We have all been there. The day has started well, with a calm and promising atmosphere; everyone was satisfied with the tasty and healthy breakfast you made, and they are dressed and ready to go. You are packed, with a plan of what you would like to achieve today and then, it happens… The tears are falling, breathing is becoming short and frustrated and now your tranquillity is being pierced by a scream that can only be described as primal. You are unsure of what has caused such calamity and the only certainty you face is knowing that you are up against a temper tantrum.
Temper tantrums, as any parent will know, are not an uncommon occurrence. They occur for many reasons, such as exhaustion and your child trying to process feelings they are not yet familiar with. Most often, children are trying to express their emotions, but do not yet know how or have the vocabulary. According to the NHS, tantrums typically reduce in frequency as your child’s ability to communicate with you develops. Therefore, they happen far less when your child reaches the age of four.
As we know that they can be tiresome and can make you feel overwhelmed, we have compiled our advice and tips on how to deal with child tantrums, so you will handle them like a boss.
In our experience, adopting a calm approach is always the best response, in every situation. Try to use a soft, low tone to maintain a collected demeanour whenever you can. Raising your voice can be tempting, but this will only add fuel to fire and you want to set a good example on how to talk to other people.
In addition, whilst using a calm approach, it is essential that you are firm in your stance and hold your ground. It is important that your child realises that throwing a tantrum does not lead to rewards, and is not a means to an end. Rather, offer your child phrases that they can use to express themselves, such as “are you tired?”, this will help them make associations with their feelings. In addition, it will offer them phrases that they can use when they are ready.
You may need to wait until your child has calmed down in order to talk with them. We recommend making it clear that you are willing to wait and go over the issue, and allow them the space to vent and get their feelings out safely. Talking to them before putting them in a time out spot will ensure that they don’t feel abandoned, and help them to destress faster.
Offer your child a space where they are free from any triggers that might have set them off. For example, their bedroom or wherever in your house they feel peaceful and calm. If you are out in public, removing yourself from any loud noise, into a quiet corner will help.
Are they in need of something? A nap, food or attention? Is something upsetting them, such as shouting or an excessive amount of stimulants in their environment? Before asking, “how to deal with child tantrums?”, the first thing to do is ask, “what is causing my child to have a tantrum?”. By seeking to identify the factors that are causing tantrums, you will be able to effectively control them and prevent future outbursts.
For example, we recommend having a set schedule and routine for both snacks and napping, so that tantrums are not caused by hunger or tiredness. We have found that consistency is great for mitigating the anxiety that can often cause tantrums.
It is important that you reward the behaviours you are encouraging, so that your child feels validated and will be more likely to demonstrate them again. However, using words of affirmation and praise is the best way to do this, rather than sweets or toys, as you do not want this to become a habit.
In addition, we believe that adopting a punitive stance for tantrums does not lead to a desirable outcome. Abstain from yelling or withholding affection, as this can heighten your child’s frustration and make the situation worse. It is normal for toddlers to bite, hit or scratch, as they do not yet know that such behaviours are inappropriate. Be firm, and strict that these actions are unacceptable, but do not match them with your own temper.
A favourite book or toy, that helps soothe and comfort your child could go a long way in reducing their stress and therefore the chances of an outburst. Tantrums can happen at even the most unlikely of times, so carrying a few comfort items on you will be useful for diffusing a situation.
When you see a tantrum brewing or your child is showing signs of becoming restless, you may want to create a distraction for your child, that will take their attention off of what is bothering them. This can be as simple as telling them a story or giving them a cuddle.
Once you have decided how to deal with child tantrums in a way that is best for you, be consistent with this approach. Children benefit from having structure, as it makes them feel safe. If you have the same time out spot and same consequences for bad behaviour, your child will be able to understand and comprehend over time what will happen when they have an outburst and at the same time build an understanding of how to handle their emotions.
In addition, make sure that each caregiver is aware of how you would like tantrums to be addressed, so that there are no discrepancies. Having different approaches could undermine a successful method or lead to heightened anxiety for both you and your child.
We hope that this helps you calm your little one down when needed. Remember, you can always ask the staff at your child’s nursery for advice on how to deal with child tantrums and for reassurance if necessary. You got this!