Welcome to the epic tantrum years, a time when your patience is tried to the max and you are considering full time childcare until they turn 4. I’m kidding, whilst tantrums are the most challenging part of the toddler years, the delight they bring with everything else, makes it all worth it. Go on – know it’s true.
Why do toddlers tantrum?
Toddlers have tantrums for many reasons, but it’s mainly because they are not getting what they want, or they are unable to make themselves understood.
Tiredness, hunger, boredom, overstimulation, testing boundaries or simply because they wanted the pink cup not the yellow, are all contributory factors of the epic tantrum.
Your wonderful toddler is at an age where communication is still developing and this can cause them terrible frustration and upset when they can’t get what they want across to you. These years are often called the ‘terrible two’s’ but they can come much sooner, and last much longer! (They also make an appearance in the teenage years – but that’s a whole other article!)
In order for your little one to learn how to handle their frustration you need to guide them through their tantrums. Sounds easy hey? Not really. You need a lot of patience when dealing with a tantruming toddler, and sometimes that patience can wear thin. But don’t worry – help is at hand! Here I’ve shared my top Ten tips for coping with tantrums so you can hopefully have a less stressful tantrum experience with your little one.
1. Time out helps.
When a child has lost control, are fighting, hurting or biting another child it is important to remove them from that situation so they can calm down and think about what has happened/what they have done and how they are feeling.
It’s also super-helpful for you if you are in public and gives you both time to calm down and take control of the situation without an audience.
You don’t have to use a ‘naughty step’ it can be as simple as moving them into a safe place, perhaps even another room with you while they calm down. It doesnt mean you have to leave them on their own either! (I never really got that whole ‘a minute for each year of their life’ bananas!) A nice calming cuddle with them away from the situation is often key to calming down. You can read more here about using time out techniques.
2. Keep calm.
When tantrums occur – keep calm. It’s a difficult moment and can be embarrasing, frustrating and upsetting for you- but remember your child is feeling these feelings too and looks to your for response and guidance, so chill. Fake the chill if you have to – but by remaining calm – you’ll settle your little one down quicker.
3. Preperation is the key!
Prepare your littlies for activities in advance. Let them know where you are going and what you are doing so they have the chance to understand. Always give a five minute warning when a particular activity is going to end. Little ones cant accept ‘its time for tea’ RIGHT NOW’ when they are building a tower or looking at their favourite TV show, or ‘its bedtime’ without an advance warning. Yes- the tantrum still may occur, but by giving them a warning, they are processing it already by the time the activity has ended. suggest that when they have built their tower it’ll be time to get ready for tea, or when their favourite TV show is over- it’s bedtime.
4. Help them to understand.
We all have that moment when we simply cannot pay them the attention they are needing and then it’s meltdown time – but don’t feel a failure! You can’t be at their demand every minute! Help your toddler to learn this by talking about why they can’t have a biscuit RIGHT NOW! Or why you need to be on the phone just at the moment. Talk about being busy, doing jobs and help them to understand. It may not work right away, but by starting as you mean to go on, it’ll help them to learn that they sometimes have to wait a little while for things.
5. Talk about feelings!
Tantrums are a normal part of development but the biting, fighting and hurting someone is not acceptable – and it’s important your toddler learns this over time. Talk through why they were removed from the situation and explain what they did was wrong (if they were hurting, hitting, throwing, screaming at you!)
Talk about how tantrums make you feel inside and how it’s OK to feel angry and upset but it’s not OK to treat others badly.
Remember they are only little and will find it hard to understand until they are a little older, but by putting the ground work in, you’ll help them to understand how to cope and keep their cool.
6. Distraction works wonders!
If you see a situation arising that’s going to lead to trouble (with my two its usually fighting over a toy!) Get in there quick and distract! For everyday situations such as getting dressed, or bathtimes that they have suddenly started tantruming over – invent a new fun way of doing that particular activity! make a game out of it. I know we are all in a rush most days, but you’ll acutally be saving time and energy and a lot of upset byt taking the time to do things differently.
7. Encourage sharing as early as possible.
Sharing is caring! Encourage your little one to share as soon as you can. Socialise your little ones at play groups and clubs so they become accustomed to sharing toys and taking turns. There will no doubt be squabbles and upsets on occasions, but by encouraging sharing from the baby years – you’ll soon be setting off to stress free playdates! Look at books about sharing and play games together that require taking it in turns.
8. Books are a great learning tool!
Invest in lots of books that talk about feelings, kindness, sharing and how we should treat eachother. Reading books from an early age is a great way of spending quality time together while getting important messages across.
9. Lead by example!
Children follow examples, so ensure those around them behave in a positive way. If older sibling behave in a certain way (or even adults throwing tantrums) they will copy. Talk to older children about setting a good example and how important it is to behave well around their younger sibling who is still learning.
10. Remember that tantrums are totally normal!
Younger children in particular can get frustrated easily when communication skills are not yet developed fully. Look into using baby sign to help with communication. We used it with our little ones and it worked wonders!
And finally, remember that tantrums are totally normal and you are doing a great job, and the best you can in an extremely stressful situation. Hang in there parent! You got this!
When to worry: If you have any concerns about your childs behaviour and feel that there is more to it than ‘just a tantrum’, it’s advisable to seek some advice from a medical professional.
If things really get out of control, if there are more than two or three tantrums each day, or the tantrums are very aggressive or intense, it is advisable to pop to your GP for a chat about your concerns.
Please note: *The tips in this post feature in my new book and are copyrited*