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Every parent has had the experience of their child going on a tantrum. Whether it is in public or at home, they can be excruciating and embarrassing to watch. But what is really happening inside that little toddler’s brain? Is there something we can do to stop them before they get too out of control?
Why Toddlers Throw Tantrums and Push Buttons?
There are lots of reasons why a toddler can act out or should we say throw a tantrum. Below is a list of the common reasons why toddlers act out:
Reason #1: They can’t communicate their wants and needs as well as they’d like to. They are still young and learning. Due to children being unable to communicate unless crying or whimpering, they are often taught toddler sign language to help inform their wants and needs. It was highly effective in our house
Reason #2: They have no concept of time. I think you can understand that 1 or 2-year-olds don’t grasp the idea of 1 or 2 minutes.
Reason #3: They have trouble controlling their emotions. They are still young and are trying to learn how to tell you how they are feeling. It is where the toddler sign language comes in handy too so they can express themselves.
Reason #4: They have trouble switching from one task to the next. They need to focus on one concept or task at a time as they are still learning these things. If you keep redirecting while they are working on one job, you often will suffer from a toddler meltdown.
Reason #5: They want to call all the shots and do as they please. They are looking for directions and boundaries. Don’t let your rules go and stay tough as this is only a phase that will pass, but this phase will return when they are a teen.
Reason #6: They get tired and hungry very quickly. Always have snack time! Kids are growing, and they need healthy foods to fuel their bodies and brains.
How to Avoid Tantrums?
Try to prevent tantrums from happening in the first place, whenever possible. Here are some ideas that may help:
- Give plenty of positive attention. Get in the habit of catching your child being good. Reward your little one with praise and attention for positive behavior.
- Try to give toddlers some control over little things. Offer minor choices such as “Do you want orange juice or apple juice?” or “Do you want to brush your teeth before or after taking a bath?” This way, you aren’t asking “Do you want to brush your teeth now?” — which inevitably will be answered “no.”
- Keep off-limits objects out of sight and out of reach. This makes struggles less likely. Obviously, this isn’t always possible, especially outside of the home where the environment can’t be controlled.
- Distract your child. Take advantage of your little one’s short attention span by offering something else in place of what they can’t have. Start a new activity to replace the frustrating or forbidden one. Or simply change the environment. Take your toddler outside or inside or move to a different room.
- Help kids learn new skills and succeed. Help kids learn to do things. Praise them to help them feel proud of what they can do. Also, start with something simple before moving on to more challenging tasks.
- Consider the request carefully when your child wants something. Is it outrageous? Maybe it isn’t. Choose your battles.
- Know your child’s limits. If you know your toddler is tired, it’s not the best time to go grocery shopping or try to squeeze in one more errand.
What Should I Do During a Tantrum?
Keep your cool when responding to a tantrum. Don’t complicate the problem with your own frustration or anger. Remind yourself that your job is helping your child learn to calm down. So you need to be calm too.
Tantrums should be handled differently depending on why your child is upset. Sometimes, you may need to provide comfort. If your child is tired or hungry, it’s time for a nap or a snack. Other times, it’s best to ignore an outburst or distract your child with a new activity.
If a tantrum is happening to get attention from parents, one of the best ways to reduce this behavior is to ignore it. If a tantrum happens after your child is refused something, stay calm and don’t give a lot of explanations for why your child can’t have what he wants. Move on to another activity with your child.
If a tantrum happens after your child is told to do something she does not want to do, it’s best to ignore the tantrum. But be sure that you follow through on having your child complete the task after she is calm.
Kids who are in danger of hurting themselves or others during a tantrum should be taken to a quiet, safe place to calm down. This also applies to tantrums in public places.
If a safety issue is involved and a toddler repeats the forbidden behavior after being told to stop, use a time-out or hold the child firmly for several minutes. Be consistent. Don’t give in on safety issues.
What Should I Do After a Tantrum?
Praise your child for regaining control; for example, “I like how you calmed down.”
Kids may be especially vulnerable after a tantrum when they know they’ve been less than adorable. Now (when your child is calm) is the time for a hug and reassurance that your child is loved, no matter what.
Story 1: I spent money on a beautiful lace and burlap table runner. At dinner, we sit down to have spaghetti dinner as a family. My not-yet 2-year-old (Luke) throws a tantrum because he didn’t want meatballs with his spaghetti and decides to throw his meatballs across the table, landing on your beautiful new burlap table runner (Purchased through Amazon). Now all I am thinking was that it was a waste of money like the tablecloths before. (Table cloths help kids learn to pull something closer to them by pulling on the tablecloth or if not caught in time a complete mess.)
Story 2: Friday nights are commonly pizza nights in our house. It’s the one night that I do not make dinner, and we use paper plates. However, some nights the kids decide that pizza is the enemy. After spending $40 on the pizza, they much rather have crackers and raisins. They often will sit there and proceed to tell me how “gross” their pizza is even though they haven’t tried it yet. When I say it seemed fine last week, the plate goes flying across the table and onto the floor. Well, I guess they aren’t hungry.
I try again tomorrow, but this time pizza will be for lunch. I wrapped it up and put it in the fridge till it is time. They end up eating it Saturday for lunch with no plates flyering, no one saying that’s gross, and no tantrums. I have no idea what was wrong with it the night before, but the next day it was perfectly fine.
Story 3: We are leaving Wal-mart, and I am putting my sons in their car seats. My youngest son decides to scream, “Momma doesn’t touch my pee-pee.” I proceed to laugh and tell him that I’m just buckling him in for his safety. He continues to say it, and all I see is the people walking by giving me a very odd look.
Never a dull moment with kids, let alone boys. I have learned to laugh, however, I am surprised no one did anything. He even said it at dinner one night, so check it out below to hear it.
In the end, I love my boys even though we are going through a very trying stage.
I may often yell or scream at the moment because I feel like I can never keep my house clean anymore. However, I have learned after the fact to laugh at a lot of these situations, especially the ones that involve material objects.
As long as everyone is safe and having a good time, that is all that matters. You will always have memories, but sometimes objects break, get lost, or even stolen.