One of the biggest challenges you will face as the parent of a young child is the dreaded temper tantrum. Kids under the age of five don't yet understand much about self-control so when their emotions get too big, they burst forth with a vengeance. This is nothing short of embarrassing if it happens in public and it's frustrating and ear-splitting under the best of circumstances.
You probably won't be able to prevent or stop every temper tantrum in its tracks but there are things you can do to help your child calm down, and learn more appropriate (and quieter) ways to express themselves.
- Redirect it Early
If you're paying attention, you may notice there are some common clues that take place before your sweet toddler starts losing their temper. They may start getting aggressive with a toy or sibling. They might whine or cry easily over something they wouldn't normally. Watch for signs that they're about to lose it and step in to redirect the situation. Utilize a favorite toy, snack, or song. Scooping them up and playing with them can often halt their temper in its tracks.
- Designate a "Calm" Area
If redirection doesn't work or you miss the opportunity, having a calm place for your child to go while they scream or cry can be helpful to both of you. Often, when a toddler is mid-meltdown, talking to them or frantically trying to quiet them only makes it worse. Give them a space (even if it's their own room or bed) where they are safe, but where there is some separation between the two of you, so neither of you gets overwhelmed.
- Appoint a Specific Toy for Meltdowns
A useful tactic during a tantrum is to have a specific soft toy that your child can squeeze or fling around or even cry into. All that angry energy must be expelled somehow, and this is a safe method for them to do so.
- Wait It Out
Sometimes there is just nothing you can do to calm your toddler down. If that's the case, simply wait for them to be finished. It won't be fun but a screaming child is impossible to reason with or teach. Don't waste your breath. Let them calm down before swooping in for a teaching moment.
- Teach Your Child Alternatives to Screaming
Once the screams or tears subside, that's when you can explain to them that their behavior isn't okay. Make sure to ask them simple questions about their behavior, such as "Is it nice to yell?" It's important to teach them early on that temper tantrums are unacceptable but that there are other ways to express what they're feeling.
Be consistent in showing them different ways to handle their emotions; if you want them to talk it out, teach them the words for their feelings. Even having them stomp their foot is better than a full-on hissy-fit. Whatever option you prefer, just be sure they are capable of doing it and reinforce that option when they're angry.
- Hug It Out
You may not particularly like your toddler while they're splitting your ear drums but once they're calmed down, it's important that they know you still love them. Take the time to hug, snuggle, and play with them to reassure them and help them understand that they are safe and secure with you, even if they aren't always on their best behavior.
Parenting is a big job and it's rarely as easy as following step-by-step instructions for any given situation. Every parent and every child are different so ultimately, you're the only one who can decide what will work for your family. These tips are meant as helpful suggestions for when you don't know what else to try and are by no means the best solution for everyone.