It is a problem that perplexes parents everywhere. What to do when their generally loveable and loving toddler has a complete meltdown and descends into a full-blown tantrum? While many parents become angry, frustrated and sometimes out of control themselves, this is not a positive and productive way to deal with your child’s temper tantrums. Experts advise not letting your embarrassment (especially if you are in public) determine your response to your child’s temper tantrum. Since you want to help your child learn self control, here are some ideas on how to respond when your child throws a temper tantrum.
While you can’t always control what is happening with your child, the avoidance of situations that trigger tantrums is always the first place to start.
• Try to set the stage for success when kids are playing or trying to master a new task. Be sure to offer age-appropriate toys and games. The best way to do this is to start with something simple before moving on to more challenging tasks.
• Recognize your child’s limits. If you know your toddler is tired, try to reschedule non essential stops or errands. It just may not be the best time to go grocery shopping or try to squeeze in one more errand.
But even after your best efforts to thwart a tantrum, one comes on. Here are some ideas on dealing with them:
• If a safety issue is involved and a toddler repeats the forbidden behavior after being told to stop, use a time-out or hold the child firmly for several minutes. There is no room for negotiation when safety is involved, and you must be consistent. Kids must understand that you are inflexible on safety issues and will always be.
• The most important thing to keep in mind when you’re faced with a child in the throes of a tantrum is to keep cool. No matter what the problem or trigger, you don’t need to complicate the problem with your own frustration. Kids have a sixth sense about when parents are becoming frustrated. This can make their frustration worse, and you may have a more exaggerated tantrum on your hands. Take a moment; take deep breaths, and try to think clearly.
• Your child relies on you to be the example of in-control behavior. Physical tactics send the message that using force and physical punishment is okay, but hitting and spanking just don’t work. As the adult you must have enough self-control for both of you.
• Try to take a moment to understand what is going on. You may handle tantrums differently depending on the cause. Take a moment and see if you can understand where your child is coming from. You may be surprised to learn that sometimes their tantrum is an indication for comfort and nothing more.
• If the tantrum has resulted from being denied something, you may want to ignore it. Toddlers are not easy to reason with; so sometimes your best defense is just to ignore the outburst. If the tantrum poses no threat to your child or others, just continue your activities, paying no attention to your child but remaining within sight. If you are in public, you may want to move your child to a quiet, safe place to calm down.
• Keep in mind that while this is generally a toddler behavior, some older kids use tantrums to get their way if they’ve learned that this behavior works. Once kids have reached school age, it’s appropriate to send them to their rooms to cool off. Rather than setting a specific time limit, parents can tell them to stay in the room until they’ve regained control. This may give the kids a sense of empowerment letting them know they can affect the outcome by their own actions, thereby gaining a sense of control that was lost during the tantrum.