You can see it coming on. You are in the toilet paper aisle at the supermarket and you can see the blood rising in your toddler’s face. Soon there will be steam coming out of their ears and a very loud wail coming from their mouth. Toddlers can throw a wicked temper tantrum and they seem to be able to do it at the worst moments. So what causes these sudden bursts of anger and what can you do about them?
Why Does A Temper Tantrum Happen?
Stand clear… incoming hurricane of emotions on the way! A temper tantrum can come on with seemingly no warning. One minute you are happily preparing lunch and the next minute the triangle sandwiches that you should apparently have cut into squares are flying at your head, accompanied by a shriek that could only have come from a banshee.
Tantrums usually occur in children between 1 and 3 years old. They are starting to really experience their emotions by this age and sometimes those emotions get too big for them to handle. Their language skills are still very limited, so they cannot keep up with the emotions. Because they cannot communicate their feelings of anger or frustration effectively, the result is a temper tantrum.
Your child can be a little angel 99% of the time, but even if they are usually well behaved, expect some tantrums over the toddler journey.
When your toddler throws a wobbly, they are not trying to manipulate you. They are too young to understand the concept of manipulation yet. The are simply frustrated about their inability to communicate their feelings.
How Can I Stop My Child From Having Temper Tantrums?
Now that is a the golden question. And the honest answer is… you can’t. No matter what you do, the potential for a tantrum is still always lurking. But you can minimise the situations where tantrums might occur. That means staying close to home and doing quiet activities when they are tired or sick.
Try and identify the things that set your toddler off and then you can manage them. These are some common triggers…
Leaving to go home: If your toddler is having fun then they will probably not want to give that up just to go home. Prevent the catastrophic hometime meltdown by giving them a 10 and then 5 minute warning that you are going to leave. Then have something to look forward to at home, like seeing Daddy, or making a yummy lunch.
Saying No: Toddlers like to say no, they don’t like to hear it. If you feel like you are always saying no to your toddler then try changing the language you use. Also, it is good to pick your battles. Does it really matter if they want to wear one red sock and one blue one?
Giving Commands: You will find your toddler is good at exerting their own independence, so instead of giving them a command like ‘eat your carrots’, ask them if they would prefer to eat their carrots or their broccoli. This gives them an element of control because they get to choose, but they still eat their vegetables.
How To Handle A Tantrum
While running and hiding sounds attractive, you can also try these two tactics:
There is no one rule on handling a tantrum, so you need to see what works best for your child. The one thing we can say is that when a tantrum is in full swing, you won’t be able to reason with them.
Here are some tips to keep you sane when there is a full velocity tantrum happening…
Try to remain calm - Meeting their anger with anger of your own will only prolong the tantrum
Don’t give in - If the tantrum is caused because you have said no to something, don’t give in. If you do, it will teach your toddler that they just have to throw a tanty to get what they want.
Ignore the stares - People will stare if your toddler throws a tantrum in a public place, and people may even offer advice on how you should be dealing with the situation. But ignore them and do what works best for your family. All parents have been there before.
Pack Up - Be prepared to head home if your child’s behaviour is unacceptable when you are out
Safe Spot - If your toddler, kicks, hits, or thrashes when they are mid-tantrum then calmly pick them up and put them in a safe spot where they can’t hurt anyone until they calm down.
After the storm has died down, take some time to talk with your toddler about why the tantrum happened. Acknowledge their frustration and encourage them to use their words next time. Praise their efforts at communication too.
Take comfort in the fact that every parent has experienced a tantrum from their child at some point, even that judgy woman who gave you a dirty look at the supermarket. While they are not pleasant, they are part of the joys of bringing up children. The love and cuddles sure do make up for the small moments of lost temper.