Top Tips to Tame TantrumsMarch 10, 2020
Children are growing, learning, and facing all life throws at them with their developing problem solving skills each day—it’s no wonder they want to just lay on the ground and scream! However, it’s our job as their caregivers to help show them more productive ways to deal with life’s big problems. We’ve curated our top tips for dealing with tantrums at home and in public and for providing other avenues to get out those big feelings.
Why do tantrums happen?
The first step in taming tantrums is to understand why they’re happening. Fortunately, the reasons are usually fairly simple. Young children between the ages of one and four haven’t had the chance to develop the coping skills they need to get through feelings of sadness, anger, or excitement that can lead to a meltdown. The frustration they feel at whatever has set them off can feel insurmountable to them, and the only way they can express themselves is through a tantrum. For older children, sometimes tantrums can be a power struggle, a way to get attention, or a sign of hunger or sleepiness. Better understanding why tantrums happen can help us to build empathy to approach the child in the moment in a calm and measured manner.
In certain situations, like cries for attention, tantrums can be nipped in the bud before they even start. Building in quality time can help to alleviate the need for kids to cry out. We love the idea of having dedicated time each week for you and your child to do something special that you both can look forward to, such as cooking a meal together, playing their favorite sport, or painting together. It’s also possible that children can throw tantrums because they are looking for more control over their environment. Try to allow them to choose what they would like to do, eat, or see from select options rather than always choosing for them to give them back some control to prevent future tantrums.
Tantrums at home
Tantrums can occur when you are quickly changing locations or activities, such as when you are trying to leave your home for the next activity. If your child is having a tantrum in your home, it is best to ignore their behavior and remain calm. You can let your child know that you will wait for them to use calm words to tell you what is upsetting them. After the tantrum is over, you and your child may more calmly talk about what they need to be able to leave the house. Implementing a routine for leaving the home can help children to know what to expect when they need to leave and reduce future tantrums.
Tantrums in public
Public tantrums are certainly the most difficult. Our best advice is to first take a deep breath—it’s important for you to remain calm during these situations too. Know that tantrums are a normal part of development, and that each tantrum is a learning experience for you and your kiddo! If possible, bring your child to a more private location to wait out the tantrum. While still in the private location, talk with your child or have some time out to let your child know that expressing their feelings in that way is not appropriate. Make sure to praise good behavior in public all the other times your child impresses you to prevent future public tantrums.
Where can kiddos express big feelings?
Tantrums are a part of everyday life, for everyone. It’s okay for your child to be angry or sad about something, and it’s okay to let them know that! Empathize with your child when they are upset for a legitimate reason (Their painting got ripped? Annoying! They dropped their ice cream? Sad!) and help them to express their feelings in an appropriate way. Talk to your child about what it’s like for you when you feel sad or angry, and together come up with some coping skills that can help manage those feelings. We think asking for a hug is a great coping skill for children. If you have a child with autism, Autism Parenting Magazine has a great guide to managing autism tantrums in a way that will help the child to express their feelings!
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