As most parents of toddlers know too well, tantrums can be a force to be reckoned with. Here’s how you can best cope.
Terrible, terrible toddler tantrums! They can be so sudden, so intense and so dramatic, even for the most capable of parents. We wonder how such a little human being can be so loud, so controlling and so powerful, that they can even stop adults in their tracks! Rest assured, toddler meltdowns are very normal and in some ways a healthy part of normal toddler development.
- Battle lines drawn
A lot of toddlers begin throwing tantrums when they are first mobile, as they naturally want to develop and explore their world, but parents rightly restrict them for safety reasons.A natural developmental battle begins, with an inquisitive, determined toddler, who doesn’t yet understand dangers and threats. As that toddler is restricted and given parental boundaries, a tantrum often eventuates.
- Seeking stimulation
Toddlers also need activity and excitement, or they will revolt in a desire for stimulation. Parents need to provide opportunity for toddlers to venture, to discover and to interact with their broad environment, even to make small mistakes themselves. Finally, avoiding typical triggers can help, such as being in the confectionary aisle at the supermarket, at the end of day, with an overloaded trolley and everyone frazzled.
- Waiting it out
Once a meltdown starts, they are very difficult to stop quickly. However, parents can be effective in reducing the intensity or length. Most tantrums demand a response, but parents are better ignoring this behaviour or waiting it out, if possible,from a short distance. If waiting isn’t possible, then a detached, calm and non-escalating, nonemotional response is best. If possible, removing a toddler to a time-out spot to calm down can be beneficial.
- Standing your ground
This also means you should try not to give in to tantrums. Remember, giving in for peace today means another certain war tomorrow and each day after that. Giving in also means that most toddlers will take much longer to grow out of them. Ignore ‘helpful others’, who remind you that a good smack always works. These parents may have raised their kids by fear and negative consequences. And many smacked toddlers soon learn to hit back.
Focusing on positives is also important. Reward good behaviour, such as listening to mum or dad, quickly doing what is told and following requests.
Keep in mind that patience will help, as most toddlers begin to reduce the number and intensity of tantrums between three and four years of age. An occasional wobbly will still occur, but seeing the triggers for such a tantrum is often easier.
Be calm, patient, ignore the worst and try to hope for the best soon.