Tantrum Troubles?

little kid cryingI work with kids everyday and I have worked with kids for as long as I can remember. My degree is in Social Work and my specialty is children. I am certified in child welfare and I will soon be certified in Triple P which stands for Positive Parenting Program. Essentially it is a program that offers tips and tools to use with your children of all ages to manage behavior better.

For this blog I thought I would choose a topic and discuss some of the issues and tools that can be used to assist parents with childhood behaviors. Today I chose Tantrums in toddlers, mostly because my son is almost 21 months and boy do we have an issue with the screaming and tantrums sometimes. My daughter was not the same way when she was that age so it has been difficult for me to know exactly how to handle it since I can’t compare the 2 of them.

Although we all call it “terrible 2’s” tantrums can start as early as 12 months when children become more independent. They may start to become more demanding and uncooperative. It can get worse the closer you get to age 2 however, if managed well the tantrums will be much less common at age 3 and 4. Children get frustrated just like adults do and the biggest cause for a tantrum is because a child is frustrated or angry but can’t convey what is wrong in the way they want to. As children learn to solve their problems in other ways they begin to have less tantrums.

Children have different temperaments. Some children are more easy going rarely have tantrums at this age however maybe their personality will become stronger later on around age 5, 6, or 7. And other children have quick tempers and their tantrums are more frequent. Tantrums continue to occur when the child knows they work. For example the classic scenario of a parent in the grocery store with a child and the child wants the candy off the shelf. The parent says No and puts the candy back and the child then screams and cries and becomes uncontrollable. The parent then gives the child what they want to avoid an embarrassing moment in public. Unfortunately that child just learned that their tantrums are working!

There are ways to help manage tantrums:

Use Planned Ignoring – Ignoring the tantrums tends to work for toddlers under 2. As difficult as it may be, for this to work your child’s tantrums must be completely ignored. No eye contact, no facial gestures that signal your paying attention, and definitely no talking to your child until the tantrum is over. Once the tantrum is over praise your child for behaving well or being quiet.

Tell your child what to do – For tantrums in older toddlers you need to speak to them in a calm voice even if they are not calm. They need to be able to hear you of course so speaking a little louder than usual is ok however, they need to see that your not just as upset as they are. In a calm voice tell your toddler what action they are doing wrong and how to correct it. For example ” Mikey, stop yelling right now and use your nice voice” If this doesn’t work after 2 or 3 attempts then take the child out of the situation and put in time out. The yelling may get louder at first but children can’t stand to be left out of activities and this can be what calms them down.

Return your child to the activity or give them one – Once your child has been quiet for 1 minute (and this can differ for the younger toddler 30 seconds would suffice) then return them to the activity they were doing and praise them for doing it well. If the child was not involved in an activity then give them one. This can be as easy as a coloring book and crayons, or a book, or an electronic toy but something to where their mind isn’t still harping on what made them angry in the first place. This also gives you something to praise them for.

Believe it or not there are ways to help prevent tantrums:

WHEN PRACTICAL, put away things that you do not want your child to touch to avoid having to say “No” and “Don’t Touch” so often.

* Have a few necessary but REALISTIC rules. You don’t want to set your child up for failure by having so many rules that they aren’t able to be a kid and express themselves or make mistakes. The rules you do have must be firm though.

* Try to keep your child’s usual routine for mealtime and sleep times. Some children become all out of sorts when their body’s time clock is disrupted too often. Sometimes this is unavoidable when it comes to things like family travel, and unforeseen events.

* Keep your child busy with activities in situations where they might otherwise become bored and disruptive. I like to bring certain items with me for those moments when they may not have something to do and you can see them getting restless. For example, those restaurants that don’t have the coloring pages and crayons to give to children. I pull out a small table activity that the kids can do so that the little one can be a  bit more entertained to avoid a tantrum if possible.

Temper tantrums seems like something that parents have to work harder  at than the child and that can technically be true. Tantrums don’t occur because your child woke up one morning and decided to be a terror. Kids grow and develop so quickly that they don’t even know what’s happening and that can be frustrating and sometimes scary for them. I have told my husband before that children have the same emotions and feelings that we as adults do but imagine if you were feeling jealous, or angry, or frustrated except you couldn’t identify that feeling inside you and you also couldn’t communicate how you were feeling. That would make it very difficult for you to continue to act appropriately. They may be children but they are still people and as parents we have to teach our children to manage their stress and frustration and learn to express themselves in appropriate ways.

Hope this helped a bit,

The Hot Mess Mom

This post was originally published on June 26th, 2014

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