When your toddler has a tantrum, they get a huge wave of frustration, upset and anger. The tantrum is their immature effort to get you to understand how much they want something. Or don’t want it! Even if they’re not going to get their own way, you can still be kind and loving.
So to deal with a tantrum, firstly, empathise with the huge emotion that’s going on for them.
Show them you understand, and can see how frustrated they are.
Say what emotion you think they’re feeling and why they feel that way.
- ‘You really want those sweets and you’re angry that I won’t let you have them.’
- ‘You don’t want to get in your car seat. You’re annoyed you had to stop playing.’
- ‘You’re in the buggy and you really want to walk.’
Don’t say ‘but’ afterwards- don’t say‘but you can’t have them…but you have to.’ To your toddler, the ‘but’ contradicts all the understanding you’ve just shown. So show them you understand. And are there alongside them rather than against them.
Secondly, tantrums are scary and overwhelming for your toddler.
So even if your heart sinks when the tantrum starts, make a big effort to stay calm and accept your toddler’s anger. When they’re displaying big feelings, don’t get angry or shout at them or ignore them. Don’t walk off and leave them to deal with that huge emotion on their own. They really need you to ‘contain’ their anger.
So sit down near them. And you can stay quiet or say occasional things like… ‘You’re so upset. You’re really angry with me.’ Then as soon as your child stops crying say: ‘would you like a hug?’ Let them know you still love them. And that they can still feel angry without you getting angry back.
Finally, don’t ever give in to a tantrum.
Tantrums happen when your child flexes their little muscles and tries to get what they want. If you reward a tantrum by giving in, you’ll get a lot more of them.
So when they’ve had a hug, distract them with something else to do. If they still try to get what they wanted, explain the rule calmly: ‘Unfortunately, now you have had a tantrum I won’t be able to give you that because you might just think that’s the way to get what you want’
Later on, when they’ve had a chance to calm down, talk about asking nicely for something. Tell your child that you still might say no, but that if they have a tantrum, they definitely won’t get what they want.
So to deal with a tantrum three things you can do are:
- Empathise with the huge emotion that’s going on for them.
- Don’t get angry but stay calm and accept your toddler’s anger and
- Try never to give in to a tantrum.
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