People who haven’t got kids often look on in horror as they see overwrought parents getting angry with an out-of-control toddler. That poor child! Run the same scene in a few years time and those same onlookers (now parents themselves) would find all of their sympathy with the parent!
Toddler tantrums are horrible. Period.
Why Do Toddlers Have Tantrums?
Child experts say that tantrums are not usually caused to push parent’s to their last limit – although they often do! They are apparently a normal part of growing up. A toddler having a tantrum is learning control and independence. So it’s important that a person in charge of a complete brat takes the lead and teaches the right way to achieve that control and independence. The situation needs to be managed to reduce the stress on everyone involved – including the toddler.
Begin by simply observing when the child’s behaviour is usually best – and worst! Keep a ‘tantrum’ chart for a couple of weeks and note down obvious triggers such as feeling hungry or tired, bored or over stimulated or frustrated. See if a pattern emerges. Knowing when, where and why will help you (and anyone else who is caring for your child) to develop avoidance strategies.
Keep the chart going once you start to implement your coping strategy to identify what works and what doesn’t.
If you are a babysitter, ask the parents about tantrums, prior to taking the job. If the child has them – how are they commonly triggered and how does the parent usually deal with it?
Once a behaviour pattern has been identified, try and avoid ‘triggers’ such as grocery shopping, during the child’s ‘bad’ times. Listen hard to your toddler and appreciate that often, a tantrum is due to a feeling or need that the child is trying to communicate to you – and sheer frustration that you’re not getting it! This could be something really simple like being hungry, thirsty or needing the bathroom.
Avoid buying a child’s good behaviour with a bribe as they will soon learn to manipulate that and it will only prolong bad behaviour.
Instead, heap praise on good behaviour and reward it in a non-materialistic way – such as reading them a favorite story or a trip to the park. Food and drink rewards can set up bad habits for later life.
Once you have set out your ‘terms’ don’t ever back down. If this means leaving the store without your groceries then so be it. If the behaviour magically rectifies by the time you reach the car – you still get in and drive home. The child needs to know that you will carry through.
The good news is that tantrums do pass. They usually diminish as the child’s ability to communicate grows. Before you know it, they’ll be onto the next stage which will bring its own new problems! Getting a handle on their behaviour as early as possible lays good foundations for making life easier in the future. Good luck!
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