Yikes, a toddler screaming and crying seemingly out of the blue for the silliest reason is certainly not a pretty sight to deal with yet it is something all parents are not unfamiliar with.
What are Toddler Tantrums?
Tantrums come in all forms, shapes and sizes and it is how kids express an unmet need.
Typically, tantrums often involve an explosion of anger, frustration and disorganized behavior. This could mean you seeing your little one crying, yelling, pouting, stomping their foot and worse still, hitting or biting someone else.
If you are lucky enough, you may get to deal with all of the above in the privacy and comfort of your own home but many a times, these full-blown tantrums happen when you bring your little one out. Oh dear, sounds like a nightmare already, right?
Have you ever wondered why these tantrums would happen- and most importantly, what can you do when you find yourself caught in the middle of these unpleasant situations?
Why Tantrums Happen?
To get to the root of the issue, it is important to understand why it happens. Tantrums are very common in toddlers aged 1-3 year old and could happen for a variety of reasons (e.g. when your little one is hungry, uncomfortable, tired or not being able to get what they want).
Like any of us, in undesirable or uncomfortable situations, we often find the need to express how we feel to the people around us so as to receive comfort or a solution to why we are feeling so. Same for our little one-the only difference here is that we adults know how to express, verbalize and manage our frustration and displeasure, however our young kids are not yet equipped with the social, emotional, developmental and the language skills to cope with how they are actually feeling.
As such, you may notice that your little one having increasingly more ‘outbursts’ from the second year of life (also known as the “Terrible Two” most call it), where their emotional and language skills are just beginning to develop. Not to worry though, gradually tantrum frequencies do tend to lessen when your kid gets older as he or she will be able to explicitly tell you what they want or do not want when they better equip themselves with more language skills over time.
Just remember- if your toddler happens to have a mini meltdown in public, do not take it too personally as they are not deliberately trying to cause a scene to embarrass you. The unpleasant scene that is unfolding in front of you right now just shows that your child does not have the emotional regulation to stop themselves from throwing a tantrum. So, keep your cool and do not hold it against the child.
How to Handle Tantrums When They Happen?
Tantrums unfortunately happen no matter how much you do to avoid them but do not fret! Here are some tips for you to try out when you have to deal with your toddler pulling a fast one on you:
- First and foremost, stay calm. It is easy to get caught up in the moment and to flare up at your child for causing an unnecessary scene but that will only make the whole situation harder for you both. The best thing to do is to take a deep breath and be as patient (e.g. speak calmly and slowly) as you can while trying to calm your child down. Also you flaring up will further justify to your toddler that it is alright to throw your tantrum because papa/mama is also doing it!
- If you happen to be in public when the ‘meltdown’ occurs, do first be sure that your kid is physically safe. Kids are prone to running off when they are amid throwing a tantrum and that could potentially be dangerous for example, if you both are near a busy road. For the more aggressive ones, there are instances where they would also try to kick or hit objects that are nearby (worse still-kick or hit someone) to get the attention they want. Therefore making sure they are not hurting themselves in the midst of the tantrum is key. Try bringing your little one to a less crowded corner to let them vent out their frustration and calm down with you beside them.
- It is important to acknowledge what your child is feeling. While these feelings may not sound or look reasonable to you, do not forget your child’s feelings are still real and difficult for them at that moment in time. As soon as your child calm down, ask them simple questions like “are you still feeling sad/unhappy?” so that you can help them join the dot of what they just felt to a certain emotion. This will help them to express their emotions in words faster.
- Take charge; do not reward your child for his or her tantrums. For example, if your child is upset because you refused to buy him or her some sweets, pleading with them and then giving in to buying them a big packet of sweets just to stop them from kicking up a big fuss will only re-inforce the idea that throwing tantrums is the right way to go in situations where they do not get their way. So, ignore their tantrums when you have to and distract them by moving on to the next activity.
- Be consistent in your action and reaction towards their tantrums. If you choose to give in to his or her requests sometimes and yet say ‘no’ to similar requests at other times, your child may throw even more frequent tantrums because they are confuse and not sure how to get the “Yes” from you.
How to Reduce Tantrum Occurrences?
Preventing your child from getting to the point of kicking up a big fuss is definitely most ideal and here are some ways to do it:
Understanding and identifying the triggers. Notice the kind of situations and environment that your child often throws a tantrum in and see if you could reduce the incidence of outbursts by planning for the situation or avoiding the environment altogether.
For example, if you notice your child has a tendency to throw a tantrum each time you bring him or her out in the afternoon, perhaps it may help to figure out if he or she just needs a nap prior before the outing.
- Reduce stress factors. Well what can we say? A sleepy and hungry child is not a child to be messed with. If you know it is time for your child’s nap or meal time, do not drag the outing for too long by squeezing in that one ‘last’ errand.
We are all parents learning along the way and we hope the above proves useful for all new and experience parents! If you have any feedback or sharing for us, you can reach out to us via email too!