All toddlers have tantrums at some point and it is a natural part of child development. It is not a pleasant experience for either parents or child, and so it is important to have strategy in place to minimise the impact on parents, child and the home! There are ways to deal with tantrum episodes to minimise them happening again.
- Toddler-proof your home by placing dangerous or breakable items out of reach. This is important as if your toddler causes damage during a tantrum this will lead to a feeling of helplessness and being out of control which will exacerbate the situation.
- Have clear routines particularly with meals, naps, bath and bedtime.
- Provide lots of opportunity for letting off steam during the day with physical activity and fresh air.
- Give your toddler a choice of a couple of things when it comes to what to eat, wear or play with as this will give them a sense of control.
- If you see a tantrum about to happen try to distract as quickly as possible or move location which may prevent the tantrum escalating.
- Try to ignore a tantrum, (or more realistically, pretend to ignore it) as without an audience the toddler will become tired of the tantrum more quickly. This is easier said than done but can be very effective.
- Keep yourself as calm as possible. As long as your child is safe try to move to another room and carry on with your own tasks.
- If out in the supermarket or in public place it is sometimes best to pick your toddler up and go outside to minimise your own embarrassment.
- Use humour to diffuse tricky situations. Always lead by example by keeping calm and in control yourself in stressful situations.
- For a major tantrum hold your child close if they will let you and try to keep eye contact; tell them you are there for them and will not let them hurt themselves.
- Respect your toddler’s feelings – saying things like ‘I understand that makes you feel angry” or “I understand that makes you feel sad” will make your toddler see that their feelings are understood and in time they can put words to their feelings instead of acting out.
- Try not to say ‘no’ all the time as constant negatives will add to your toddler’s frustration, but rather ‘later’ or ‘after lunch’.
- Be aware of stressful situations such as potty training or starting a new nursery that may increase the likelihood of tantrums and offer reassurance.
Most children do grow out of the need for tantrums once they have better language and understanding. It is important to handle the tantrum stage with kindness, firmness and understanding rather than harsh treatment and punishment which will likely increase the duration and intensity of the tantrum phase.