Best Methods for Handling Your Child's Tantrum
Every parent fears the tantrum. Moreover, if you do not worry the outburst, it is because you have not experienced enough of them. Those moments when, for seemingly no reason at all, your child starts wailing, kicking, and screaming at the top of his or her lungs. It is sad enough at home but in public? I have seen many a parent brought to tears trying to tame a public tantrum. Moreover, their fear is not just on the outburst itself, but of the judgment that will inevitably come down on them from onlookers. So they start to do anything they can think of to make the tantrum end. Unfortunately, many times the things we do out of desperation to stop a tantrum can end up making the tantrum even worse. Here are some practical tips to help you when it comes to handling your child's outburst, and the top mistakes to avoid.
Ignore the Tantrum, Not the Child
Any attention, even negative attention, has the potential to reinforce the behavior. Moreover, the last thing any parent wants is a child prone to throwing even more tantrums. So you want to give the outburst as little attention as possible. At the same time, leaving your child alone during a tantrum can have adverse effects. A child having a tantrum is not merely trying to manipulate you into giving in to his or her demands: they are in emotional distress. Something in their world has just collapsed, and they do not know how to handle it — so they tantrum. Leaving them could potentially be unsafe, and could also give the wrong impression of feeling abandoned.
Instead, sit down next to the tantrum (at a safe distance if your child happens to be a kicker, trust me on this) and quietly wait it out. Read a book, play a game on your phone, hum a tune. Your child needs to know that you are there for them, even when they are angry as hell at the world, but that you will not reward the tantrum.
Don't Think About the Size of the Problem in Your Terms
One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing those memes of parents making fun of their children because their last tantrum had to deal with something “stupid,” — like not being allowed to eat the kitty litter or being told that flushing their favorite doll down the toilet is not a good idea. Sure, to us these problems might seem ridiculous and tiny. However, here's the deal — problem sizes are relative not only to our age but also to our ability efficiently handle the problem. A child, especially a toddler, is still learning how to deal with stress. Moreover, without fully-developed stress coping skills, every issue feels like it is the end of the world.
Avoid laughing, invalidating, or ridiculing your child during these tantrums. Remember that they are feeling overwhelmed and vulnerable — shaming them will only lead to more issues later down the line. It does not matter if you cannot see how breaking the blue crayon might be the end of the world — I am sure you can relate to feeling emotionally overwhelmed and vulnerable. Would you react positively if someone laughed at you while you were feeling that way?
Want to Discuss the Tantrum until After it is Over
Trying to reason with a child in the middle of a tantrum will only serve to frustrate you both. As I said, children do not come with built-in stress coping mechanisms, so their ability to rationalize or reason during an emotional blow out is nonexistent. Trying to explain the ins and outs of a tantrum, or of the problem they are seeing, will only confuse the issue in their minds and make them more frustrated than before.
Instead, wait until the tantrum has passed. Once they are back to their sweet, lovely selves, then you can discuss the issue and talk about how to calm down during those emotionally volatile times.
Remember Your Toddler is Behaving and Being Good
Implying that your child is not behaving him or herself during a tantrum will only instill a belief that they are not a “good” child. However, while they are in the midst of throwing that tantrum, it is essential to remind yourself that they are behaving the best they know how. Moreover, getting angry or upset over something is not misbehavior. It is just behavior.
Most toddlers have not yet learned the art of lying, manipulating, or entering into a power struggle. Those sorts of misbehaviors are discovered later, closer to five or six years of age (of course, this is a national average, and can vary depending on where you live, the atmosphere in the home, and your overall attachment to each other). The toddler's tantrum is rarely about misbehaving and is usually stress related.
Check Your Thoughts and Beliefs at the Door
They have no room in your life during your child's tantrum. That nasty little voice in your head telling you that everyone is judging you, that your child hates you, and that your child is turning into a brat? None of them are true. Okay, there may be a couple of people out there judging you for how you are handling your child's tantrum…not every parent believes in the “sit and wait it out” method — especially in public. However, for the most part, every other parent out there knows what you are going through and knows how hard it is to go through. Moreover, your child does not hate you. Also, your child is not a brat.
Tantrums are a natural part of a child's psychological development. Your job as a parent is to teach your child the best ways to cope with stress. Unfortunately, toddlers start to experience anxiety long before they have a chance to learn about how to deal with it. Moreover, a lot of how they begin handling their stress is going to depend on how they see you managing your stress. The best way to teach your child how to calm down and use reason through stressful times is to try to remain to calm yourself during their tantrums.
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