If your toddler has suddenly started acting out, lashing out, kicking, biting and screaming at the top of their lungs you can be sure that they have reached the temper tantrum stage.
Tantrums tend to occur from 12 months onwards and usually end around the ages of 3 (but can often carry on through to older ages also). Tantrums are very unique to each child and as your child’s temperament changes, they can experience many episodes of tantrums occurring one after the other.
Most tantrums are a normal and healthy part of a child’s developmental process but some toddler aggression can lead you to worry if this type of behaviour is normal or not.
This can put a lot of strain and stress on you, especially if you have young children. Tantrums vary from child to child but will often peak around the 18 – 24-month stage.
At this age, children are more independent and seek out new experiences. This freedom is a healthy and normal part of the toddler years. However, tension can arise when there are controls placed on independent activity and power struggles can arise.
This is a complicated developmental stage for your toddler as they have come to understand what they want but are still unable to express exactly what that is to others.
When they are unable to express themselves and feel that they have not been given enough freedom to be independent then temper tantrums occur.
Remember, although punishments should be used as a last resort, there are some punishments that work a lot better than others.
7 Practical Ways To Avoid Temper Tantrums In Young Children
1. Positive Attention
Try to promote positive behaviour by giving it more attention. The more attention you give positive behaviour the more your child will seek it out.
Tantrums are a way to let you know something isn’t right. They can also be a cry for attention. By giving less attention to the tantrum your child will learn to use positive behaviour instead to get what they want.
2. Control Over The Small Things
1 way to avoid temper tantrums is to give them independence in a small way. Here you give them the freedom to control the small day to day activities.
- Do you want apple juice or orange juice’,
- Do you want a big cup or a small cup’,
- Do you want fish fingers or curly fries etc.
This will give your child the recognition of independence and the ability to be in control of the small things. Eventually, this will lead to better self-discipline and fewer tantrums.
A smart way to reduce tantrums is to use distraction techniques. Children at young ages have short attention spans. You can use this to your advantage by distracting your way out of a tantrum.
The art of “distracting” can be as simple as pointing to another person, a place, a toy, some food or highlighting a new sound.
Anything that will help them to forget about the reason why they got all flustered and wound up in the first place.
- New skills
You can restrict tantrums by giving your toddler new skills to learn.
Children’s mind needs to be kept occupied or they will default to irritable or disruptive behaviour. Keep your child’s stimulated by offering new and exciting things for them to do each day.
This could be something as simple playing with a new educational toy or as complex as learning a new instrument. Either way, learning new skills help to bond you and your child and will contribute towards fewer tantrums.
You can see a few more examples here: 10 life skills to teach a toddler
- Choose Your Battles
Every battle you have with your toddler takes excessive energy and time to fight. Pick the battles that you think you can win and the ones that mean the most.
If the behaviour is only small and over something trivial then you don’t need to bring out the “big guns”
Instead, choose to fight the big battles (like if your child starts to hit you) and be firm and consistent in winning those. The smaller things (like a tantrum over not wanted to wear a hat outside) can sometimes be left unchecked.
- Basic Needs
Many toddler tantrums occur when one or more of their basic needs have not been met. Here are some simple questions to ask yourself to ensure your babies is not disgruntled about something else. Ask yourself:
- Is your toddler hungry?
- Is your toddler thirsty?
- Have they had enough sleep?
- Have they had too much sleep? (it can happen)
- Have they had enough stimulation?
- Have they had too much stimulation?
- Is it for developmental reasons (teething, growing pains etc)
Meeting your child’s basic needs should be your first checkpoint before you move onto anything else. A vast majority of the time you can prevent tantrums from happening in the first play if you can identify a basic need.
Remember, a hungry child is an angry child and a tired child is an angry child!
Temper Tantrums: How To Cope
1. Stay Calm
A calm parent is a proactive parent who is able to see all the effective ways to get things back to normal. Try not to fight anger, with anger, as it’s a recipe for disaster. It’s almost impossible to calm your toddler down when they are in the middle of a volcano rage if you are already shouting, anger and in fury mode as well.
Plus you don’t want to teach your child that anger is an appropriate way to express themself when they feel upset.
2. Different Tantrums = Different Tactics
Some tantrums just need a bit of comfort and support. For example, if your child is hungry or tired and just needs that extra attention.
Other tantrums, however, need a more rigid approach. An example of these are tantrums about toys and sharing. Here, you may need to be firm and reiterate the point that ‘you must learn to share’
Different tantrums should require different tactics and as a parent, it’s important you consider which is most effective for each type of behaviour.
3. Ignore Some Tantrums
One smart tactic to avoid temper tantrums is to try and ignore some. Especially the ones that are aimed at getting attention as this will only reaffirm the behaviour
If the tantrum is particularly aggressive or violent, like your child hitting other children, you will need to remove your child from the environment and wait for them to calm down.
This will work well when your child is in a public place and needs that extra time to lower their heart rate and get back to normal before returning to the activity.
4. After Tantrums
Once your child has calmed down reassure them that you love them and are there to support them. Reaffirm the positive steps they should take next time as well.
For example “Sharing is fun and we share our toys so everyone can play”
There are many things you can do to help cope with Temper Tantrums. Remember, being proactive is a smart way to reduce tantrums from happening in the first place.