So, you officially have a toddler… How exciting this can be for first-time parents!
Every parent has heard the phrase “terrible two” to refer to the point in your child’s life where they stop becoming a fun and happy baby and turn into an opinionated, easily frustrated, and seemingly always cranky toddler. And you know what that means—temper tantrums.
While this isn’t true for every child, it is a major milestone. Your child is starting to find their independence and search for the limits of what they are allowed and not allowed to do. It is a perfectly normal stage, and it actually shows your child is developing normally. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult to manage.
Here are our tips to help you deal with your toddler’s temper tantrums.
Validate the Emotions, Ignore the Tantrum
Sometimes, the best thing to do is ignore the tantrum. Children often throw tantrums for attention, and ignoring the behavior can send the message that it is not an effective way to get attention.
One of the most difficult things to do as a parent is let your child cry. However, in the toddler stage, this is very important. At this age, your child is trying to find control, and when they don’t find it, they often break down and become frustrated. It’s crucial for them to be able to work through the problem and relax before continuing forward.
Now, we aren’t saying that you should completely ignore your child. Offer plenty of comfort and love as they work through their tantrum. Be the calming force that your child needs in these situations. Once they calm down, offer solutions to their problems. It is going to take patience and practice, but eventually, you will find the best ways to help your child.
Use Positive Reinforcement
When your child starts to calm down or stops screaming/crying, praise them for their positive behavior. Positive reinforcement can be a powerful tool for managing tantrums. Beyond tantrums, continually give them attention when they are behaving appropriately.
Parents can say something like, “I really like how you stopped crying and are trying to talk to me instead.” That way, the behavior is directly called out. Using positive language in general may be hard in a moment of anger. Remember to take a step back before dealing with your child’s tantrum if it means you can focus better on positive language. For example, instead of saying “stop screaming,” say “let’s use our inside voice.”
Offer Options to Distract Them
An age-old trick to dealing with a cranky toddler is giving them options. This gives the child a feeling of control and makes them think they are making the decisions.
A good example is if you are trying to get your child dressed in the morning and they don’t want to put on a shirt. Instead of telling them what shirt they are wearing, offer them two options and let them pick.
You, as the parent, still get to control the options, but the child also gets their choice. This is a great way to stop a lot of tantrums before they start because the child is involved in the decision-making process.
Distracting the child with a toy or activity can sometimes help to diffuse a tantrum. Offer a favorite toy, read a book, or simply walk outside.
Give Them Time to Decompress
It is no secret that children’s brains are little sponges that absorb everything in the world around them. While it is great that they are learning so much, it also means that they can get overwhelmed by information overload.
We often see it in situations where there are a lot of people around or a lot of new things happening when a child might break down.
Giving your child breaks and time to relax in these situations can make a major difference in their attitude throughout the day. Whether it is separating them for a little while to be alone, reading a book in a quiet room, or moving them to another area for a snack, giving them some decompression time will help keep your child happier!
It is important to set boundaries for your child and let them know what is and is not acceptable behavior. If your child is throwing a tantrum in a public place, remove them from the situation (if possible) and explain why their behavior is not acceptable. Sometimes this means taking your child to the bathroom or outside of a building if you are in a public place.
Consistency is key when dealing with tantrums. Set clear boundaries and consequences, and be consistent in enforcing them.
Acknowledge Their Feelings in Depth
Although you may ignore the bad aspects of tantrums, you should acknowledge your child’s feelings during a tantrum. Let them know that you understand that they are upset and that you are there for them.
A step that many parents miss is talking to their child about their tantrum after it happens. This is important to do because it allows the child to reflect on what happened and lets you identify triggers for the future. You can ask them questions like:
- What was it that upset you?
- Why did that make you upset?
- What was a better solution to solving that problem than having a tantrum?
- How can we make sure that it doesn’t happen again?
Asking these questions will give you some interesting insight into your child’s personality and will help you better manage their emotions.
Last but not least, try to remember to stay calm.
Children can sense when parents are getting frustrated, which can make the situation worse. Take a deep breath, stay calm, and speak in a soft and reassuring tone. As mentioned before, if being calm and positive is too hard at the moment, maybe it is best for everyone to take a break from the situation until you can come back and discuss it in a calm manner.
Dealing with tantrums can be exhausting and emotionally draining. It is also important for parents to practice self-care and take time for themselves when needed. Like many other things, the temper tantrum stage will pass. Better management of this stage can lead to a child who knows how to handle their emotions and is able to work through them better as an adult!