We’ve all been there! –Your child is having a major melt down and you are standing there, just not sure what to do.
Here are a few handy tips to help you deal with a tantrum, but more importantly how to minimise the chance of it happening again –and let’s face it, prevention is always better than having to deal with your toddler’s meltdown!
1. What triggers your child’s tantrums?
- Pure frustration at their limitations and inability to communicate or control what is happening
- Being tired and/or hungry
- Being uncomfortable or in pain
- Fear, excitement, boredom or stress
- Attention seeking
2. How to keep your cool when your child is losing theirs
- Stop and think before you act.
- Try to act calm even if you don’t feel it.
- Take a few deep breaths. Say the alphabet backwards. Walk away if it’s safe
- Find something else to do for a minute or two
- Think about how you would behave if this was a friend’s child
- Visualise yourself picking up your emotions and feelings and putting them down next to you. This is going to be a whole lot easier if you are calm and in control.
3. What to do and what not to do when a tantrum erupts
- Use reflective listening ‘You are SO frustrated/ angry/ upset, You really want that toy’. Help them name what they are feeling – it will help them feel understood & diffuse the emotion
- Ignore the behaviour. Avoid eye contact. If you are sure they are safe, move to a different room if possible. Say ‘I will talk with you when you have stopped’
- Consider having an angry corner with drawing things, a cushion to punch, bubble wrap to stamp on etc. Teach children It’s Ok to be angry, but it is not OK to harm people or property
- Help them calm down. After the tantrum says “I’ll help you settle down now.”
- As soon as the tantrum is over give your child a hug and reassurance that they are loved, no matter what. Praise them for stopping the tantrum ‘You’ve stopped crying and screaming. I can talk with you now’
- Don’t lose your temper. Stay in control of your emotions when your child loses it
- Don’t ever give in. Say: ‘Unfortunately now you have had a tantrum I won’t be able to give you that because you might just think that that is the way to get what you want’.
- Don’t say ‘calm down’ or ‘Stop that’. It is not helpful to children (or adults)
- Never use physical punishment
- Don’t give them an audience. Allow them to do their Oscar-winning performance on their own. It kind of takes the fun out of it!
4. How to avoid tantrums
- Talk to your child beforehand about a situation that may cause a tantrum. Use Role play and talk it through to help your toddler learn how to behave.
- Ask them what they might be feeling and ask them what they will need to do.
- Keep asking them how they will need to behave before the situation happens again.
- Give plenty of 1:1 attention (plus 15-20 minutes a day doing something they love)
- Keep triggers (off-limit objects) out of sight
- Give toddlers some control (Do you want the blue jumper or the green jumper? Do you want to brush your teeth before or after your bath?)
- Distract them in the early stages /milder tantrum notice something exciting or fun. Hug or tickle your child
- Be aware of how your toddler may be feeling. Don’t try to do things when they are tired or hungry
- Give your child positive attention when he/she is being good
- Establish clear and consistent limits for behaviour with rewards for behaving well
If your child has severe tantrums, or tantrums lasting longer than 20 minutes at a time, you may need expert help to deal with them.