Tantrums are not fun, and they often happen when you have the least amount of patience (read: when you and your child are both exhausted). But, there are certain things you can do to make it through each toddler episode, if only to survive another day and feel like you're not completely failing at parenting.
Take it from a tantrum-thrower
You should know something about me. I used to throw tantrums. Like, big ones that lasted between 2 and 3 hours. All I remember feeling was 1. misunderstood and 2. like life was horribly unfair. I don't remember the things I threw tantrums over, just that I had emotions (usually anger or frustration) that I simply could not hold in
and didn't know how to process.
What causes tantrums
Interestingly enough, most experts
agree about the cause of tantrums. Here are the common triggers:
- Frustration with being unable to express feelings, needs, or wants
- Hunger, fatigue, overstimulation or boredom
- Wanting to assert independence
- Feeling a lack of control
If you are a parent dealing with some serious toddler tantrum drama, here are some things to keep you sane:
Remember that it's not about you
Although tantrums feel horribly personal, they aren't meant to hurt your feelings. Yes, sometimes a child will act out because they don't like that they aren't getting their way. But more than revenge, most children just want to feel heard and valued, and they (mistakenly) feel like not getting their way means this isn't true. Funny thing is, after the tantrum ends and the dust has settled, most kids are either asleep or calmly moving on to something else. In essence, tantrums are basically just emotions coming to the surface and exploding out of a tiny body.
Act like the adult
Because tantrums aren't about you, try to respond in a mature manner. Don't attempt to shout over your screaming child. Speak softly and calmly, and don't kick, hit, or bite back. Instead, hold them firmly in a quiet place, if possible. If you're out in public, leave ASAP. Explore what's right for you and your child. Stay close to let your child know they aren't abandoned. Remember that you are the adult, and you are in charge.
Sometimes near the beginning of a tantrum, children can still be reasoned with. Try looking at something across the room and pointing it out to your toddler. "Is that a race car? Wow!" Or, you can always bring their attention to something else, such as a different toy or new activity. This strategy might not always work, but it's good to have a few tricks up your sleeve if it means avoiding "the meltdown of the century" at the local Target.
Talk it out
Once the storm has abated, it's now a good time to talk with your toddler about what just happened. Explain the dilemma in simple terms, such as, "You got very angry because your food wasn't the way you wanted. But yelling and screaming doesn't help. Mommy can help you if you use words and tell me what you need."
Let your toddler be part of the discussion, and help them understand that violent behavior is not acceptable. However, emphasize to them that emotions are very real things that are okay to feel, but need to be processed safely. "The next time you get mad, you can take a break and sit in in your room. It's okay to feel mad, but it's not okay to hit mommy."
A hug and "I love you" usually provide a good end to the conversation. This will help your toddler know that you are on his or her side while maintaining a voice of reason and guidance.
Don't give in
If there's one thing I want to emphasize the most, it's don't give in
. Tantrums are nasty, ugly, long, and exhausting. But, you'll be creating more opportunity for future tantrums if you give in simply because your child is acting out. If a child sees that throwing a tantrum works to get their way, they're much more likely to do it again. That's when tantrums go from being a storm of emotions to a practice in manipulation, and no parent wants that.
Tantrums are a normal part of childhood, and each one will pass eventually. In the meantime, you'll get through it. Be firm and kind, remembering to discuss things with your child in the aftermath. They'll appreciate your presence and communication, even if they don't show it. As a seasoned ex-tantrum thrower, I should know. Thanks again, mom!
Featured Image PC: @erinbachman_