Tantrums in Toddlers- Part 1

Does your toddler throw tantrums that make you want to pull your hair out, scream into a pillow or donate them for just a few hours? Mine used to until I set myself out to find out why he explodes into uncontrollable fits of rage in the first place. What I discovered was gold and it’s these nuggets that I want to share with you over the next 2 of what we’re calling Tantrum Tuesdays, to make for a happier baby and much happier mommy. Before I get into it, I would however like to say,

To the General Public
I sincerely apologize that my child’s behavior is disturbing the peace. Having said that, please don’t give me dirty, greasy looks. This is not a reflection of my parenting skills or lack thereof as you seem to be convinced. Neither is it an invitation for you to intervene by suggesting that I buy whatever it is he is screaming for. Go about your business and let me handle mine as best as I know how.
Everyone who has a toddler!

Now, back to business…

What are Temper Tantrums?
When your child screams coupled with violent body actions such as throwing themselves on the floor, kicking and banging the head, hands and feet then you have a tantrum on your hands. These appear anywhere from about 15 months but are most common between the ages of 2 and 4 years. If not properly dealt with, tantrums can go on till the teens and even into adulthood.

Why do toddlers throw tantrums?
If you think your child intentionally screams and rolls around on the floor uncontrollably when you go to the grocery store just to embarrass you and make you look like a horrible parent, you’re not alone but you’re also not quite correct. Here’s what’s actually going on in your little rascal’s head before, during and after the tantrum storm.
Child psychologists explain tantrums as being overwhelmed by feelings of frustration, fear or anger and being incapable of verbally expressing these and other emotions because your child is still developing communication skills. You’ve heard people say that your infant will cry to communicate their need be it sleep or hunger or a diaper that needs to be changed. Well, simply put, a tantrum is your toddler communicating great emotional distress.

How to handle tantrums
By watching out for signs of tantrums, you can intervene and hopefully avoid them for example, taking your child shopping when they are tired, hungry or need a diaper change is a sure sign that you will have to manage an upset child because the over stimulation of the environment plus the unmet need is a ticking time bomb. You can avoid this by making sure you schedule your shopping at a time when your child has napped, eaten and been changed. Prevention really is better than cure.

If you don’t manage to stop it before it starts you can try picking the child up to console them. This reassurance helps them to calm down and come out of the whirlwind quicker. My son is a strong Zulu Warrior so he overpowers me and if you’re in the same boat then this definitely won’t work for you. When the storm starts, you are better off clearing anything in their reach that could injure them and when you’re convinced that they’re safe, just let it play out. It should be over in 3 minutes or so.

sisusami_crazy_momI urge you not to join in to the uproar as tempting as it might be to scream back (admit it, you’ve all felt the urge and maybe even given in once or twice) but your child will draw from that negative reinforcement and this only prolongs the tantrum. Ignore them completely. I was a bit skeptical but it works! When they realize that a tantrum does not affect the state of affairs they are likely to settle down quicker. My son started throwing tantrums at 10 months and I’m not talking twice or three times a week like specialists say is the norm. I’m talking a couple times a day. Now we rarely ever experience these. If you are in a public place, take them to somewhere private then let it play out. Please don’t lock them in a closet though, lol!!!

If your toddler is throwing a fit for something that they cannot have or to do something that they really shouldn’t then you need to stick to your guns and not concede to their wishes in an attempt to stop the tantrum. Earlier, I mentioned tantrums going on into their adult life if not properly dealt with and this is because it can become learned behavior. If you give in when your child throws a tantrum, they learn that they need to throw a tantrum in order to get what they what.

In brief, Try to console them. If that fails, ignore them completely and do not, I repeat, DO NOT give in. Next week Tuesday I will be giving tips on how to handle tantrums in children of school going age. They do last longer and can be more dramatic than those of a toddler but children of school going age have somewhat developed the aspect of reasoning so all is not lost. They can unlearn bad behavior and you can encourage positive communication. Do share your tantrum experiences and tips that helped you weather the storms in the comments below. Thank you.

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Thank you for this – I must admit, I’m dreading this stage as she is already flexing her wings. One of the tips I got was to respond to their needs from baby stage, so not letting them cry out in the name of exercising their lungs. Apparently this only… Read more »