Managing Your Kid’s Tantrum in the Best Way Possible
Managing your child’s temper tantrum is never an easy task for a parent. No matter whether it is your first child or third, temper tantrums can cause adult stress and anxiety. But if a parent can manage the kid’s temper tantrum productively and proactively, it is possible you will avoid having many more in the future and can immediately solve the current one.
The first step in trying to manage these temper tantrums is being able to identify possible causes before and during them. Understanding why your child is having one and when it is a full-blown temper tantrum is an important piece of the puzzle.
Then once it is identified or warning signs start to show you can manage the outburst in the best way possible. Having said that this is as easy as it sounds. First, let’s identify exactly what a temper tantrum is.
What is a Tantrum?
Tantrums or temper tantrums are when a child engages in disruptive behavior that is commonly known as “acting out” or having an “outburst.” A tantrum is when the child does any of the following excessively:
- Excessive Crying
- Holding Breath
- Stomping Feet
- Throwing Oneself On The Floor
Tantrums typically can be worse for kids who can’t express their emotions. More on that later. But tantrums can start to occur with the intent from 12-18 months and become progressively worse in the 2-3 years. Terrible twos really is a thing. And while those are common ages to be having a lot of tantrums, they can last well into a toddler’s years if not handled in the best way possible.
Some kids will throw tantrums much more frequently than others. Tantrums may be random among your child or there may be specific times and events that you notice that trigger your child into having a tantrum. Each kid is unique and when we pay attention to what’s really going on, then we can work on ratifying the situation.
What Causes Tantrums?
Temper tantrums are common for both girls and boys as neither gender takes the cake for most outbursts. As mentioned, what is really important is understanding the why behind the emotional reaction. This way you can either treat the issue or try to prevent future ones.
It’s also important to understand that the younger a child is, the less ability they have to communicate to the adult what they want or what is upsetting them. The lack of speech and communication results in them doing what they know they can. This is any of the above-mentioned outbursts.
The most common reasons for tantrums are fatigue, hunger, and frustration.
When a child is overtired, it is common for them to have meltdowns to situations or experiences that otherwise they may not react to. You can imagine how cranky you are when you are tired. Now think of a child who doesn’t have the coping mechanisms to really push-through the exhaustion or comprehend why they aren’t feeling well.
Often when a child starts acting out and a parent asks, “Are you tired?” The child may respond even more extremely by saying no. Then the next minute they are out like a light. This is a clear example of how children don’t comprehend why they aren’t feeling like themselves and why they may be more irritable than usual. This will lead to frustration.
As an adult, we can also understand what it feels like to be hangry. But we also know logically that we are in charge of our bodies and that we can get ourselves food when we want it and need it. A baby, child, or toddler doesn’t have this same luxury and may become quickly irritable in trying to figure out how and when they can get what they need.
We can also go with the opposite stance that when a child does not want to eat and an adult is trying to get their kid to eat, a tantrum can evolve. This may be because the child doesn’t like the food or for the reason that eating actually can be difficult for a kid and require effort. It isn’t a fun thing for them in the beginning so may start to panic.
Eating is one of the few things a child feels they may be able to control. Because there aren’t a whole lot of other areas, they may try to make decisions, this can lead to refusal. Being hungry or not wanting to eat can also lead to frustration.
We can note that being hungry, not wanting to eat, or being tired, can lead to frustration. What we also should consider is that frustration itself is a reason for tantrums and it may not have to do with food or being tired. This is the trickiest of all three to fix because identifying what is frustrating a baby or toddler to the point of emotional outburst is difficult. It becomes even more difficult when they can’t use words to speak.
Frustration could be many things. The most relatable and understandable example of the frustration that has led to tantrums has been COVID. For the older children who are now doing online work in front of a computer all day, we may have seen more tantrums this last year than in the past.
This is because children can’t exactly comprehend why there has been a big change, why they can’t see their friends, and why they are being isolated in schooling. Which has led to frustration.
Frustration is a cause that if a parent can pay attention to the surroundings and events, they will be able to understand.
How To Make A Toddler’s Tantrums Less Likely
Understanding what causes the tantrum plays a very large role in handling the situation. Being able to prevent them is still an important stage because recognizing patterns and behaviors can go a long way. Having said that there are a lot of things a parent can do that can make tantrums less likely.
