All toddlers break the rules at times, and how you respond depends upon the situation and your child’s age. Think about how your child is feeling. When she misbehaves, it’s often because she’s upset. She isn’t trying to make you mad – she just doesn’t know how to tell you what’s bothering her. Try to figure it out. Was she bored without you? Was she excitedly trying new things? Understanding your toddler’s feelings may help you guide her better.
Toddlers throw tantrums for many reasons. A square block won’t fit in a round hole. A puzzle piece goes missing. To make matters worse, you won’t let her climb on top of the kitchen table. Toddlers have tantrums because they get frustrated very easily, and most toddlers still do not talk much. They have trouble asking for things and expressing their feelings. They also have very few problem-solving skills.
Young toddlers may display strong feelings that change frequently (anger to happiness, sympathy to fear). Give these emotions names so that later your little one can use words to express them. Say “that makes you angry” when a box will not open or a car will not roll. This also shows your toddler that you understand her frustration and gives your toddler another way of dealing with strong feelings.
Remember: It takes many years for a child to learn to use words to express rather than to physically act out frustrations. Some adults cannot do this well!
Can I prevent tantrums?
Tantrums are a normal part of growing up. But if they seem to be happening more often, you might consider the following suggestions:
- Think about your toddler’s tantrums. When and where do they usually occur, and who is involved? What happens before, during and after a tantrum? Looking for patterns can give you ideas about situations that bring on tantrums, and help you avoid them.
- Set realistic limits and help your toddler stick to a routine. Predictable mealtimes and bedtimes are particularly important.
- Offer real choices. Don’t offer something that you are not willing to follow through on.
- Choose your battles. Avoid fighting over little things.
- Give your toddler a few minutes of warning before you end an activity. Preparing her for change in advance may help her to deal with it easier.
- Help your toddler avoid becoming overwhelmed. She needs some challenging in order to learn new skills, but not so challenging that she experiences excessive frustration and failure.