theories out.
The first opinion is that your presence can help the situation as if you leave the room they may feel abandoned. Sometimes an embrace can help as they may be frightened by the storm of emotions they are going through. The second opinion is the absolute opposite and that is ignoring the tantrum, not rewarding negative behaviour. Leave your toddler in their own safe space until they calm down.
No matter what works best for your child, it is always important to try and remain calm in your approach, as hard as it is to do sometimes. Do not meet their anger with your own anger as this can only prolong the tantrum. Remember that you are the adult and not to give into any demands your toddler has during the tantrum otherwise they will learn that all they need to do is throw a tantrum to get what they want.
Do not worry about what others think, all parents have been where you are right now. You need to deal with the situation in the way that works for your family, not how the stranger at the supermarket thinks you should handle it. If you are in a public place, be prepared to pack up and head home if you need to. If your child is lashing out, hitting, throwing, causing danger to pets or similar then pick them up and remove them from the situation, Put them in a safe time out spot until they calm down.
It’s important to talk about the tantrum after it has taken place. Acknowledge that your child had frustration about something (having to put socks on, having to come to the table for dinner) but that you can only understand what they want when they use their words calmly. Praise calm communication and explain that they will not get what they want if they are throwing a tantrum.
Regular tantrums are quite normal in toddlers, they can be triggered by seemingly harmless things. You may see an increase in tantrums in times of stress, especially if there has been upheaval in their life such as moving house, change in living situations etc. If you are concerned by the number of tantrums that your child is having then it is alright to seek medical advice.
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Gemma is a kiwi Mum of one and is the Editor for The Baby View. She also works with preschool children, loves cooking, loves sunshine, loves chocolate and loses countless hours at a time looking at cute baby pictures on Instagram!