Updated: Nov 23, 2021
“an uncontrolled outburst of anger and frustration, typically in a young child.”
Does your child have tantrums?
Temper tantrums are very normal between the ages of one to three and are just as common in boys and girls. From crying and screaming, to hitting, kicking, biting and breath holding – temper tantrums all result from a child who is still learning how to deal with frustration.
When a child doesn’t have the language skills to express how they’re feeling they become frustrated. Maybe they’re tired, hungry or don’t understand why they can’t have what they want. Learning how to deal with frustration is a skill that takes time to develop.
When a baby starts to walk and gain their first taste of independence and control over the world around them, they often want a lot more independence than they’re ready for. When they discover that they can’t do it by themselves, or have what the older children do, they become frustrated.
How Can We Minimize Tantrums?
Try these tips the next time you see a tantrum brewing
Give your toddler some choices and control. Offer your child some choices that work for both of you. Maybe a choice of water or milk. Or perhaps where to have their bedtime story. Giving your child choices often has a better response than asking them a question that only has ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as an answer (because we all know they prefer to say ‘no’).
Tantrum proof your house. If you know there are objects and activities that your child is not ready for, put them away. This avoids you having to constantly say no to a child that doesn’t understand why they can see something but not be allowed to play with it.
The power of distraction. Does your child have a favourite game, song, toy or snack? The power of distraction is a great tool when a toddler is feeling frustrated and heading towards a tantrum. Sometimes just going outside for some fresh air or to smell some flowers is all that’s needed to avoid a tantrum.
Choose your battles. As your child gets older you need to start allowing them to have more opportunity and the chance to prove they can cope with more independence. Consider your child’s request carefully, maybe it is time to say yes.
Every child has a limit (just like adults). If you know your toddler is tired, maybe you should cut your errands short and head home. If you know your child gets hungry at a certain time and you will be out and about, take a snack with you. Understanding your child’s limit is vital to avoid a tantrum caused by tiredness or hunger.
Reward your toddler with positive attention. Catch your child in the act of good behaviour (rather than catching them in the act of bad behaviour).
What Should I Do During a Tantrum?
Don’t make matters worse by expressing your own frustration in a similar way. Your job is to model calm behaviour and speak positively so that your child can learn by example.
Make an effort to understand why your child is upset. Tantrums are triggered by different things. Maybe your child needs a cuddle or maybe she needs a snack. Tantrums should be handled differently depending on why your child is upset. React to their tantrum with a solution that will help them.
If a tantrum is happening to get your attention, try ignoring it. If a tantrum happens after you have said ‘no’ to a request, stay calm and don't give a lot of explanations for why your child can't have what they want. Try the power of distraction instead.
If a tantrum happens when you’ve asked your child to do something it is also best to ignore the tantrum. Make sure that you follow through and get your child to complete the task when they are calm.
Toddlers who are in danger of hurting themselves or others during a tantrum should be taken to a quiet, safe place to calm down. This also applies to tantrums in public places.
Memorize the acronym H.A.L.T. because tantrums often happen because your toddler is:
When a toddler can’t tell you what they want, feel or need, it can result in a tantrum. But as language skills develop, tantrums will decrease.
Remember that tantrums don’t last forever and the more consistent and calm you are, the quicker they will become a distant memory.