Tantrums. The bane of every parent. We’ve all been there with kids, from the meltdown in the grocery store to crying because their brother or sister touched them. Sometimes they don’t even know why they are crying. Every parent has to go through it, but here are 8 tips you can use to make things better for everyone.
One of the biggest challenges for a parent is making it through the tantrum years. Sometimes its endless whining and sadness; other times, its big outbursts and anger. Young kids will even meltdown with things that they liked just a few hours ago. As a parent, it’s hard to deal with the mood swings, outbursts, and seemingly endless crying. It’s a never-ending adventure. To help you navigate the inevitable tantrums and meltdowns, here are 8 Tantrum Tips that will help make everyone’s lives easier.
1. Don’t Take It Personally
They aren’t doing things just to irritate you, though it can seem like it sometimes. Toddlers usually don’t take into consideration the fact that you even have feelings and emotions. They act mostly on impulse, depending on what they want or need. It is our job as parents to teach them to understand and control their impulses. We can’t take it personally and get mad, or the toddler will mimic that behavior. As the adult, we have to take a step back from the emotions of the situation to regain control of the situation.
- Toddlers continuously push their boundaries. They are learning about their surroundings and working to understand how life works.
- Don’t get offended. It’s not a personal attack. It’s about helping them to understand the emotions they are experiencing and how best to deal with them.
- If you are getting overly frustrated, then your child is teaching you to match their negative emotions rather than you teaching your child to match your positive emotions. Regain control of yourself to regain control of the situation, and steer it in a positive direction.
2. Look at the World from Their Perspective
Being a kid is hard. Everyone and everything is bigger than you, sometimes even scary. And you don’t know what most things do yet, so you imagine the possibilities with your mind. This can be frustrating to parents. We have appointments and deadlines, and things like dinner and laundry that have to be done. We are busy and don’t have time for the feet-dragging and daydreaming. But it’s important to take time to look at the world from their perspective sometimes. Set down all the “musts” and “have to’s” and join them sometimes in their curiosity and wonder.
- Most things are done for fun or curiosity.
- Try to see the magic in the moment. Embrace the whimsy and your inner child.
- Understand that some things are extremely important to them, even if they seem minimal or pointless to you as an adult.
- Try to say “yes” more than “no” but be consistent.
- Enjoy time pretending and playing with them, because it doesn’t last forever. Seize the moments while they are here!
3. Reverse the Negative
Being a parent is hard too! Keeping everyone safe and healthy often means saying “No”… a lot. Sometimes as a parent you can feel like you say “no” all the time. It can definitely feel this way to kids, which can be frustrating. And for young kids, frustration often leads to a tantrum or meltdown. Be mindful of how much you tell you kids “no”, “don’t”, and “can’t”. It’s necessary sometimes but repeating them too much can stifle creativity and independence. Find a balance that works for you and your household, and everyone will be happier for it.
- Instead of “no”, tell them what they should be doing.
- Instead of saying “Don’t do that”, say “Be gentle” or “Go slow”
- Compromise with them. Decide what is really important to you, and what things don’t matter as much. This helps the toddler know that they get what they want sometimes, and when you do say “no” it’s for a good reason.
4. Offer Acceptable Choices
Another good way to respond to a situation is to offer a few acceptable choices as alternatives to what the kid wanted. So instead of saying “No, you can’t have candy”, say “How about a popsicle or an apple instead?” (or other fruit that the child likes). It’s a good way to redirect the situation in a positive manner. It helps to make the kid feel more in control, instead of having their request completely shut down. It also helps you as the parent keep control, because either choice is ok by you and better than the original request.
- Helps toddlers feel independent
- Helps them feel more control in the situation
- Especially good to offer choices after saying “No”
5. Be Clear: Tantrums Will Get You Nothing
One of the hardest things about parenting is sticking to what you say in the face of a meltdown. Your kid might scream, cry, throw themselves on the floor, strike others, or even try to hurt themselves. And as a parent, all we want in that moment is for the screaming to stop. The problem comes when the kid learns that having a tantrum will result in getting what they want. It’s very important to teach your child that tantrums will get them nothing. The tantrum must stop in order to move forward with getting what they want. And if the tantrum continues, it will actually lose them other privileges. The child learns that a tantrum never gets them what they want, therefore rendering the tantrum useless.
- Do not give the child what they want simply because they are throwing a tantrum.
- Help them to calm down first, then give them what they want or an acceptable alternative.
- Teaching them that tantrums will get them nothing is a process. Don’t expect their behavior to change over night, but if you’re consistent you should see a difference in their behavior over a period of time.
- Watching videos on the phone or tablet tends to be a big trigger for tantrums in our house. We use those times as teachable moments instead of banning devices altogether. If they really want the device then they have to learn to calm themselves, because meltdowns and tantrums equal no devices at all.
6. The Power of a Hug and Saying “I Love You”
Life can be overwhelming for everyone. Sometimes the best thing we need is a hug, some kind words, to be told that we are loved, and that things are going to be ok. This is especially true for kids. They simultaneously want to do everything themselves while being dependent on grown ups for everything. It can be confusing and overwhelming. It’s important to remind them that you love them, that you are there for them, and that things are probably not as bad as they seem.
- Sometimes a hug and hearing “I love you” this is all they really need.
- Tantrums are often a reflection of them feeling overwhelmed by their emotions. A hug can often help them feel safe, grounded, and back in control of themselves.
- Everyone gets emotional and often hearing “I love you” from someone close can help the toddler to recenter and remind them that things aren’t so bad after all.
7. Include Them in Daily Activities
Its easy to feel over-looked, unimportant, or suppressed as a child, since all your decisions are made for you. Including young kids in daily tasks helps them to feel more included and less ignored, which can help reduce the frequency of tantrums in general. Let them mix jello, use the broom, and help with craft projects. Little things will make a big difference.
- As a parent, always choose activities that are age appropriate and safe. Use your best judgement.
- Choose tasks that can help them to feel like part of what’s going on around the household.
- Simple cleaning and cooking tasks are fun for young children and help them learn more complex tasks (sweeping with a broom and getting the dirt into a pile).
8. The Art of Distraction
Sometimes toddlers can get overly focused on something. And when they can’t have that one particular thing, a meltdown soon follows. Offering a distraction to the current situation can change their focus from the cause of the tantrum. This is not a bribe. A bribe reinforces the negative behavior while a distraction changes the focus and emotion of the situation.
- Distract the toddler with something they love that is also safe. For example, “Look at the dog” or “Daddy is being so silly”.
- This is not a bribe. You should not bribe your child because it teaches them that throwing a tantrum will get them what they want. Once they learn that, tantrums will become more frequent or intense as they use it as a tool to get what they want. They will learn that if they just keep crying and having a fit that they will wear you down and eventually get what they want.
These are the tantrum tips we used to reduce the frequency, duration, and intensity of tantrums and meltdowns in our house. It has been a process and we still have our bad days. However, by following the tips above, our household is a much more calm and happy place for everyone. We hope they will help you in the same way! Let us know in the comments how they made things better in your household!