Besides the three most common triggers mentioned above, a child will usually display some sort of pattern when it comes to when and why. When you pay attention to the before moments of a temper tantrum you can easily start to identify when one is about to happen or prevent those triggers. If one is on the way you can work on distraction techniques.
Responding to the Demand
Responding to the demand means two different things.
- Distraction technique is one way to respond to the demand/outburst by taking a younger child's attention away from what is causing them to be upset and directing it towards something else. This could be a tantrum from falling and being tired. Then you can show them their favorite toy is here to save the day.
- The other part of responding to the demand is addressing it directly. If the demand is outrageous, like a child not getting extra candy, then you will want to respond in a way that lets them know their behavior is unacceptable and this is not the way to get what they want.
We can’t always be tough on a child though so positive reinforcement and education opportunities are great ways of preventing temper tantrums.
Positive Reinforcement & Educational Opportunities
Positive reinforcement when your child is doing something good is a great way to avoid future tantrums. Attention is one of the things that a child will want from their parents so when they are doing the right things, giving them that attention will encourage good behavior.
Tantrums can also be avoided by using educational opportunities to show your child how to do something on their own. If they are not sure how to communicate that they are frustrated with their school work, and they have the ability to have conversations, showing them how to ask for help is a great educational opportunity.
Give Some Control
Tantrums usually come from a lack of control. When you give your child a little control this can go a long way with having temper tantrums. If they are old enough to choose what they want to eat, you can on occasion tell them it’s their turn to request dinner. The key is limited control because when you give a child too much, the tantrums will start up again when you say no.
How To Handle A Toddlers Tantrum
Handling a toddler’s tantrum may be unique to a child and also may take some trial and error from the parent. There are however general rules that a parent can go by to address the situation in the most effective way possible.
If your child is safe then we must remember that tantrums are a child’s way of getting your attention. If the child is unsafe or the behavior is so disruptive it is best to immediately move the child from that environment and work to get the child into a safer one.
Determine The Why
If the child is safe now you should determine why they are having a tantrum. If it is for good reasons like being excessively tired or hungry, you can give them what they need. The younger a child is, the more comfortable they may need. If they are upset because they lost their balloon reassurance can work here.
However, if they are older and the why does not justify the behavior (often) it is best to not give the child the attention it is looking for.
Remember as a parent, tantrums are very normal and do not reflect on your parenting. If you become animated, visibly aggravated, or stressed, you may respond in fight or flight mode. This ultimately will make the tantrum worse and it is better to set the example for the child.
Coping With Tantrums
Even though you need to stay calm as a parent, it can be really difficult to. Tantrums are a stressful event for so many reasons. You may be in a public setting and are worried about the disruption to the environment. It also is very upsetting to see your child emotional to that degree and can make you feel like you’re not doing a good job parenting.
That’s when you should do some of the following to help you cope.
- Take a breather at the moment before responding.
- If possible, don’t always be the one to deal with them. (Use a partner/family member)
- Apply consistent methods so the response feels more natural.
Even with that boatload of motherly advice, there are always a few more things that come to mind when it comes to talking about tantrums.
When Should I Seek Help?
While tantrums are normal among young children, on occasion a child's behavior will be harmful to themselves or others. If a child is engaging in physically or mentally unsafe behavior beyond kicking, screaming, crying, it is best to consult a doctor or medical professional.
What Happens In The Moments After A Tantrum?
When your child has calmed down it is always a great idea to acknowledge that they have regained composure. You can positively reinforce that this is a good thing. Then you can talk about why that behavior didn’t work for that situation and what can happen the next time to get a more positive result.
How Old Is Too Old To Be Having Tantrums?
While these kinds of tantrums typically start to taper off at around four-years-old it is not uncommon to see outbursts in older children. Sometimes even up to ages eight and nine, we can see this reactive behavior. It’s worth noting that if they are still happening at this age you may way to seek help because it usually means you have given in a few too many times.
Tantrums will always be something that stresses parents out to no end. They are not pleasant and there is no joy in seeing your kid have a full melt-down. By reading this advice you have the opportunity to apply some of the above-mentioned to not only handle a tantrum in real-time but also start to prevent them.
Tantrums and how you handle them can build trust between a child and parent. If the communication grows and an agreement of understanding takes place, fewer tantrums will follow.