It was a dark, rainy Tuesday morning and you could smell the tantrum in the air. I remember it as if it was yesterday. Well… that’s because it was yesterday. My toddler is not a morning person and the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Every morning, I gently wake up my child with whatever song I have stuck in my head along with a cuddle. I carry her downstairs, make her a warm bottle with toast, and place her in her highchair as she watches an episode of Peppa Pig.
Since having my daughter, I have learned an immense amount of patience, but like every parent we’re allowed to have our tantrums too. This morning was particularly hectic for me. I had a 9:30 am meeting in which I had to present a deadline, which means I had to get my daughter out the door by 8:30. Seems simple right? The only problem was that I mistakenly set my alarm for 6:45pm instead of 6:45am. I woke up at 8:00am and slowly reached for my phone thinking that I beat the alarm clock.
My eyes widened and it seemed like everything turned to slow motion, I knew the trouble that was about to arise. Shooting out of bed, I quickly rushed to get my daughter up and ready for school. After warming her bottle and preparing her toast, I quickly got ready for work as she started an episode of Peppa Pig. Personally, I was ready in a record breaking 10 minutes, but the true terror was to come when I had to prematurely separate my daughter from Peppa’s latest adventure. I was about to steal her happiness.
It was time, I approached the ticking time bomb gingerly and started to verbalise what was to come. “Okay sweetie, I am in a really big rush this morning so we are going to get ready super-fast together, okay?” As soon as I reached for the remote, she immediately threw herself on the floor. I tried to calmly explain to her that the emotion she was feeling was anger, which is completely normal, but we had to continue on with our morning. I often find that the best way to deal with tantrums in my household is to communicate what we are doing and the emotions that we are feeling while reassuring my child that this reaction is normal, but we have to keep moving forward.
Although positive parenting can be beneficial, I find it quite counter-intuitive because you aren’t matching the intensity of your child’s emotions. And that’s the problem when dealing with our children’s tantrums. We want our children to feel heard and validated, but sometimes we do it at the cost of sounding condescending. So what did I do? I matched her intensity. I said exactly what I had previously said, but I added more emotions and weight to what I was saying. Matching emotions is not to be confused with matching aggression. When I repeated what I said, but with more emotion, my daughter immediately stopped her tantrum and soothed herself with a few sniffles. And that was that! However, every child is different and that is precisely why I am writing this blog. Below you can find 8 tips to help tame the tantrum!
1. Take Steps to Prevent Tantrums
Tantrums are completely normal. Growing up entails a lot of new experiences and emotions and children don’t have enough experience or maturity to be able to regulate their emotions properly. Make sure your child isn’t dealing with any unduly stress and they are properly rested. Be sure to set aside regular playtime for your child and allow for them to take the reins in choosing an activity and be sure that you have a positive part in their play. The more attention they receive for their positive behaviours will incentivise them to do it again.
2. Save Your “No’s”
Be wary of the stress you bring around your child. Don’t cry over spilt milk- let your child make a mess and try not to stop them from engaging in fun activities. After they have their fun, make packing away into a game!
3. Stay In Control and Remain Calm
In the event of a tantrum, your child needs to see that you are in control of the situation. Move your child away from the source of anger and even try to gently hold them to refrain them from hurting themselves or others. This, of course, depends on the size of the tantrum and where the tantrum takes place.
4. Try to Put out the Fire Before it Starts
Try removing your child form the situation and exposing them to a change in scenery before the tantrum hits it’s peak. I also found it helps to distract your child from what’s causing the tantrum. Try asking the child simple questions like “what colour is your shirt? Is that your favourite colour?”
5. Find the Root of the Tantrum- Eliminate Frustration
Many tantrums can be a result of some of the simplest frustrations. If your child throws a tantrum because they can’t put on their shoes properly, help them to become professionals in the matter so they feel a sense of accomplishment.
6. Be Strong and Don’t Give in to Demands
If you’re a parent of a toddler, you’ve been in this situation. You’re out in public and your child throws themselves on the floor in a very dramatic manner, causing a scene. In order to avoid embarrassment, we may give in to our child’s demands. However, this response will only encourage your child to react this way in order to get what they want in the future. Instead, you can calmly tell your child that they won’t get what they want by crying and causing a scene. Simply explain that once they calm down, you can have a conversation about the matter.
7. Reflect on the Tantrum
Once your child calms down and is over their tantrum, discuss the tantrum with your child and help them to reveal what made them so upset. Be sure not to place a large emphasis on the outburst, rather greet them with a comforting hug and express your love for your child.
8. It’s not You, it’s Them
Don’t feel guilty because your child has a tantrum and most importantly, don’t take it personally. In some cases, our child may say hurtful things. Although this can hurt to hear, it is important to note that your child’s outburst is simply a result of their frustration and does not extend beyond that.
In my books, there are two types of tantrums. The first being a meltdown tantrum and the second being a dramatic tantrum. A meltdown tantrum is when a child’s frustration escalates into a full blown tantrum accompanied with tears and excessive wailing. For meltdown tantrums, it is important to wait them out. Once you notice a change in tone, comfort your child and offer them a tissue or a sip of water. The second type of tantrum is dramatic tantrum. Dramatic tantrums have no tears and are generally a child’s attempt to get their way. For these tantrums, it is imperative that you don’t pay any special attention to your child.
Once they calm down, simply move on to the next activity without paying any attention to the tantrum. If you’re in public with a tantrum, try to remove your child to a more intimate setting. That way you and your child can resolve the issues without disturbing the public. This will also be helpful because it will eliminate any embarrassment a parent may feel from a tantrum. It will also remove the child from an audience which they may be seeking. The best way to resolve a tantrum is prevention; putting a halt to the tantrum before it begins. This can especially be helpful if you are in a confined place, like an airplane. Be sure to have snacks and activities available for your child to act as a distraction when you sense a tantrum coming along.
Our job as parents is to remain calm and help our child on the confusing journey of discovering and managing our emotions.
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