How to handle toddler tantrums like a pro – the question seems like an unsolvable mystery to many parents! But is that actually so?
The phrase, ‘toddler tantrums’ gives goosebumps to mums and dads who experience sleepless nights and self-doubts about their parenting capabilities when their 2-3 year-olds frequently scream, howl, kick their feet and become violent. Tantrums seem even more daunting to first-time parents who are taken aback by the sudden change in their toddler’s behaviour. Parents, especially moms, feel physically and mentally drained as they struggle to balance their busy lives with the temper tantrums that their toddlers throw to show resistance.
Well! The good news is that handling toddler tantrums is an area that has been widely studied by child psychologists. Experts have come up with certain best practices to manage negative emotions in children that especially occur when they are in their second or third year.
To be honest, managing toddlers’ tantrums starts with controlling your own emotions and trying to understand the psyche of your child. Let’s get to understand the root cause of why toddlers throw tantrums and their psyche behind it.
Why do toddlers throw tantrums?
Human beings are emotional creatures who need to express themselves. But since toddlers are incapable of efficiently communicating their needs and emotions through language, they resort to anger and nagging. Unlike grown-ups, they don’t care if a certain behaviour is unacceptable, they impulsively express their emotions and try to put across their points to grown-ups.
In most common cases, toddlers throw tantrums when they are hungry, uncomfortable or tired. The triggers can also be a lack of attention from parents or simply a desire to defy the rule. Throwing tantrums is also a toddler’s way of asserting his or her independence. They say ‘no’ to all rules and regulations set by their guardians as they start feeling like an individual, separate from their parents and capable of taking their own decisions.
Have you ever observed that your toddler’s favourite word is ‘no’, even if he or she actually means a yes? They throw and destruct objects, insist on wearing clothes of their choice, spit out food that they don’t like and yell when they are forced to take a nap or go to playschool. Actually, by negating and protesting they are trying to assert themselves.
The first step to handling toddler tantrums is to accept that it’s part of growing up and has nothing to do with your parenting style. Every child and parent undergo this stage. There is no way you can totally stop the tantrum, but can definitely deal with it in a patient and controlled manner and stop the situation from going out of bounds.
Top tips to handle toddler tantrums:
Empathise – being empathetic and showing that you actually understand how the toddler feels is actually the best way to calm them down. When your child is throwing tantrums, what he or she needs most is your understanding. For example, if your child is protesting against going to school, just hug them tightly and pat their back while dropping them at the gate. Simple phrases like ‘It’s okay’ or ‘ I understand’, make them feel heard and assured that you agree with them
Give control – as toddlers realise that they are individuals they want to act independently and make their own decisions. From what they want to eat, and games they want to play, to the clothes they want to wear, they want to have the final word. Offering small choices to toddlers makes them less agitated and feel valued. For example, do they wish to eat a banana or apple, wear red or blue, or play with a kitchen set or soft toy – these are minor decisions that parents can leave on toddlers to keep them in a pleasant mood.
Stay calm – toddlers are gauging the reaction of their parents while they throw tantrums. They want to see if their behaviour is acceptable to you. In situations when the child is showing bad behaviour, don’t constantly use phrases like ‘stop’ or ‘don’t do’. Rather stay composed and calm and try to distract the child. Gestures like kneeling down to the child’s eye level, patting them gently and acknowledging how they feel, but at the same time making it clear in a calm manner that you disagree with this behaviour, helps them get over the negative emotions.
Distract positively – it’s common for new-age parents to distract their children with digital devices in order to keep them busy or stop them from throwing tantrums. Distraction is indeed a solid way to handle tantrums, but the distraction must be something positive, like a craft activity, playground visit, or a game of hide and seek to excite your child. It’s your company that matters the most for the child!
Don’t give up – toddler tantrums can sometimes become uglier than we expect. The child might cry their eyes out, puke, bang themselves against the wall, or even hit parents and caregivers. But if you are trying to reinforce good behaviour in the child, do not give up in order to pacify your child. Giving up will give them the liberty to throw more tantrums.
Reward good behaviour – rewarding good traits or actions is a great way to help your toddler choose between good and bad behaviour. It gives them the motivation to cope with their negative emotions and stay calm.
Remember, toddler tantrums do not last a lifetime. With small steps like allowing toddlers to make choices, staying composed, avoiding aggression to control toddlers and keeping them actively engaged, you can handle toddler tantrums like a pro.
Parenting is a joy and toddler tantrums are little obstructions that can be used as opportunities to strengthen your bond with your child, rather than lose sleep over them. At the same time, don’t give up on enforcing good behaviour and the right values!
Raising toddlers is fun but also has its own set of challenges and responsibilities. If you wish to read more about various issues related to raising toddlers, check out this section.