The terrible twos? They're really not so terrible when you know how to handle tantrums. Toddler Temper Tantrums: why they happen, how to prevent them, and how to respond!
Let's talk about temper tantrums. They're what every toddler parent talks about, RIGHT? I have to be honest, I was really worried about getting to the “tantrum stage” with our own toddler. Ironically, tantrums are a part of my job. I work in education, and have been VERY lucky……over the last few years I've had the honor of working with some of the best behavior specialists in the country. The amount I've learned from them? Immeasurable.
So, how does a “teacher with special training in behavior support” support their own toddler? Not perfectly. Before I share what we've done with Lydia and how it helped…..I feel like I need to be transparent. By no means am I a perfect parent. I miss the mark just like every mom. I try my best, and sometimes it's just not effective. There are many areas of parenting that are challenging, areas where I feel like a total disaster. Tantrums happen to be one of the areas I'm equipped to deal with (and man, do I appreciate those experts even more NOW).
One other question that I can guarantee will come up…….is there an age limit on these suggestions? My answer is no. Children have tantrums way past toddlerhood for a variety of reasons. The majority of these suggestions were originally a part of plans for children who were identified as being on the spectrum or having frustration due to speech difficulties. But really? They just work.
Toddler Temper Tantrums
Why They Happen:
Why do kids have tantrums? Sometimes it seems like they come out of nowhere, RIGHT?
“A tantrum is the expression of a young child's frustration with the challenges of the moment. Perhaps your child is having trouble figuring something out or completing a specific task. Maybe your child doesn't have the vocabulary or can't find the words to express his or her feelings. Frustration might trigger anger — resulting in a temper tantrum.
If your child is thirsty, hungry or tired, his or her threshold for frustration is likely to be lower — and a tantrum more likely.” – The Mayo Clinic
The world is a big place. And it's frustrating when you can't clearly explain your needs, stresses, and emotions. I mean, let's be honest…..most adults struggle with this at times. Imagine how it feels at TWO. The main reason most children tantrum? Lack of ability to communicate or problem solve independently (which comes at a MUCH later age).
How to Prevent Tantrums:
To be clear, you will never eliminate toddler temper tantrums all together. They are a developmentally appropriate behavior for toddlers, and they're to be expected. What can you do? Observe things that frustrate YOUR child and prepare for them. Common triggers for temper tantrums? Exhaustion, hunger, overwhelm, navigating new social environments, feeling as if needs aren't being acknowledged.
So what can you do? Prepare yourself and your kiddo for those moments. Pack snacks, water, plan on down time if you're out all day. Prepare them for new situations. Discuss them in ADVANCE. Explain what the new environment will be, who will be there, etc. Toddlers may not be the best verbal communicators….but their comprehension? Way more than we expect most times.
Leave time in your schedule. I've found that rushing and stress on MY part? Tends to stress out my daughter. So, if we're going to a party or an event…..I plan to get there five minutes early. We spend a few minutes talking in the car, walking in slowly. I don't just throw Lydia the middle of a party without discussing….cause that? Meltdown city.
How to Respond to Temper Tantrums:
Despite the best of intentions……at times, toddler temper tantrums WILL happen. It's just a part of toddler life. So what do you do when they occur? Be empathetic. Stay calm. Try not to demonstrate anger or frustration (even though you may be mortified that your kid is melting down in the middle of Target). When dealing with tantrums, it's important to be clear and calm and consistent.
What do we do?
1) Acknowledge: “I can see that you are upset.”
2) Offer Help: “Can I help you?”
3) Simple Solution: “I know you love watching Daniel Tiger. We are all done watching for today, would you like to watch again tomorrow morning?”
Less words are more. If you were in the middle of a rage, and someone gave you a speech…..would you listen? Probably not.
Sometimes, you just have to wait. Be patient. Repeat the same three steps over and over calmly. Eventually they will work.
So toddler moms (or toddler mom survivors)…….what are YOUR tips for addressing temper tantrums? Leave them in the comments and help us all out!