A child experiencing a temper tantrum can be a stressful and frustrating experience for us all. This blog is aimed at toddlers but the tips are very transferable.
It is worth keeping in mind that often (not always) the screaming is a symptom of the child’s anger and frustration when they don’t have the vocabulary to explain what’s really wrong. Therefore, it does not help when we raise our voice, punish the tantrum or walk away. Staying calm and identifying what is wrong will help you to handle the situation quickly and effectively especially if you can get in there earlier on.
Remain calm and be a role model: Model the behavior you want to see for your child.
Before you react check-in with yourself (see also my 1 minute ‘moment of calm’ video here) Take a few deep breaths, tell yourself that reacting in anger does not help the situation, wait at least a few seconds before deciding on a response, go through your child’s ‘list of needs’ – food, hot, cold, pain , digestive problems toilet, tired, frustrated etc. Maybe ask another adult to take over so you can cool down or take a time out when you know your toddler is safe.
Give your toddler your special time: Remember that your child’s tantrum is not necessarily a way to get his/her way, but could be lack of needed attention from you. Having a toddler can be very busy and we might feel we spend a lot of time with them. This time may also centre around chores or maybe we are with the child but ‘mentally’ on the go. They might feel left out and ignored and start getting frustrated as they just want our full attention. Set some time aside every day to spend 100% focused time with your toddler, where he/she feels valued, unconditionally loved and has your full attention.
Give clear and short explanations: Many parents don’t explain the reason for a NO and for toddler that can be frustrating. Providing a reason for your actions will help the child make sense of things and to feel more in control of the situation. i.e. ‘Tom, we are going home for lunch now so you cannot have a Lolly’ etc.
Hold your ground. Be empathetic but firm, give a calm explanation, don’t back down. He or she will remember that throwing a tantrum doesn’t lead to satisfactory results. Next time your child wants something, he or she will be less likely to get into this state.
Help to add feelings to the tantrum: often toddlers don’t know how to express what they feel so it might not always be a good idea to ask ‘What is wrong?’.
Instead help with some words ‘I can see you are sad, upset, frustrated, angry’ etc. and then say ‘It is OK to feel that like and I am here when you need me’.
Stay: They DON’T want to behave like that and as upset you are so are they. Walking away can make them feel more lonely, sad and confused. Stay with them so they know you are there when things calm down. When they are ready for a hug give them one and praise for calming down – be in this moment together to restore connection.
Add the feelings, ‘I can see you are feeling…’ say ‘I am here when you are ready’.
Staying calm and connected may take some time and practice and may not always go according to plan. If it doesn’t then step back, look at what went well and not so well and where you can get it better next time.
“I started to enjoy every moment with my family, good and bad, instead of always being on my way to doing something else or thinking about doing it.” Suzanne, Berks
Area Facilitator GU