The toddler years can be challenging. Toddlers are generally any child between the ages of 1 and 3 years-old. They are learning new skills, such as walking, talking, problem-solving, and reasoning. They are also learning how to express and manage their feelings. Being hungry, tired, or over-stimulated from an activity or new situations may trigger a temper tantrum.
It’s important for a caregiver to recognize the triggers of a tantrum and help the child through these situations. Realize that temper tantrums are a very normal part of growth and development. Preventing or decreasing the tantrums will help ease the stress on the caregiver and the child. It’s a win-win situation.
Preventing a tantrum explosion:
- Toddlers need consistent schedules. Regular eating, napping, play and sleep times will help the child know what to expect next through their day. This is one of the most important things you can do in the prevention of tantrums.
- Take the time to observe. Are there certain situations or settings that trigger the tantrum? Can these situations be avoided? Shopping when a toddler is tired or hungry is never a good idea. A preschool child will have the skills to handle these situations but a toddler is still learning.
- Give them choices. Toddlers need to have a choice so that they do not feel like they are always being told what to do. This can be frustrating for an adult, as well. Two choices tend to be the magic number. Would you like to wear the blue shirt or the red shirt? Would you like to eat cereal or oatmeal?
- Give them verbal clues to prepare for a change. If playtime is almost over you can tell them, “Five more minutes before playtime is over”. This prepares them ahead of time and makes the transition easier. Be consistent.
How to defuse a tantrum:
- Stay calm. Take a moment to take a breath. A caregiver overreacting will not help things. Be a positive example of how to control your emotions.
- Take time to decide. What should be the best approach?
- Ignoring the behavior will help the child realize the tantrum doesn’t accomplish anything and it will allow them to work through their feelings/emotions.
- Distraction is sometimes the key for handling toddlers with short attention spans.
- Removing the child from the situation may be necessary.
- Holding an out-of-control child could prevent them from hurting themselves or others until they are able to control their body and mind once again.
After the tantrum boom is over:
- Chill time. Give the child and yourself time to cool down. Take a few minutes for things to return to normal. Tantrums can be scary for the child. They may not realize why they are having these feelings.
- Talk about it. This is a teaching moment. Talk about why they had a tantrum even if the child has a limited vocabulary. You can help them learn to communicate their feelings and avoid future break downs.
Understanding your toddler’s tantrums may take some time and patience. The tantrums tend to decrease in frequency and intensity as the child ages. Peace in the home or childcare setting is the goal to continued development and maturity of your little firecracker.