There is a difference between temper tantrums and "little kid" behavior.
If your child is still having tantrums, it's time to take action. The good news: there are things you can do to help them stop the outbursts for good:
1. Identify the reasons for your child's tantrum
In order to avoid or stop a tantrum from occurring, it is important that you try and understand what is making your child feel frustrated.
Are they feeling overwhelmed? Are they hungry and/or tired?
Help your little one identify the situation that's causing them frustration by asking questions such as:
- What just happened? Why do you think that happened?
- Where are you feeling this most in your body?
- What makes this feeling go away?
Once your child can properly identify the cause of their outburst, they will be much better able to communicate with you about how to help them calm down.
In addition, you'll be able to model how to express difficult emotions in a productive manner.
2. Remember your child's tantrums are more about them than you
It's easy to feel disrespected when our children have a temper tantrum, especially if it happens in public or at home. However, when we react with anger and frustration, we validate their inappropriate behavior and communicate that throwing fits is an acceptable way of expressing strong emotions.
So, when your child has a tantrum in front of others (or even just in front of you), try not to escalate the situation by yelling back - keep in mind that their behavior is more about them feeling out of control than it is about disrespecting you - and that's absolutely okay.
3. Choose a strategy to address the situation
Once you and your child have identified the root of the outburst (and their feelings), it is time to intervene. Here are some strategies that could help:
Distraction: If your child becomes frustrated with a task, take a break to regroup.
For example, if they're attempting to complete their homework but keep getting distracted by their younger sibling, suggest taking 15 minutes to take a walk around the block together as a family.
This change in scenery will help them refocus and re engage with their assignment.
Protecting boundaries: If possible, remove your child from the frustration-causing situation before things escalate.
While shopping at the grocery store, for instance, offer them an incentive such as trading in their toy for cash so they can buy something of their choice.
Physical affection: When children feel overwhelmed with negative feelings, try hugging them before you begin problem-solving. This will help to reduce their anxiety and prioritise your guidance on how to calm themselves down.
Make sure that the strategy you choose is comfortable for everyone involved - if you typically use distraction when your child has a temper tantrum, but they'd rather find comfort in physical affection - let them!
The more equipped you are with different strategies, the better able you'll be to meet your child's needs during frustrating moments (and avoid getting triggered yourself).
4. Stay calm and stay with your child, even if it means waiting it out
If you feel yourself begin to lose composure, take a step back - yes, even if it means leaving the room.
It can be helpful to give your child reassurance that their outburst is normal by saying something like: "This is really hard right now! I'm feeling frustrated too." Then come back together as a team with problem-solving techniques for next steps.
5. Help them identify feelings that may be contributing to their frustration or anger
While many kids are still learning how to identify their emotions, your child may become frustrated or angry because they can't articulate what's wrong.
This is why it's important to help them find words for their feelings by saying things like:
"You look so angry! What are you feeling?"
"It seems like something made you sad."
"As you raise your voice, I'm starting to feel very scared."
Your child might not be able to respond right away, but that doesn't mean that they aren't thinking about what the root of the problem might be.
Be patient with them - this will take practice!
Once they're ready to share their thoughts, use prompts such as "What do you think about..? How do you feel about that..?" to get them talking.
6. Find ways to help them feel successful in other areas of their life
It's normal for kids to feel frustrated when things don't go their way, but it's important to help them find other ways to feel good about themselves.
This could mean praising them for completing tasks that are difficult for them, such as tying their shoes or brushing their teeth.
Or letting them know that you're proud of the effort they put into something, even if the outcome wasn't what they wanted.
Being supportive in this way will help your child learn how to cope with feeling upset in a healthy way, without resorting to throwing a tantrum.
As they continue to feel successful in different areas of their life, they'll be less likely to act out when things don't go as planned.
7. Model positive coping mechanisms
When things get heated, it can be helpful for kids to see their parents using healthy coping mechanisms.
This will show them that there are other ways to deal with strong feelings, and that you're there for them no matter what.
When you're feeling frustrated and need time to cool off, try taking a few deep breaths with your child.
You can model coping strategies like: walking away from the situation, listening to music or talking through feelings with a trusted friend.
If you don't have it in you right now, that's okay! Just let them know that you're there for them when they're ready to talk about what's bothering them.
8. Avoid giving into their demands or reacting angrily
It's very hard to stay calm when your child is throwing a fit, but it's important to do your best.
Responding angrily or giving in to their demands will only teach them that this is an effective way to get what they want. And let's face it - nobody wants a tantrum-throwing toddler running the household!
Although it is good to show your kids that you hear what they are saying when they do have a tantrum, the best thing to do is not reward bad behavior by giving too much attention.
9. Have your child help develop a plan with you for how to handle future problems
This can be an opportunity for them to practice using their words instead of throwing a fit next time the issue occurs.
This also helps them feel more confident about their abilities and teaches them empathy towards others' feelings."
If your child throws a tantrum in public, try having someone else take care of whatever caused the problem while you take your child aside and deal with the tantrum calmly.
This will help to avoid any further embarrassment and ensure that your child doesn't get too overwhelmed.
When it comes to tantrums, patience and empathy are the best tools you have in your parenting arsenal.
Your child needs a parent who can recognise when they start to get frustrated or upset and work with them on how to cope instead of letting their emotions spiral out of control.
If this sounds like something that's been an issue for you, don't worry - you're not alone, and there are plenty of resources available to help you out.
With a little time, effort, and understanding, you can help your child learn how to deal with their emotions in a healthy way that will benefit them for the rest of their life!