Tantrums are a normal part of a child’s development and if you manage the situation calmly it can make them easier to deal with.
We have all been there. No child ever has a tantrum at a convenient time. A time when there is nobody around and you aren’t in a very public space trying to hold it all together.
But, fear not, tantrums are just a normal part of a child’s development and if we can manage the situation and try diffusing it as calmly as possible it could just make it that little bit easier to deal with. Promise!
What are tantrums?
Tantrums come in all shapes and sizes. They can involve spectacular explosions of anger, frustration and disorganised behaviour – when your child ‘loses it’. You might see crying, screaming, stiffening limbs, an arched back, kicking, falling down, flailing about or running away. In some cases, children hold their breath, vomit, break things or get aggressive as part of a tantrum.
Why do tantrums happen?
Tantrums are very common in children aged 1-3 years. This is because children’s social and emotional skills are only just starting to develop at this age. Children often don’t have the words to express big emotions. They want more independence but fear being separated from you. And they’re discovering that they can change the way the world works. So tantrums are one of the ways that young children express and manage feelings, and try to understand or change what’s going on around them.
What can I do about tantrums?
There are things you can do to make tantrums less likely to happen:
- Reduce stress. Tired, hungry and overstimulated children are more likely to experience tantrums.
- Tune in to your child’s feelings. If you’re aware of your child’s feelings, you might be able to sense when big feelings are on the way. You can talk about what’s going on and help your child manage difficult feelings.
- Identify tantrum triggers. For example, your child might have tantrums when you’re shopping. You might be able to plan ahead or change the environment to avoid tantrums. For example, it might help to go shopping after your child has had a nap and a snack.
- Talk about emotions with your child. When your child struggles with a difficult feeling, encourage him to name the feeling and what caused it. For example, ‘Did you throw your toy because you were cross that it wasn’t working? What else could you have done?’.
Unfortunately, sometimes tantrums just happen, no matter what you do to avoid them.
How can I handle tantrums?
- Stay calm (or pretend to!). Take a moment for yourself if you need to. If you get angry, it’ll make the situation harder for both you and your child. If you need to speak at all, keep your voice calm and level, and act deliberately and slowly.
- Acknowledge your child’s difficult feelings. For example, ‘It’s very upsetting when your ice-cream falls out of the cone, isn’t it?’. This can help prevent behaviour getting more out of control and gives your child a chance to reset emotions.
- Wait out the tantrum. Stay close to your child so she knows you’re there. But don’t try to reason with her or distract her. It’s too late once a tantrum has started.
- Take charge when you need to. If the tantrum happens because your child wants something, don’t give him what he wants. If your child doesn’t want to do something, use your judgment. For example, if your child doesn’t want to get out of the bath, it might be safer to pull out the plug than to lift him out.
- Be consistent and calm in your approach. If you sometimes give your child what she wants when she has tantrums and you sometimes don’t, the problem could get worse.
And the main point is to BREATHE, know that this behaviour is normal behaviour and they will grow out of it!
Laura Doyle, Mum of 4. Kyle 9, Noa Belle 4, Briar 2 and Milla 12 months. Breastfeeder, co-sleeper, coffee drinker. Staying positive and inspired by the chaos of it all. Follow her on Instagram.