The dreaded temper tantrum. All parents have been through it both in public and privately. That panic inducing moment when your child is on the verge of a temper tantrum in the middle of the grocery store is something all parents fear. In this blog, we will focus on the ways that you can soothe children of all ages having a temper tantrum but mostly toddlers. Between the ages of 1.5 and 3 is generally when children experience the most concentrated onset of meltdowns. At this age, children aren’t able to communicate why they are upset as they are just starting to develop their speech which only serves to increase their frustration. So for all parents out there that are in the midst of the tantrum twos – there is a light at the end of the tunnel. When they are able to communicate more effectively, meltdowns tend to dissipate. Here are 7 tips that educators at Childventures use to support children in the toddler program!
1. Understand the cause of the meltdown.
It’s important to understand WHY your child is having this meltdown. The three main culprits are when children are: tired, hungry or uncomfortable. Knowing the cause can often help you to rectify the situation, but it’s also beneficial to understand where your child is coming from in this moment of stress. They aren’t trying to embarrass you, (although you should never be embarrassed when your child is having a meltdown) they are just having a difficult moment likely because of one of those three indicators. Consider the time of day, the last time they ate, last time they slept, etc. You can also allow them some sense of control by asking “are you hungry” or “are you tired” and seeing their response. Another indicator that CV educators identified is ‘new baby syndrome’. When there is a new baby at home, older siblings can be concerned that they will no longer receive the same amount of attention that they used to.
2. If it’s within reason, resolve the issue
Ideally, you’ll be in a position to release the stress from your child. When you’re at home, you can put them down for their nap, feed them or let them remove an item of clothing. Ideally, this would solve every meltdown but – as many of you know – that is not always the case. When you are able to rectify the situation quickly, it will usually diffuse the situation before it becomes a full on tantrum. However, when it comes to naps it can be a bit trickier. If they miss their nap completely for whatever reason, it is often more beneficial in the long run to put them to bed earlier instead of adding in another nap. In which case you would need to follow tip 3.
3. Wait them out
Although this may seem contradictory to our last tip, it’s very important to only rectify meltdowns that are appropriate when possible. If you knew you were pushing it past their usual nap time with a lengthy errand, then you definitely want to get them to their bed as soon as possible. However, if it’s a case of ‘give me that toy’ meltdown, this is where you want to draw the line. Although it can be tempting, often you have to ride out the demand tantrums so that you don’t set that as the precedent for getting what they want. One seasoned CV educator said that in these situations, she will say “when you are ready, come and see me” so that she allows the child to have their moment but ensures they know she is there for them when they are finished. If you have to ride out a meltdown or you’re not in the place to fix a justifiable one, then look to tip 4!
For those moments that you either can’t find the cause of the meltdown or you aren’t in the position to rectify it, DISTRACT. If they’re having a tantrum because you won’t buy them a toy that they want, distract them by singing a song or getting their attention with something else in the store. CV educators will work to turn the negative into a positive. For example, at this age children often struggle with the concept of sharing so having to give a toy to another child can prompt a meltdown. In this situation, they would show how happy they have made the other child and then identify another toy they get to play with now!
Pro tip: always carry around a fool proof distractions in your bag or purse. A snack is always a good option or a small toy or fidget device that always gets their attention. A comfort item would also be a helpful item for moments that your toddler is in distress because of over stimulation.
5. Remain calm
Although stress in your child can often bring out the stress in you, be sure to keep your cool so as to not escalate their emotions. You can have your own meltdown but be sure not to align it with your child’s. A general rule of thumb, the louder they yell, the softer you speak.
Once the tantrum is winding down, provide as much positive affirmation as you can muster. Express how proud you are that they calmed themselves down and if they communicated what had them upset in some way, focus on that instead of chastising the meltdown. This would also be a good time for a hug and other reassurances that a tantrum doesn’t change how you feel about them.
7. Identify Prompts
At some point, you may realize that the tantrums are always happening at the same time of day or in the same piece of clothing or situation. Knowing this information will allow you to avoid them when possible. If your child always has a tantrum right before lunch, consider moving up lunch time. If the tantrum is always in a certain type of clothing (often tight fitting) then consider removing that from their wardrobe. Lastly, if they always have a meltdown at the grocery store, it could be that the lights or noise or number or people causes them unnecessary stress. In this situation, you can stop taking them to the store initially and then start to re-introduce as time goes by in small doses.
Tantrums are a regular part of growing up. No matter how calm, cool and collected other parents look in stores or on social media, I can guarantee that they are also dealing with meltdowns – you are not alone. They don’t make you a poor parent, it is impossible to avoid all meltdowns. The important thing is to listen to your child and understand where these tantrums are coming from. Learn the best ways to handle the specific individual needs of your child. Hopefully, these tips will help some of you manage those tantrum- twos! Let us know if you currently use any of these or plan on it in the future on our social media pages.