Toddler meltdowns are inevitable! As a parent, it is hard to figure out how to deal with them. We compiled some resources to help deal with the inevitable tantrum.
The experts at The Center for Parenting Education give the following tips to Avoid or Reduce Temper Tantrums:
A certain number of temper tantrums are inevitable; however, there are things you can do to reduce the number and frequency of temper tantrums.
Monitor your children’s feelings.
Catch the emotions when they are still small. While children need to experience and cope with a certain amount of frustration, when you see it building you can step in and ask: “Can I help you?” Once you get them over the hurdle, perhaps getting the one piece of the puzzle in place, you can step back and allow the child to resume his work independently.
Stop and listen to them the first time they ask.
They are going to need your time and attention. Are you going to stop and listen when they call “Mommy” or will they need to throw a fit to get your attention? Think about how you want your children to interrupt you because one way or another, they will.
Allow enough time for transitions or to complete a task.
Switching from one activity to another is notoriously hard for toddlers. When you plan with that in mind and have time to transition slowly, you will be more patient and better able to handle their requests to do it themselves, to redo an action to their liking, or simply to stop and smell the roses.
Use physical activity to work off stress.
Plan time to run around. Don’t expect your toddler to be able to handle a long car ride, time in the stroller, and then to sit still for dinner. Their frustration and energy will build. Again, how do you want them to express it? Running around may be preferable to a tantrum.
Find ways to stay calm yourself.
Model desirable ways to handle frustration and anger. Do you slam doors, stomp your feet, scream, or hit things when you are angry? Don’t be surprised if your children follow suit. They are watching and learning from you all of the time.
Use the power of a whisher.
If you sense your children’s intensity growing, rather than speaking louder to get them to hear you, try using the power of a whisper. Often a whisper speaks volumes.
Teach feelings and feeling words.
This will help your children communicate to you what they are experiencing. You can point out what characters in books or TV shows may be feeling. Use a wide variety of words to name your feelings.
Allow them a way out.
For example, “You are tired. I’ll help you pick up your toys this time before bed.” Not everything needs to be a battle. They will grow into another stage in which they will be more cooperative.
Ignore what you can.
Sometimes, it is best to ignore certain situations that cause frustration on your part or theirs.
For example, if your child cannot pick out a toy for a friend’s party without demanding an item for herself, then go shopping without her in tow. In time, her more generous side will emerge and she will be able to think of her friend and purchase gifts without demanding one for herself.
Decide beforehand what you can/cannot say yes to
For situations that recur, decide beforehand what you can/cannot say yes to. It can help you to be proactive. Can you hold off a tantrum by offering other acceptable choices? Can you distract or redirect your children with such sensory-rich activities as water play, bubbles, music, a back rub, looking out the window?
Ask yourself: “What does my child need?”
Before things escalate, ask yourself: “What does my child need?” Food, sleep, help, or a change of activity? At times, you may need to put off an extra errand or cut your visit short. Better to leave on a high note than to push your children’s limits and have you all end up in tears.
A certain number of tantrums is inevitable.
Despite your best intentions and efforts, a certain number of temper tantrums will still occur. When they do, remember that you do not have to stop a tantrum. You need to treat your children with respect. While they are losing control, they need you to remain in control.
This is usually best accomplished by removing your children to a private location where you won’t feel pressure from on-lookers.
You can leave your shopping cart and go to your car. You can go outside, into a bathroom, or to a quiet space. Talk at eye level, affirm feelings, and use short phrases. For example, “You are mad that you can’t play with the toy on the shelf. It makes you furious!” Use facial expressions and body language to match their intensity.
During a tantrum, keep your children safe.
Some need to be held to feel safe; others may find your touch too much for an already overloaded system. Once these toddlers are calming down, they may welcome and even need your hugs.
Use deep breathing.
This can help re-engage the thinking part of the brain. Some people keep a jar of bubbles on hand or open a window to let the wind blow in their children’s faces.
For example, you can make a change in the environment. You can go to another room or outside.
Most importantly, don’t give in.
Children need to learn that your “yes” is a “yes” and your “no “means “no.” If you cave, you will be teaching your children to use temper tantrums to manipulate you.
At times, you may reconsider and think: “Why did I ever say no to a lollipop, would it really have been that big a deal?” In such cases, wait until your child has calmed down. Acknowledge her upset. Talk about her reaction and how else she could have asked you for the lollipop.
Once you two can talk, then you can give her the lollipop. You don’t want it to look like the tantrum changed your mind.