Having a child means you have to raise him and the parent in you as well. It involves a lot of trial and error but with time we both learn. Although all the parenting phases come with a different set of challenges we need to be extra careful with toddlers (age 2 to 5) and handling toddler tantrums as these are their emotional building years. The way we react and channelize their emotions affects their teenage and adult life as well.
Toddler tantrums can be frustrating and straining. No parent can predict what may trigger a big temper tantrum. But we can always be prepared for handling toddler tantrums and calming down our kids.
It may seem difficult at first, but once you are mentally prepared, you can tackle any toddler meltdown. First, we need to understand why does it happen and why we need to handle them calmly and patiently.
Reasons behind toddler tantrums:
A simple reason for their tantrums: Little people, big emotions.
At age of 2, they start having emotions and feelings. They start feeling hurt, sad, upset and they don’t know how to manage them. Their emotions are all over the place and so sometimes their reactions seem exaggerated.
What appears to us unreasonable behavior is a normal child development process and their way to deal with their newly felt emotions. We can zero it down to four main causes:
- The child is not getting enough attention from parents.
- Child is sleepy
- Child is hungry
- Child is uncomfortable
These three things cause an untimely tantrum. Another reason is that the child has his heart set on something and you are not allowing him to do it or buy it.
The first step to handle a toddler tantrum
In my experience, the first and most important step to handle a toddler tantrum is the pre-preparation. Let’s break this down into pointers.
- Label their emotions. They need to know what they are feeling. So next time you see your kid is irritated, ask him, are you hungry? Are you upset with? Are you angry?
This way they will be able to identify what they are feeling next time and maybe they will come to you and tell you in proper words.
- Give them dedicated 30 minutes every day. Make sure you have no phone, no book, or anything else. If you spend quality and dedicated time with your kids every day, they feel secure and connected. This helps them to understand that you are their safe place and also strengthens your bond.
How to calm down a tantrum?
First of all, you have to be calm and patient. This is not a power struggle. This is not an ego clash. This is your child feeling helpless. If you yell at your kid, trust me, you will need double the time to calm him down. Better start with preserving your cool.
Few things have helped me to calm down Aarav :
- Tell him it’s okay to cry. Most of the parents tell kids to stop crying because it’s a small thing. But this way they suppress their emotions and tell them that their feelings are irrational, which is wrong. I hold Aarav near me and tell him to describe what he is feeling. Although he is not able to put out proper words he feels secure and calms down.
- Distract and divert. This works most of the time. Instead of explaining to them not to yell and cry, distract them. Show them something interesting around you. They are too small to find a pigeon boring. Their attention span is less and you can take advantage of it. If your kid is crying for a phone, take him outside and show him cars. Once I took Aarav outside and we counted kids on cycle. He immediately forgot about the phone. This is just one example. Improvise according to your child.
- Lastly, I read about this trick in the book, ‘How to talk so kids will listen, & listen so kids will talk’ by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Give an outlet for expressing their emotions. Give him a pen or crayon and notebook and tell him to express his anger on paper.
I did this with Aarav and boy it worked magic. He scribbled like crazy at the beginning and gradually forgot why he started to scribble and did it just as an activity. So it’s distraction and expression at the same time you see.
Lastly, I would suggest, observing and identifying the triggers for your child. Once you know what triggers meltdowns, you can avoid the whole episode. But more importantly, know that it is okay and this shall too pass. No child is difficult, just handle with love.
I hope this blog helps you to understand your toddler and to calm him down next time he throws a tantrum. If you like it, please do share your valuable feedback. You can also find me on Instagram and slide into my inbox for the same.