The only ones who find temper tantrums amusing are probably your parents and your inlaws. It’s finally payback time as they watch their grown children struggle helplessly with their own little monsters. Unfortunately, temper tantrums are will happen when you have young children. They usually start before age two, when children experiment with different ways to communicate with others and to get what they want. Tantrums become more infrequent around age four, but some children continue to “throw fits” for years after that—even into adulthood. While tantrums are unavoidable to some extent, you can prevent many of them and help your child learn better coping mechanisms by following some simple steps. Here is some advice to keep your temper when your toddler has a temper tantrum.
- Remain calm enough to handle the tantrum properly. The worst thing parents can do is have a temper tantrum over their child’s temper tantrum. Take a few deep breaths and wait at least a few seconds before deciding on a response.
- Remember that your child’s tantrum is NOT necessarily a way to “get his way”, but could be the result of frustration, lack of needed attention from you, or even a physical problem, like low blood sugar, pain or digestive problems! The lack of a place to nap is a common cause of tantrums Having a set schedule with nap time included is greatly recommended.
- Offer your child a choice of coping strategies. You have to give them a choice — either they control themselves or, if they can’t, retreat to a place where they won’t influence others. If they make the right choice (to calm down), remember to compliment them.
- Watch your own rising frustration level. Tantrums can raise blood pressure and stress levels in parents as well as children. If you really can’t handle a tantrum, make sure the child will be safe and spend a few moments away from him or her. The time-out has a calming effect for both of you. Get your spouse or other responsible person to look after the child while you calm down. Put your child in his or her room with a gate in front of the door if necessary.
- Try to determine the cause of the tantrum. Tantrums can be triggered by a number of things, and the cause of the tantrum should help determine your response to it. If a tantrum is caused by hungriness or sleepiness, you should feed the child or allow him or her to take a nap as soon as possible. If the tantrum is triggered by frustration or fear, you need to comfort your child. If the child feels ignored, spend some quality/quantity time with him, playing or reading, etc.
- Do not reward the tantrum. This is extremely important. If the parents give in, tantrums become a launching point for the child—a way to deal with the world socially. If you allow yourself to be held hostage by tantrums, your child will continue to use them long past the age when they would otherwise cease.
- Explain to the child that you will talk to him or her when he or she calms down. This will help your child to understand that you are ignoring her because her behavior is unacceptable, not because you don’t care about her. When the child calms down, fulfill your part of the bargain by discussing the tantrum and the child’s concerns.
- Discuss the behavior with your child once the tantrum has ended. While there’s no use trying to reason with a child in the midst of a tantrum, you both can learn a lot by discussing the incident afterwards. Explain that the behavior is unacceptable, but also make sure your child understands that you love him or her regardless.
- Never, under any circumstances, discipline them physically by smacking your child. This tells them that you are out of control, that hitting is an acceptable behavior, and that feelings should be suppressed and not vented.
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