Most parents wish they could disappear or become invisible when their child has a tantrum in public. Onlookers can be very judgmental, thinking that the child is spoiled and unruly or the parents are doing a poor job. Actually, neither of those notions are the case. Tantrums are common in children from 1 to 4 years old. They don’t happen because the child deliberately wants to cause a scene, or because the parents have been lax in disciplining the child. The usual cause is due to the child’s frustration in not being able to express what they want.
A child throwing a tantrum can become quite animated, literally throwing themselves on the floor, flailing their arms and legs, pinching, scratching, hitting or biting. They have lost the ability to express what they want and temporarily loose all control. Here are 10 tips to tame your child’s tantrums:
Ignore the tantrum – In the middle of a tantrum emotions have taken over, that’s why trying to reason with him won’t work. Once the child calms down then you can talk. If the tantrum is happening in public or someplace other than your own home, try to isolate the child in a quiet place.
Give them space – Sometimes a kid just needs a way to get his anger out, so let him. Make sure there’s nothing in the area he could get hurt on, and other than that don’t get involved. Once he gets his feelings out, he will be able to calm himself and regain self-control.
Create a diversion – Act quickly to help your child forget that meltdown she just had. Whether it’s pulling out toys from your purse, offering a snack, or quickly changing activities, any of these methods can help head off a tantrum or calm a child after the fact.
Discipline without spanking – Spanking doesn’t teach a child what he did wrong or what behavior is acceptable. Instead it teaches a child that his parents will hurt him if they don’t like his behavior. After the child has had time to calm down, explain why his behavior was unacceptable, and suggest other ways he can make his needs known.
Find out what’s really frustrating your kid – Kids under 2 years of age usually have a 50 word vocabulary. It’s often hard for them to express what they want. They may be tired, hungry, feeling ill, or just trying to get a certain toy. Teaching your child how to sign a few basic words such as food, milk, more, tired, Mom, Dad, all done, can help your child express her needs when she can’t speak them.
Hugs – It may seem like the last thing you’d want to do, but a good firm hug is very reassuring to a child and can really help settle them down quickly. Don’t talk, it might turn in to a battle of wills, just wrap your arms around your child in a good sturdy hug.
Do they need a snack or a nap? – Two of the biggest tantrum triggers are being tired or hungry. When a child is physically in this state, any little thing can send them over the edge. If you see this happening around the same time every day, it might be wise to schedule a snack or nap everyday to reduce tantrum triggers.
Behavior incentives – Sometimes kids will be more inclined to be on their best behavior if they know a reward is involved. Recognizing that some situations are difficult for kids, like being quiet in church, staying seated at a restaurant, or not whining at the grocery store, and offering a “bribe” ahead of time will often result in good behavior. The time for negotiations however, is before the event, not in the middle of a full blown tantrum. For example, “If you can stay in your seat and behave at the restaurant, Mommy will make popcorn and watch a video with you when we get home.”
Speak calmly – This is difficult in the heat of the moment, but it’s the best thing you can do during a child’s tantrum. If you loose your cool, the situation will only escalate into a power struggle that no one wins. What your child wants at this point is 100% of your attention. Talking calmly shows your child that you’re not going to let her behavior get to you. Surprisingly, if you speak in a calm manner it will help you remain calm, when what you’d really like to do is yell right back.
Change locations – Quickly getting your child away from the scene of the tantrum can often snap them out of it. If your child starts melting down over something he wants at the store, take him to a quiet corner of the store or outside until he calms down. If he does it again, remain calm, and follow the same strategy.