Tantrums are all apart of children growing up. They will typically start around 12 months of age when your child starts to become more independent. Tantrums are very common in 2 year old children – hence “the terrible twos.” If tantrums are managed in a calm and positive manner, they will become less frequent as the child gets older. Part of our job as parents is to teach our children how to manage frustration and anger in appropriate ways.
Every child will express emotion in a different manner. Typically, negative emotions such as frustration and anger are more difficult to manage. Some children will have their tantrum for a whole 20 seconds, while others will last much longer.
What happens in your household? Are your toddlers protesting by crying, screaming, yelling, stomping, rolling around on the floor? As parents, rest assured that these are all very common out lashes for a toddler.
But why do they have such horrible fits? As adults, we have learnt over the years how to manage our emotions and we have learnt skills in dealing with daily problems that arise. Toddlers on the other hand, are at a very early stage in learning this process.
Typically, toddlers will become frustrated when they are told no, they do not get their way, unable to manage a task, do not have the words they need to express themselves, or are simply tired.
As parents, we need to remember that each of our children will have a different temperament. Some children will hardly have tantrums and just accept that what mom or dad says is ‘how it is.’ Other children are not necessarily so ‘easy’.
Our toddlers learn that if they have tantrums and their caregiver just ‘gives in’, they are learning that if they scream they get what they want. Toddler wins that round! Essentially, toddlers will crank up the escalation of their tantrum to make other people give in to their demands.
How can we manage our toddlers’ eccentric tantrums?
- Use Planned Ignoring
- This method works best when your child is under 2 years old. To make this effective, as a parent you need to completely ignore your child when they are having a tantrum. This means: do not look at, speak to, or acknowledge your child’s tantrum. If safe, walk away from the child. Once your child settles down and behaves again, return and praise their good behaviours.
- Tell your child what to do
- Older toddlers sometimes just need to be told or reminded of certain behaviours. As a parent or caregiver, when your toddler is having a tantrum, you need to get within arm’s length of your child. Calmly and firmly tell them what they need to stop doing followed by what to do instead. “James, you need to stop Rolling around on the floor. When in the grocery store, you will walk besides me.” Always praise your child if they follow your instruction.
- Back up your instructions with Time-Out
- If your child continues to have a fit once they have been told to stop, back up your instructions with a time out. You need to tell the child in calm and firm voice what they have done wrong, and their consequence. Time-outs involve taking your child away from the situation, and having them quiet for a short period of time. Remember, we do not start a time out ‘timer’ until our child has quieted down. Tell your child they must remain in quiet in time out for ‘1 minute’ (or whatever you choose), before they can come out of time out.
- Return your child to their previous activity.
- Once your child has successfully completed a time out, let them rejoin the activity or find something for them to do. Praise your child for behaving well.
- If tantrums continue to occur, repeat with time outs. This can be tough on a parent or caregiver, but you need to stay consistent. Your child may need a time out several times before they learn to manage their frustration and anger.
Children having tantrums is just a part of them growing up and learning about independence, emotions, and the ability to control how they essentially feel. As parents, we need to stay calm, be consistent, and know that if we deal with these issues right from the start, they will eventually get better.
Adapted from Triple P Tip Sheet.