How to Diffuse Toddler Temper Tantrums
We’re all familiar with the phrase the “terrible twos.” It comes from the common temper tantrums that occur around this age.
Actually, temper tantrums are common between the ages of 1 to 4 years. During this period of time your “baby” is starting to learn to communicate. By the end of this period, your child will not only know how to communicate but he or she should have also learned how to communicate effectively and how to cope with interactions with other people and critters in his or her life. That’s a lot of learning!
It can also be a very frustrating time for a little one. Not only are they learning to express themselves, but they’re learning about boundaries, and don’t like their play being interrupted or having to share or even eat.
Every toddler has a different way of expressing themselves. Some throw things. Others throw themselves on the floor and kick and scream.
What triggers a toddler into a temper tantrum?
There are several reasons your toddler or young child may have a temper tantrum:
1) Frustration with their difficulty or inability to tell you what they want or need
2) Simply asserting his/her independence
3) Feeling lack of control
4) Needing stronger or fewer limits
5) Combination of hunger, fatigue, overstimulation, and boredom.
Tips to diffuse toddler temper tantrums
1) Prevention – Plan outings for after snack or nap time. Or, take snacks and drinks with you and plan for sufficient car time that your little one can nap on the way. When you’re out, plan to leave before your child starts getting tired or hungry or bored.
2) Keep your cool – This is key to addressing temper tantrums once they start or as they continue. Quite frankly, temper tantrums mean the parent is no longer in control and that’s part of what makes us so angry, especially when you have a schedule to keep. But it is really important to keep your own temper in check. If you find yourself getting close to your boil-over point, put your child in a safe situation (playpen, crib, car seat) where they can kick and scream and get their fury out, while you take a break – note: you shouldn’t leave a child in a car even with the windows rolled down, so you will still need to be able to see and hear your child.
3) Ignore it – This is a key tactic when your child is using a temper tantrum as an “AGM” – attention getting mechanism. Obviously, giving them attention when they’re in a fury is rewarding that behavior. However, if your child is actually upset about something (there is a difference in their cry), don’t ignore it. They should settle with a hug.
4) Acknowledge your child’s feelings – Many times children just want to know that you understand them. Sometimes all it takes is a “I know you’re feeling angry right now about that, but we need to go and do this right now” or “I understand that you’re sad about this.” A calm voice, with you down on their level goes a long way towards calming them down.
5) Reward wanted behavior – When your child does something well, or as the temper tantrum settles reinforce that behavior. Your child will learn that the good behavior that you want. If you’ve given him/her an ultimatum or promise of a reward for his/her change in behavior, then be willing and actually do follow through.
6) Include them in your decision making – Let them choose whether they want macaroni and cheese or spaghetti. Let them choose which shoes they want to wear when they go out, even if the pair they choose doesn’t match. This is all a learning process for your child. Right now, the only thing that really matters to them is a little bit of self-control and confidence that comes from doing something themselves.
7) Be consistent with your rules – Consistency is key to letting your toddler know that you’re the boss. You also need to know when to pick your battles. This is a crucial balancing act.
8) Distraction (humor) – Tempers can usually be diffused relatively easily with humor, music, or activity. This is often a good tactic once you’ve acknowledged your child’s feelings.
“If temper tantrums are becoming more frequent, they haven’t stopped by around age 4, or your child is in danger of hurting herself or others, it’s time to call your pediatrician.” (WebMD)
Darlene Oakley is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com.
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Tantrums. WhattoExpect.com. Web. June 26, 2012.
Terrible 2s – What’s the Best Way to Deal with my Daughter’s Temper Tantrums?
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