Whatever your parenting style, it’s absolutely impossible to make it through the toddler years without at least a few tantrums. They are an inevitable part of parenting and – I know from personal experience – can be both worrying and exhausting.
I wish I had a magic solution that would eliminate tantrums altogether, but instead I can share with you a few tips that will make managing them a little easier.
First of all – be kind to yourself!
Tantrums are exhausting. If you’re in public, they can feel embarrassing and even if you’re in the comfort of your own home, they can still leave you feeling frustrated and alone. So, my first tip is to remember that ALL parents go through tantrums. It is in no way a reflection on your parenting or your relationship with your child.
Once you understand this, it is much easier to remain calm during an outburst. Remember to use a calm voice and take a deep breath, knowing that it is a completely normal and natural part of the journey and won’t last forever! You’ve got this!
The art of distraction!
I cannot tell you the amount of times I have made a complete fool of myself trying to bring a tantrum to a speedy conclusion. It isn’t my favourite pastime, but I can tell you that more often than not, it works!
Is your child having a tantrum because their cornflakes were served in a green bowl this morning instead of their usual white one? Whatever the cause, try and find something SO interesting it will completely override those objections. They don’t even have to be real things. My favourites include: spotting a truck or lorry going passed the house, popping outside to have a look at a cloud dinosaur I just spotted, suddenly getting a (very dramatic) leg cramp that will of course require treatment from the finest ‘doctor’ in all the land and even on occasion spotting our pesky neighbourhood fox dancing around the garden.
Of course, I try not to lie to Arlo as much as is physically possible (and I know many parents wouldn’t admit to ever lying to their child at all) but I think pretending to get a leg clamp to reduce a twenty-minute tantrum down to two is a pretty good trade-off for a tiny white lie!
Let your child know you are there for them.
An important part of big emotions is simply to let your little one know that you understand, you love them and you’ll still be there whenever they are ready. You can offer a hug, but if they say no you must be okay with that. Instead, give them the time to calm their emotions and offer again a few minutes later.
Sometimes, you might just need to sit down on the floor beside them and let the tantrum take full effect. The important thing is to simply help them understand you are there for them and that their big emotions do not scare you or make you angry. You are there to ride that wave with them!
Give control wherever possible.
Ideally, this is a tool which helps prevent tantrums, but it can be effective during, too. The key here is to give as much choice as possible to your little one. For example, allow them to choose their own clothes in the morning. Give them a few snack options and let them choose their own. Ask them if they want to play outside and – crucially – accept the answer they give. Never, ever ask when the outcome is already determined. For example, if you have to go to the supermarket, don’t offer it as a choice because if they say no, you’re straight into tantrum town!
Now, let’s be honest here – I am sure you’ve seen people say “Give them a choice!” and you’ve given it a go “Would you like water or juice?” and the response has been “No!” or “Nothing!”
We’ve ALL been there!
Again this is not something that will get rid of tantrums entirely, but it certainly does reduce the number of tantrums, especially if you get in early enough, but remember point one – sometimes tantrums are simply inevitable and that’s just part of the journey!
Label those emotions!
In order to eventually leave the town of tantrums, we must give our children the skills to cope in different ways. Partly, this will come with age and life experience, but we can speed up the process by ensuring we give our children the vocabulary to talk about their feelings.
This might look like: “I can see you are feeling very frustrated that we can’t play outside right now. I understand it makes us feel sad when we can’t do what we want to. Would you like to play with your kitchen in the living room instead?”
“I am very sorry your doll has broken. It makes us feel very sad when something we like has broken. Would you like a hug?” (If they say “No!” I would say “That’s okay. I will be right here if you change your mind.”)
Use mindfulness or calming activities regularly.
A great way to prevent tantrums in the future is to spend some time on mindfulness activities. For example, placing chickpeas along a line or colouring in. Another option might be to trace circles on a teddy bears fur or have a small fidget toy. If you are a Catkin Club member, your mindfulness activity series in perfect for this (you can find it in the emotional development resources)!
These opportunities help to provide important talking times which will ultimately help to uncover anything your child might be worrying about and lead to fewer tantrums in the future. Again, this is not a cure all and will certainly not prevent all tantrums, but it can help to reduce your child’s anxiety.
What do you think? Did you find any tips helpful? Let me know which one you used next time you find yourself in tantrum town!