Tantrums are an inevitable part of parenting … or are they?
What you may or may not want to hear is that we, as parents, have a significant amount of control over whether our toddler ultimately throws a fit. Believe it or not, there are a handful of tips and tricks you can exercise each day to lower the likelihood that your toddler will end up in a tantrum.
Keep A Routine
Keeping a clear routine is important for your child’s emotional well-being because they feel safe with what is familiar. If they perceive the situation to be spiraling out of control, they are likely to lose their cool.
Ways to do this:
- Have a clear schedule to your child’s day, for example regular lunch, nap, bath and bedtimes.
- Aim for happy, relaxed times every day – reading a story, visiting the park, playing a game.
Respect Your Child’s Feelings
This may feel counterintuitive because many young parents today were led by a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do mentality that went hand-in-hand with “children should be seen and not heard.” Sometimes we feel as though we are relinquishing control if we respond to the feelings and emotions of our child.
The opposite is true, however. Toddlers often lash out because they struggle to communicate, so helping them feel understand can alleviate that stress. Parents actually retain control by understanding and reacting to their child’s feelings and emotions.
- Keep aware of new stresses (potty training, starting nursery) that may need more sympathy.
- Try saying, ‘I know that makes you mad’ or ‘That must have made you feel sad’. Your child will see that their feelings matter and can gradually learn to put them into words, saying “I’m angry” instead of acting it out.
- Keep an eye on frustration levels so you can step in before they go over the top. Using humor or other distractions such as a new toy, changed activity, or game, can also help a child move away from frustrated feelings.
- Give children some control and choice over what to eat, wear or play with.
- Provide lots of opportunities to let off steam every day –running around outside, at the playground, dancing to music.
Set the Right Mood and Example
The iron fist mentality may seem effective in theory, but a rigid temperament will not go over well with your toddler. Not only will your child be on edge, he or she will follow your example. Instead of flying off the handle when things get stressful, remain calm to show your child how to react.
- Cut down negatives – constantly saying ‘No’ will add to a toddler’s frustration. Instead, use phrases like ‘later’, or ‘after lunch’.
- Use positive parenting – plenty of praise and attention for behavior you do want, trying to ignore as much as possible behavior you don’t.
- Avoid harsh discipline – shouting and punishments only make tantrums worse.
It’s so easy as parents to second-guess how we should treat our children in disciplinary situations. We may feel like we are losing control if we aren’t harsh, but it is important to understand that appeasing our toddlers is often age-appropriate.
As mentioned before, most children grow out of their need to tantrum as they can better communicate, but handling your child too harshly in the toddler years can prolong this phase.
“If they are handled harshly, with responses like yelling and smacking, or if you constantly ignore their feelings and need for comfort, they may well become worse and carry on for longer,” advises Supernanny.co.uk.
Do your best to remain cool under pressure and, before you know it, your child will do the same.