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How can I remain calm and collected when my child goes into a tantrum?

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Imagine that you are in a public space and your toddler, not getting what they want, sprawls on the floor, bawls their lungs out. Time suddenly seems to slow down. You look at your toddler and decide on what best to do. How would you feel as a parent?


It is common for parents to say that this meltdown is incredibly agonizing. People around you are either giving you a concerned look, others look away, uncomfortable. 


Understanding why they do it, and how to respond to emotional outbursts can decrease your stress as a parent and help you teach children important emotional skills.


Characteristics of tantrums


  • Tantrums are common between children aged 2 to 3.
  • 87% of children 1 and a half years to 2 years old have tantrums, while 91% of older toddlers do it. When children reach 4 years old, about only half have tantrums, according to research.
  • A response to anger or frustration. Observation has led researchers to conclude that children use aggressive behaviors when they feel angry or frustrated. 
  • The degree of the tantrum is often not proportionate to the cause or reason for it. 
  • 1 to 3-year old children have tantrums lasting about 15 minutes, 3 or more times per week

Effective and proven tips for parents to manage temper tantrums


Because it is common for younger children to release their feelings through tantrums, parents can plan ahead and respond well to 


  • Understand why your toddler does it. A tantrum is a toddler's way of asserting mastery of the situation and their autonomy. They want to get what they want, but they cannot, which leads them to express their frustration.

In addition, feelings of boredom, fatigue, feeling sick or hunger may trigger the child to be more sensitive to frustrations. 


When you understand the reasons, you can avoid becoming inconsistent in your approach. It also helps you make reasonable expectations from the child. 


Be sensitive about the reasons for the tantrum, and understand that in the eyes of the child, their feelings are real. You have the power to be more empathetic at the heat of the moment, and after their tantrum, so that they feel your support. It helps them accept you teaching them more effective ways later on. 


Your teaching might be about limitations and boundaries, about the fact life is not about always getting what they want, about the reality that they will encounter situations where they fail at something. These are important life lessons, and they are more responsive to them when you create a safe space for them to learn how to respond well to these frustrating situations. 


  • Plan ahead. One of the ways to equip the child with a way to manage frustration is teaching them language to express emotions. Research has shown that children 1 to 3 years old who have vocabulary to say their feelings had less severe temper tantrums. 

As the child gets to preschool age, they have more capacity to learn emotional regulation. It is thought that both the development of their brain and skills taught by caregivers play a role in this ability to minimize their tantrums. Help your kids by teaching them the language to say what they want and say their feelings. 


Remind the child regularly that expressing their feelings is allowed, but they can use their words to express their feelings, and they can express how they feel in effective ways. It is important to teach the child when they are in a calm state, and not during a tantrum and at the height of their emotions. 


  • Follow rules and routines for feelings of safety and connection. When the home environment is predictable because of home rules and regular routines, children feel safe and connected to the family unit. When they experience new and different situations outside of the home, they can draw upon these feelings of security and connection from their home to better respond to new experiences.

This might include parents being role models for children during high emotions. Demonstrate to the child what it means to stay calm by being present and unruffled when dealing with frustrating things.

 

These tips show how parenting is a collection of superhero skills and mindset! Handling your child’s intense emotions is indeed challenging, but they are part of their normal growth and development. Over time, you get into the habits of a powerful parent. You can do this! 


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How can I remain calm and collected when my child goes into a tantrum?
Brandon Resasco

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