Crocodile tears, sudden outbursts, flailing arms, writhing on the floor. Do any of these things sound familiar? If you have a young child, or toddler, they should! Tantrums are…special to say the least. Depending on the circumstances, they can often be hilarious and easy to ignore, but sometimes they put parents at their wits end. I know I’ve scratched my head and wondered, “Where did my sweet child go and how do I stop the madness?” Rest assured, there’s no foolproof way to avoid these outbursts, but there is a way to mitigate them.
Here are a few rules we live by in our family. Hopefully they’re helpful and something you can apply to your tantrum-taming arsenal. However, it’s incredibly important to remember that toddler tantrums are an important part of your child’s emotional development and wellbeing, so take it in stride and know they’re learning how to express themselves.
1. Let Them Be – Sometimes we all need a good cry and toddlers are no exception to that rule. Expressing emotion can be difficult to learn but is an incredibly important tool. So whether your child is frustrated, crying or complaining, you can offer them a few words of reassurance, but overall try to ignore. Let them work out what their issue is and how to resolve it. They may have accidentally knocked over their block tower, but that’s okay, let them figure out how to fix it. Remember, they are completely capable and need to learn that for themselves.
2. No Means No – With emotions running high in both toddler and parent, stick to your guns. Sometimes it is SO much easier to just give them the cookie they’ve been begging for because you’re busy cooking dinner or folding laundry, but try to resist! Should your refusal to allow them to have a cookie result in a tantrum, ride it out. Chances are the tantrum will be over shortly, so try to gird your loins and power through! By setting boundaries, you’re doing yourself and your child a favor. They will come to understand that no does in fact mean no.
3. Spare Them A Spanking – According to Psychological Science, researchers analyzed data from more than 12,000 children in the United States and found that those who had been spanked by their parents at age five had more behavior problems at ages six and eight than those who had never been spanked. Further, whenever a parent strikes a child, it may undermine the relationship of trust that the child needs to thrive. So try not to spank your child, as it does not always yield the best results.
4. All Of The Feels – Once your child has calmed down, encourage them to discuss how they were feeling and why? For example, “Why are you so upset?” “Do you understand why mommy/daddy said ‘no?’” “What can you do to calm down or make yourself feel better?” Allowing your child to express his or her feelings along with how they process these emotions means they trust and feel comfortable expressing these things to you. This is great for building a trusting and loving relationship. Here is a tool that you can use that will help them learn more about all the different emotions and can aid in your discussion.
5. Time For Timeout – When your child is being willfully disobedient or cannot calm down post-tantrum, put them in timeout. Whether you have a chair in the corner, put them in their crib, or some other contained space, timeout is a great option. A good rule of thumb is to put your child in timeout based on how old they are, for example a four year old should be in timeout for four minutes.
6. Consistency Is Key – No matter which form of discipline you use, this is by far the most important rule! Anytime you give in, your child learns that if they just push a little bit more they will eventually get what they want. As such, giving in can actually make behavior much worse. For kids, knowing that no actually means no, that timeout is a real threat and that mom and dad are there to help them through ups and downs are key to a nurturing and loving relationship, so stick with it! Make sure you and your partner are on the same page with discipline and you’ll be surprised at what a difference it makes in your child’s attitude and emotional response.
As you might know, processing emotion is hard, even for adults! It’s important to be there for your child in a loving manner. Tantrums are hard on both parent and child, but rules are meant to be followed. I’d love to hear from you all on how you’ve successfully dealt with tantrums, so feel free to email me and share. As usual, any questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.