By Nikki Cecala
According to my mother, my 3-year-old son is exactly like me when I was a toddler. She doesn’t say this with pure joy in her voice—it’s more of a warning. I was a climber, a talker, and had a whirlwind of temper tantrums growing up (and can still throw some minor fits).
Despite the term, "terrible twos," temper tantrums can start as early as 12 months and continue beyond age four, though they occur most often during a child’s second year. While not fun, tantrums are a normal part of a child’s development. Through the process, they learn to cope with frustration.
When encountering a tantrum, first rule out the basics. Is your child:
If it’s one of the above, then address that problem immediately.
Otherwise, take a moment to look at the bigger picture of what is causing your child to throw a tantrum. Get creative and find a tactic that works for you and your child when entering Tantrum Town.
- Calm down
When my son gets hysterical, I tell him as calmly as possible that he needs to calm down before we move forward with anything. I ask him to breath slowly and hold my hands. There will be times when you think you can’t keep your composure, but it’s critical when telling someone else to calm down. Yelling solves nothing.
- Give them your undivided attention
One morning, I was driving my son to daycare in bumper-to-bumper traffic. We were running late and I was listening to the traffic report on the radio. Suddenly, my son started making an angry whining sound. Already short-tempered, I asked him what was wrong. He was angry that I wasn’t hearing him point out all the things he was seeing out the window.
I quickly realized that he was trying to share things that were exciting to him while I was busy stressing out. When you notice a tantrum starting, get out of your head and take a moment to appreciate what your child is trying to share with you. Sometimes they just need a little attention.
- Check yourself
Are you having a rough day and taking it out on your child? We try not to, but sometimes it happens. Kids can pick up on those negative vibes and will poke at it until they share the same unhappy feelings. Leave the drama from work, relationships, or anything else at the front door. If you bring it home, you’re asking for a tantrum.
- Ignore them
During certain situations (e.g. a tantrum in line at the grocery store) you need to remain strong. We’ve all tried bribing them with candy or toys just to get them to be quiet, but that only lasts for so long.
Instead, explain that their behavior in public is unacceptable. If your child is still not listening, ignore them and wait until you get outside to have a more personal conversation about the behavior.
- Communication is key
It’s a simple concept: talk to your child and pinpoint what the problem is. My son has excellent verbal skills, so when he starts whining and making noises I ask him to use his words so I can understand why he is upset and fix the problem.
It’s easy to think you are already listening to your child, but if the TV is on or you’re texting someone, you aren’t 100 percent listening, are you? Give your child the same respect you desire and get to the cause of the tantrum. The more you practice, the easier it will be for both of you to settle down, cope with your child’s emotions, and move on.
What are some ways you address your child’s tantrums?