Toddler tantrums are very common. motherhoodng have compiled 7 Ways on how to handle Toddler Tantrum. Though they are the most common childhood behavioral problems reported by parents. A study conducted by University of Wisconsin in 1219 families showed that 87% of children at 18-24 months had displayed tantrums. At 30-36 months, 91% did. The prevalence then decreased to 59% at 42-48 months. So, you’re not alone. Your child is not bad.
It is possible that your child has some inborn temperament traits that fall into the difficult category. But that’s not the child’s fault that they’re born with such temperament. Tantrums usually begin in children at 12-18 months and stop at around the age of 4.
Parents should know that what works well for easy children may not work for the difficult ones. For example, simple choices and distractions may not be enough to activate those children’s logical brains. Parents may need to do more work to restore their children’s emotional balance and spend more time teaching them how to express their feelings with words. With patience and persistence, even difficult children can learn to integrate their logical and emotional brains and stop using tantrums as outlets.
Use Simple Choices Or Distractions
When a tantrum starts forming, sometimes parents can promptly alleviate it by addressing the issue at hand. For example, if a child doesn’t want dinner, instead of forcing her to eat which will bring on more emotions, parent can ask her to choose to eat the meat or the vegetable first. When questions with simple choices are presented, the child’s thinking brain is activated. By access the child’s higher brain, parents help it stay in control before the emotional part takes over.
Distraction is another way to excite the logical brain. Distractions such as letting the toddler have another toy (but not the original one she wanted) or singing a silly song can divert the child’s attention and raise her curiosity. Curiosity piques the interest of the logical brain and triggers the release of a feel-good chemical (dopamine) in the brain. This hormone can reduce stress and increase her interest in the newly presented object or event.
Using simple questions, distractions or other ways to engage your child’s critical thinking before emotions escalate to the point of losing control can stamp out tantrum before it starts.
Do Not Reason
When a toddler is flooded with emotions in a full swing tantrum, the emotional brain has taken control. Her thinking and verbal functions cannot be accessed. Therefore, trying to reason with her or asking her about her feelings is a waste of time. You may end up upsetting her and arousing her emotions even more.
Parents can help restore the hormonal balance inside a child’s body by holding or hugging him. Holding or hugging can activate the calming system in his body and triggers another feel-good chemical (oxytocin) that can regulate his emotions. Make sure you are calm yourself before doing this. Otherwise, if your own system is not calm, you may make him more stressed.
Sometimes, positive words or acknowledgements alone such as “I know”, “you must feel very upset” or “I’m so sorry that you’re hurt” are good enough to let a child feel safe and understood. Parents’ sympathy and attuning to his feelings not only can soothe the child’s emotion, but they can also help built those important pathways between his local and emotional brains. It is important to help a child learn to regulate his emotion.
Be Calm And Positive
Any parent can tell you that toddlers mimic what grownups do. That includes their control over emotions. If you get angry and start yelling at the toddler when she throws a tantrum, you are modeling how she should react when things don’t go her way. Instead, by staying calm, you are teaching her how to face difficulties and upsetting situations without losing control of emotions.
Another reason for staying calm and positive is that emotions, especially negative ones, are contagious. Being angry or negative will only increase your child’s stress.
Do Not Punish. Time-Out Is A Last Resort
Let’s say you are suffering from intense pain. It is so much so that you drop to the ground and writhe. Do you want your loved ones to punish you, walk away from you or lock you in a room by yourself?
Sometimes a tantrum may start as means to get something the toddler wants. But if left undealt with, it can escalate into a strong hormonal storm which a young child is not equipped to cope with by himself. When that happens, it becomes a genuine case of uncontrollable anguish and pain. Punishment, time-out or isolation will teach your child that he cannot trust you to help him or understand his grief when he’s in pain and needs you.
If a child learns early on that expressing big feelings will result in parental anger or punishment, he may resort to being compliant or being defiant. Either way, it means the child will not have the opportunity to form proper brain connections to deal with strong emotions. When facing frustrations later in life, he may struggle to be assertive or have angry outbursts.
Sometimes if a toddler in distress is met with negative or lack of responses from his parents, he may stop crying. But that doesn’t mean he is not in distress any more. Studies have shown that distressed young children can still have high stress hormonal level inside his body. In some cases, this dissociation between behavioral and physiological responses can lead to emotional or mental health problems later in life.
Time-out should be used as a last resort. It should only be used when the child has hurt someone intentionally such as biting or hitting and when he is not flooded with emotions. And it should be non-punitively and done in a kind and firm way.
When the dust has settled, when your child has thoroughly de-escalated from the intense emotional state, you can review what happened with her. Teach her what she can say next time she wants something. Teach her how to use words, instead of throwing things, to express her feelings. Narrating what happened can also help her create those important neural connections to manage emotional situations in future.
You can even tell her how you feel when she throws a tantrum. It says to her that it is alright to have feelings and feelings can be controlled. You are also teaching her how her action can affect others and what empathy is.
There are things parents can do to prevent tantrums. Look for HALT:
H – Hunger
A – Anger
L – Lonely
T – Tiredness
Children are more prone to throw fits when they are hungry or tired. When these physical factors are present, all it takes is a trigger to set things in motion. So, set a schedule of sleep-eat-rest to avoid these tantrum traps.
Being bored, stressed, angry, frustrated or disappointed are effective triggers. Prevent this from happening. If you know your child will be upset when not getting something, provide alternatives or distractions in advance. It’s much easier to access their logical thinking to prevent a tantrum than to put out one once it happens.