Moms of toddlers, this one is for you. Because I’m sure most of you have had moments similar to the ones I’ve had lately. Where your child instantly morphs from sweet little baby into a tantrum-throwing toddler. For us, there is no warning. No reasoning. It can be set off by a food MillerBug doesn’t like, not getting his way or just because he thinks it’s a good time to throw a fit. You know, I had honestly forgotten about these happening since it has been quite some time since I’ve had a toddler but they do happen. And when they do, for me, it’s confusing on how to react. I don’t want to condone tantrums by giving him what he wants. I don’t want to react too strongly and have him think that this is a great way to get attention. But I want them to stop. Because while they are bad enough when you’re in your own home, if you don’t get a handle on them, they will start happening in public – which will make you want to sink into the floor as everyone stares at your tantrum throwing child!
So, to start with, how do you recognize the signs of a tantrum? Well, they are very different from when your child is truly hurt. With a tantrum, there is nothing really wrong. Your child may perceive that life is not right because they are not getting their way but in reality, there is no danger of them actually being hurt (unless they hurt themselves with the tantrum they throw that is). A tantrum can consist of screaming, crying, flailing, even running into things. For each child it looks a little different. For MillerBug, it starts with a high pitched scream. If that doesn’t work, he lays down on the floor and screams some more. And if you try to move him, he goes stiff as a board and tries to make it impossible for you to pick him up.
Now, let me say here that you should always make sure your child is not injured. But after a few tantrums, you’ll be able to easily tell the difference between an hurt toddler and a tantrum-throwing toddler. And once you know the difference, it’s time to figure out ways to curve that little temper and put an end to these tantrums. And here are a few ways that can help you do that (not every way will work for every child – these are only suggestions – please use your best judgement for your child).
MillerBug is a social creature. He HATES to not be around people. And generally his tantrums are to get attention. So, when he starts to throw one, I simply pick him up and remove him from the area where we are. This generally means putting him in his room and closing the door. When I do this, I explain to him that we do not act like he is acting and that when he can be a big boy he can come back out. Now, before anybody freaks out, I don’t lock him in his room and leave him. I sit right outside the door. But it’s amazing how quickly he settles down and gets himself under control because he wants to come back out and be with the rest of us. And after a few times of this, the idea of going to time out may be enough to cut tantrums short!
Your child actually wants to hear what you have to say. And when they are screaming they can’t. If you yell at them to try to be heard over the tantrum, they are going to assume that it is OK to use loud voices when you are upset or frustrated. Instead, try whispering. Talk them down calmly and in a soft voice, explaining to them why a tantrum is not OK and how they can have more fun if they stop pitching a fit and work with you. This will work sometimes and sometimes it won’t – but you’ll be surprised at how much a soft voice can help!
Do Not Give In
Do not, I repeat DO NOT give in and give your child what they want just to stop the tantrum. This will teach them that tantrums are an acceptable way to express themselves and will eventually end in the result they want. Instead, try time out and talking softly. If that does not work, walk away and show them they are not getting the results they are seeking. So often tantrums are not about an actual want but instead about control. By not letting your child have the control they are looking for, you are establishing your parental authority and helping the to understand who is in charge.
Realize that Sometimes a Toddler Just Needs to Cry
Do you ever have those times when you just need to go out and run or cry or scream to relieve stress? Well, toddlers have those as well. And especially when they cannot communicate well, they sometimes need an outlet to express that frustration. So don’t take tantrums personally – they are not always about you. Be willing to comfort your child but also be ready to explain in simple terms why this is not the correct way to express frustration. Then try to channel their energy into another way to express themselves – finger painting, building, drawing. Frustration is often cased by boredom or a lack of activity.
Give Yourself a Break
Moms, realize that pretty much every toddler on the planet throws tantrums. It’s not about you and it’s not a reflection on your parenting. Don’t worry about the looks you get when your child turns into a monster in public and instead work with them to help control the problem in the future. Chances are, the people giving you the looks have been there and completely understand.
Even though tantrums are perfectly normal for toddlers, that does not make them OK. Be sure to get control of them as quickly as possible as a uncontrolled tantrum throwing toddler can turn into something much worse if they are not given the discipline, structure and guidance they need.
So, the next time you look at your child and see this:
Take a deep breath, remember that this too will pass and then figure out the way to best work with your child to avoid tantrums in the future.
Now you tell me – does your child pitch tantrums? What do you do to stop them?