Tantrums can be one of the hardest things to deal with. When your kids are yelling and screaming because they wanted another cookie or because you cut up their sandwich or any other reason really, it can be so hard to know what to do. Should you leave them to it, walk out of the room, punish them or ignore them?
Why they happen.
Firstly, It is important to understand why kids have tantrums. Understanding why is key to being able to approach the tantrums in the most constructive way. Essentially tantrums are a child’s uncontrolled outbursts of anger or frustration because things aren’t going their way. Like those 2 examples I used before – in both those scenarios something just wasn’t going right for the hypothetic child – they weren’t getting the cookie they desperately wanted and their sandwich arrived looking different than expected.
Tantrums are common from 15 months to 6 years of age. This is because they can’t control their reaction – their emotions have taken hold and they can’t think things through or put their feelings into words. Tantrums are also more likely to happen if a child is tired, hungry or over-stimulated as well. So if you think any of these things is the culprit, then you can swoop in and provide them that rest, relaxation or food that they need.
How to respond.
Often times in mom’s groups I see parents suggesting to punish, withdraw or ignore a child when they are having a tantrum. But none of these are the best reactions or ever help a child move through the tantrum at the time, or choose to not tantrum next time. We have to remember that the tantrum wasn’t really their choice – it was uncontrolled. So punishment or lack of attention from Mom and Dad aren’t going to help. What kids need during this time is their parents’ support and understanding. You can sit with them and let them know that comfort is available should they need or want it. If you can help your toddler get through the tantrum, then you can help teach them better ways to cope with the overwhelm of emotion. Your child also needs you to show that you understand how they are feeling when they are in the midst of tantrums. You can do this by validating their feelings. This also names their feelings – which will help them to be able to do this in the future for themselves.
It is okay to teach your child that behaviors like hitting, kicking or damaging property are not acceptable during a tantrum, but feeling your feelings and expressing them is. So if your child chooses an unacceptable behavior during their tantrum, you can definitely let them know it isn’t acceptable.