I am back in the season of temper tantrums – wheeeee! I’ve heard from a lot of you as well, struggling with how to handle melt-downs from our little ones in a way where we are not losing our cool. It is hard and a constant battle – precisely what is covered in the Becoming a Calm, Cool and Confident Mom Online Coaching series.
All children display tantrums at different times and to varying severity. My journey with 4 different children has produced four different temperaments that I’ve had to adjust in order to be the parent I need to be for them. It means I need to grow and change, which is often very challenging! Who ever said parenting was going to be easy?
What Is a Temper Tantrum?
There are many levels of tantrums and vary with different personalities of children. They will also vary with environmental influences too. You can have some children scream, wail, flail and jump around or others may pout and stomp all over the house. However your child displays it, a temper tantrum is unmistakable.
It is performed usually in response to the answer “no.” When kids don’t get their way, they can act out. The earliest act is often the tantrum. Through this method, they can test the boundaries of their influence over their parents’ behavior. They can feel like they are in control, and it often feels that way.
How you handle it will determine if it is effective. Tantrums are frustrating and can throw your day into a loop. But as I’ve been plowing through this season with a toddler once again, I’ve come up with some tips to stay cool and hamper the tantrum.
Go for the HUG
They won’t be expecting that. A big bear hug catches then off guard and may have them warming to you. Then ask them what’s wrong. This encourages their honesty and a more effective solution to their problem than stomping and screaming. You know your child best and whether this may fit their personality style. This approach can make the intensity of the tantrum worse, so be aware and cautious. But it can be very effective.
Be a detective
Why are they throwing such a fit? Did they just come in from school and need to blow off some steam? Maybe they are restless and sleepy? Have they had enough ‘mama’ time? When was the last time they ate? See if you can find the origin of the tantrum before jumping to conclusions. Circumstances can influence tantrums so when you can examine outside issues you can avoid future out bursts.
Avoid giving in
If you give in to their demands, then they will know that they can get anything they want by throwing a hissy fit. Whatever you do, if the answer you gave was “no” then stick with it. Consistency is your best friend, helping your child trust your word is key in earning their respect.
Some people think this is cruel, but your child may just want attention. If it has worked in the past, they will try it again. Keep an eye on them so they don’t hurt themselves or anyone else, but don’t say a word to them. Eventually they will get tired of being ignored and stop. Just make sure that your patience and nerve can outlast them. I have found that often times my son has to cycle through this melt-down – there is nothing I can do to make things better and often when I try to reason and persist, it only makes it worse. So, I step away. This has been working very well in our home as of late.
When my little one starts his melt-down I clearly and calmly get on his level, talk to him slowly near his ear and tell him I cannot help him when he is crying. When he stops crying I will be able to listen to him and help him. I will then go on doing what needs to be done in the area. This behavior on my part has reduced the length of melt-downs considerably.
Meet their real need
If your child has had a busy day, perhaps they need down time sooner. Proceed with the evening routine ahead of time so they can get to bed and rest. Feed your child dinner if you notice that they might be hungry. It is not a crime to sit down to a meal earlier if it will help your child to calm down. I have also noticed if we’ve had a particularly busy day and there has been little ‘us’ time, things tend to break down quicker. This is a single to me to stop what I am doing and spend some time together.
Change the subject
Instead of giving in, find something new to talk about that might interest your child. Diversion is a great tool and can often be a tool in your back pocket. I am sure we’ve all had success with that one! Young ones have a short attention span and it may distract them from whatever they were fussing about.
Avoid it all together
When you give your child choices instead of commands where they can use a ‘no’ response, you are less likely to end up in the typical tantrum pattern. For instance, at bedtime my little guy needs to go to the bathroom. This is not a choice, but I can give him a choice on how he does this. So, he is given the choice whether he wants to go in the downstairs bathroom or in the upstairs bathroom. This tends to avoid any ‘no’ answer as well as complete defiance.
How you respond to your child when they have a tantrum will influence how long the tantrum lasts and to what degree it escalates. When you can have some strategies in your pocket to use you will feel better prepared to preempt them or respond in a positive way rather than negatively.
How have you tackled tantrums in your home?