Even with the best intentions of any parent, the dreaded toddler tantrum stage seems to arrive for almost every child. While parents may be frustrated at the seemingly constant frustration of their once good-natured toddler, the good news is it won’t last forever! But while the storms of temper tantrums remain on the horizon there are positive and productive ways for parents to deal with this stage of child development. While you may do everything you can to help your child avoid situations that trigger tantrums, one (or more) may still result. So before losing your cool here are some ideas for appropriate discipline for temper tantrums.
• After the storm has passed and the temper tantrum has settled down a bit, the child may still have a hard time settling herself. You may need to step in with compassion and say, “I’ll help you settle down now.” This is in conjunction with love and lots of hugs. Kids may be especially vulnerable after a tantrum when they know they’ve been less than adorable. Now is the best time for a hug and reassurance that your child is loved. This lets them know that no matter what, you will be there.
• Be sure you do not reward your child after a tantrum by giving in. This will only prove to your child that the tantrum was effective. Instead, verbally praise your child for being able to regain control. This helps empower them to take control of their own behavior and helps lessen the frustration and feelings of being overcome that brought on the tantrum in the first place.
• If you must discipline your child to curb tantrums, be sure and speak calmly and firmly to them. Use short, specific sentences that let them know exactly what you want them to do. For example instead of saying, “You had better stop that crying and kicking or you will be in trouble!” replace that with, “Please calm down and stop crying.” Also, using a quiet tone of voice will help the child focus on getting control instead of being further overwhelmed by your loud voice or yelling.
• If you feel further discipline is necessary consider using a “time-out” space for the child to get control of their behavior. This is most effective when the child is removed from the scene of the tantrum. It has been shown that hitting and spanking are the least effective measures for curbing tantrums.
There are times that tantrums are not part of the usual stage of development. You may be concerned about how your child is progressing through this stage of child development or maybe you are concerned that the tantrums are not getting better. You may have questions about what you’re doing or what your child is doing. This may be the time to consult your child’s doctor for help with what may be a medical or psychological condition. Call your doctor if:
• You’re uncomfortable with your responses to your child’s tantrums.
• You seem to keep giving in.
• The tantrums arouse a lot of bad feelings for your child that they seem unable to deal with.
• Your child’s tantrums increase in frequency, intensity, or duration.
• Your child tries to hurt him or herself or others.
• Your child is destructive during a tantrum and tries to break or destroy property.
• Your child displays mood disorders with the tantruming behaviors such as negativity, low self-esteem, or extreme dependence.
While problems attached to tantrums are rare, your doctor can also check for any physical problems that may be contributing to the tantrums. Some problems attached to tantrums include hearing or vision problems, a chronic illness, language delays, or a learning disability. The good news is by finding these early on you have a much better chance at helping your child.
Keep in mind though that tantrums usually aren’t cause for concern, and they generally diminish on their own. As kids mature developmentally and their grasp of themselves and the world increases, their overall frustration levels decrease. And that means one thing: less frustration and more control equals fewer tantrums which results in happier parents!