Tantrum Tips: Calming the Raging Toddler (And Yourself)
It can happen to the most wonderful parent of the most well behaved child: the epic meltdown, most likely in a very public setting. You know that giving in to what your child wants is the worst thing you can do, but all you really want is to disappear.
Knowing what to do when a little one’s outburst turns ugly can help you avoid a meltdown of your own. Start by learning what triggers tantrums so you can develop a strategy to avoid them. Next, devise a plan for the inevitable fits that will occur, and finally, think about ways to turn an episode into a learning opportunity for you and your child.
Every child is different, but a few common factors tend to trigger breakdowns in young children. Being mindful of these issues and taking steps to remedy them can keep a tantrum from happening in the first place. Your toddler is most likely to throw a tantrum when they are:
- Craving attention
If you think about the last time you experienced a meltdown, you likely noticed one or more of these emotions. Some of them are easier to alleviate than others are. If your little one is hungry or sleepy, a light snack or a quick nap before heading out can do wonders for his attitude. But what should you do if you are visiting relatives out of town and he suddenly wants your undivided attention, or if the excitement of a pizza/play place birthday party is simply too much?
Plan your escape route before things get hairy. This could mean a short break in another room away from noise and chaos. It might also be leaving an event earlier than you anticipated. When you feel as though you are missing out on restaurant dinners or fun gatherings, remember that your child will soon outgrow this phase. In fact, chances are good that by reining in emotional outbursts, they will move beyond the tantrum stage more rapidly.
Calming a Raging Toddler (and Yourself)
Perhaps you missed the cues your child displayed or maybe there just wasn’t any way around the circumstances. No matter the cause, your toddler is currently experiencing a full-on meltdown. Now what?
Your out-of-control little one has not yet learned how to subdue himself, so it’s crucial that you remain calm. Easier said than done, for sure, but this is so very important. Just like the action movie hero, you have to have your wits about you in order to defuse this ticking time bomb. Keep your voice level and firm but not angry and help talk him down.
If you are in public, pick up your toddler and carry them (with composure) to a safe place, like the restroom or your car. Echo whatever your child is saying (or screaming) back to them, which lets them know you are listening. Use short phrases and keep repeating her complaint. It might feel odd at first, but after they hear you calmly stating, “You want that toy. That toy now. You want me to give you that toy,” over and over, they will realize you do understand and the tantrum will cease.
Following Up When You Have Both Cooled Down
Once your child has stopped screaming, crying and thrashing about, you can talk about what happened. Scoop them up into your lap and help them name what they’re feeling. Ask them what they could do next time they starts to feel that way. Offer several options, such as taking a break in their bedroom or letting you know they need a snack.
It’s also helpful to teach your little one skills that can help them gain control over their emotions. Even young children can learn to count backward from four. Show them how to take a deep breath in through the nose and breathe out as they count 4,3,2,1. An active child might feel better after running around the room three times, while a more creative toddlers can express their feelings in crayon or finger paints. Consider your child’s individual talents and personality to find an outlet that is ideal for them.
When It’s More than Just a Tantrum
Perhaps you are concerned that your child’s meltdowns are more than standard temper tantrums. How do you know if this is just a passing phase?
First, try not to worry too much. More often than not, your little one is just going through the terrible twos (or threes, as the case may be). Don’t discount your instincts, though, as no one knows your child the way you do. If you experience any of the following, talk to your pediatrician about scheduling an evaluation:
- Injuring themselves or others during tantrums
- Outbursts lasting longer 20 minutes on average
- Multiple tantrums in one day more than once a month
- Inability to calm themselves without adult intervention
Even if your child exhibits these traits, do not become overly anxious. With early involvement and the help of caring professionals, you can help your little one overcome potential issues and remain the happy, playful child you adore.
Does your child suffer from extensive, out of control tantrums?