Temper tantrums are common in both girls and boys between ages one to three. This is a normal feature of growing up age and its occurrence varies in different kids. It’s just the way of young kids to show their displeasure and that they’re angry or upset with something. But there surely are ways to deal with such episodes of anger or frustration. Read on to know more about temper tantrums and tips to prevent and manage it.
So How Do You Define A Temper Tantrum?
If you have a small child, you would have surely experienced his or her tantrums at some point of time. A temper tantrum is basically an outburst or expression of some extreme frustration or anger. The child would start crying or screaming hysterically or indulge in some violent acts like throwing things around, sitting or lying on the floor, banging the fists or legs on the feet etc.
As Ray Levy, who is a clinical psychologist in Dallas and has co-authored Try and Make Me! Simple Strategies That Turn Off the Tantrums and Create Cooperation says,
“Meltdowns are terrible, nasty things, but they’re a fact of childhood. Young kids — namely those between the ages of 1 and 4 — haven’t developed good coping skills yet. They tend to just lose it instead.”
But you would be left wondering why these outbursts begin to happen in the first place. To this, Levy says, it’s always a simple reason like not getting a particular thing they want. But in case of toddlers till 2 years, temper tantrums could be simply their way of communicating some need to their parent. For example, they need their diaper to be changed, they are asking for milk or juice or a toy may be. When a child gets frustrated and the parent isn’t responding the way he/she would want, they just resort to throwing a fit. But for older children, it could be more of demanding and getting their way by throwing a tantrum.
Why Do Kids Have A Temper Tantrum?
As discussed earlier, tantrums could be because the child is hungry, tired, or uncomfortable. Toddlers don’t know how to deal with frustrations and not getting what they want, hence they react that way. Also because little ones haven’t learnt how to speak yet, they don’t know how to voice what they feel. Till 2 years of age, kids usually resort to tantrum tactics, because they don’t know how to show what they feel or need. These outbursts tend to decline once their language skills are better developed.
Another factor is that some toddlers need more independence than others. However, they also feel insecure. At times children don’t know how to respond to some big change, like if the mother starts to leave the child at a day care or with a new nanny. A little kid won’t know how to express this feeling and doesn’t understand the reason for the changes happening in the environment. In such situations, a tantrum might show the child’s inner fears too.
Having said that, some older kids can also show tantrums at times. Though they have gained language and other social skills by now, they could be simply insecure or angry or might want something and are not able to convince their parent for it.
So here are some things that could trigger tantrums:
Some event that frustrates the child, for example, someone yelling at the child for no valid reason
Hunger, tiredness, irritability due to some discomfort
Anger because someone irritates the child, example: some other kid taking away his/her favourite toy
Other strong emotions such as fear, stress, shame, etc.
Frustration due to some huge change in the environment
Irritability due to some illness or ailment
When the child isn’t able to communicate his or her desire to the parent
So all this is familiar, right? Now, let’s see how we can handle such tantrums in an effective way.
Ways To Handle Your Kid’s Tantrums
Stay calm and don’t react with anger.
Make sure that you don’t lose your cool while handling this situation.
Ignore the child when he is throwing a tantrum.
Give some space to your child.
Rather than punishing, comfort your little one. Tell him that you love him.
Try to find the trigger of reason for frustration or what’s really bothering him/her.
Be a good role model in front of your child. Set an example by not taking out your frustration on others in your daily life. Children imbibe what they see.
Distract by joking and laughing. Dilute the stress by talking about something funny.
Offer your little one’s favourite food.
Do not give in and try not to lose your cool.
Remember that you are the adult. Don’t expect your kid to be mature.
Have you heard of time-outs? Use the time-out tactic by setting a me-time. Explain to your toddler that you are giving a time-out for him or her to calm down and this is no-interaction time. Also explain that it’s not a punishment and you are right there. Ensure the child is safe and after that, just focus on your chores or work.
Communicate with your child in a calm manner when his or her mood is better. Talk but listen more.
Watch out for triggers and signals of stressful situations and outbursts.
So now you know that when your child is hungry or tired, they have no tolerance; so, be prepared to deal with it. They can’t talk yet and cannot ask for a snack or a nap. It’s a good idea to carry their favourite snack when you take them along for grocery shopping etc. Also, did you know that the average tantrum lasts from just one to three minutes? Till that time, don’t waste your energy on yelling or getting angry. Don’t make a big deal out of it or get embarrassed. Wait for this to pass calmly. Make sure that you don’t buy peace by giving in or giving reason or another extreme – punishment. Take a deep breath and hold your child’s hand or hug to show him that you understand him and that you will talk it out later.