Tantrums can come in all shapes and sizes, and often take parents by surprise. Most commonly seen in kids between the ages 1 to 3 years old, tantrums do still happen as they get older, due to slightly different reasons. The important thing to note is that every child is different and that some have them more often than others. Remember that it is one of the most normal aspects of child development.
Reasons for the tantrum can range from, hunger, fatigue, or simply not getting what they want. Another reason could be children not being able to express their needs or feelings verbally.There are many ways to tackle a tantrum, no matter the age or the situation, these methods and common coping mechanisms will help you handle the situation better.
1. Acknowledge and keep communication open
One of the most important aspects of tackling a tantrum, is to firstly acknowledge that they are having one! Acknowledge that they may be feeling emotional and perhaps overwhelmed.
If they are unable express their emotions into words, offer them the words: ‘’Are you upset because someone took your toy?’’ or ‘’I know you are sad because I switched off the cartoons, but these are the rules’’.
Amanda Morin, a teacher and early intervention specialist states that parents should help them understand that it is ok to be upset and that their feelings are valid and common. Use the opportunity to also set rules and standards for their behaviour.
Older children may have tantrums because an event is cancelled that they might have been looking forward to. Offer an alternative solution to the reason they are upset. Always let them know you are there for them and that you understand them, and no matter what happens you will always support them.
Even long after the tantrum is over, keep the praise strong, and acknowledge that they were able to overcome their tantrum and take control of their feelings, suggests Lauren M. O’Donnell, a child Psychologist.
2. Keeping Calm is Key
No matter what you do, always try to remain calm. Of course, this can be easier said than done, but finding a way to keep yourself calm will reflect on the child’s behaviour as well. It could be as simple as sitting down next to them and remaining quiet, while taking deep breaths. You may find your little one calming down themselves and sitting next to you and imitating your breathing pattern.
3. Look for Triggers
Take some time to figure out what is making them upset. Is it fighting with a sibling? Is it homework that they are struggling to accomplish? Maybe it is something as simple as switching the TV off. Understanding what is making them upset is one of the most important steps.
Tackle these issues by breaking down your questions and giving options. Toddlers for example like to have control so don’t just ask if they are hungry; ask if they want a yogurt or a biscuit for a snack. For older children, give them time limits, and set their expectations.
4. Ignore it
Sometimes the only thing you can do is to ignore the tantrum. Let them go through the tantrum in a safe place and don’t get involved as it can make it worse. Once they calm down, talk to them calmly at their eye level and try to understand what made them upset in the first place. This will help them take a different approach next time it happens and give them coping mechanisms also.
Another important thing is simply to also ignore people in public who look at you. They may not have children or have forgotten what it is like to have kids! If ignoring them isn’t an option, and you find yourself getting frustrated, there’s nothing better than a distraction for your child. Offer them something new and more interesting.
5. Always Remember
Tantrums do not last forever (and you will get better at dealing with them over time). They generally stop on their own, once children are able to gain self-control and can communicate better.
However, if you do feel like your child is having them more often than usual, and all possible reasons for the tantrum have been dealt with (e.g. hunger, fatigue or emotional control), then you could always talk to your paediatrician for further suggestions and professional advice. Everyone wants to have a happy child and in turn happy parents!