From: Jemma O’Hare  – Tiddlers

Tip: Managing Toddler Tantrums

It’s one of those things no parent can ever escape and that’s toddler tantrums. Even the most laid-back, placid child can get frustrated, upset and ultimately have a meltdown. Over the years of experiencing tantrums here at First Steps as well as my own children, here are some tips I found really useful.

Tantrums are normal for toddlers, even legendary. Toddlers feel so passionately about everything, and they simply don’t have enough frontal cortex capacity yet to control themselves when they’re upset.

That said, you’ll be glad to know that many tantrums are avoidable. Since a good number of tantrums are a result of feeling powerless, toddlers who feel they have some control over their lives have fewer tantrums. And since toddlers who are tired and hungry don’t have the inner resources to handle frustration, managing your toddler’s life so he isn’t asked to cope when he’s hungry or tired will reduce tantrums.

Here are some tips on how to tame those toddler tantrums:

Stay calm and re-connect.

Remember that once your toddler is upset, his/her brain isn’t really capable of calming down. So, when they feel disconnected or overwhelmed, your priority is to calm yourself and try reconnect with them. We know it is easier said than done, especially if your child has chosen the middle of a supermarket aisle to meltdown but taking a breath and trying to resolve the situation calmly will always help.

Try to handle upsets so they don’t escalate.

It’s amazing how acknowledging your child’s anger can stop a brewing tantrum in its tracks. Before you set a limit, acknowledge what your child wants. Of course, if this is a ridiculous ask, then manage that expectation. For example:

You wish you could have more juice, you love that juice, right?”

(Look, he’s already nodding yes!) Then set the limit:

“You need to eat some eggs, too. We’ll have more juice later.”

(As you move his cup out of sight.) If he responds with anger, acknowledge it:

“That makes you so mad. You really want the juice.”

Since most tantrums happen when kids are hungry or tired, think ahead.

We know when our children are not in their best moods, so try and plan ahead. Preemptive feeding and napping, firm bedtimes, enforced rests, cosy times, peaceful quiet time without media stimulation — whatever it takes — prevent most tantrums and reground children who are getting whiny. Learn to just say no – to them and yourself! Don’t try and squeeze in that last errand if it can wait until tomorrow, carrying a hungry or tired child around is not fun for anyone.

Make sure your child is assured

Children who have a more sensitive personality or who are needier are more likely to tantrum. If you’ve been separated all day, make sure you reconnect before you try to go to the supermarket say to shop for dinner.

Create Safety

When a tantrum does occur, it usually involves lots of tears. If they’ll let you hold them do so. If they won’t, stay close, even if they won’t let you touch them. They need to know you’re there, and still love them. Be calm and reassuring. Don’t try to reason with them Your goal is just to create safety, so they can let all those feelings come up. Once they get a chance to show you their sad feelings, they’ll feel, and act, a lot better.

Think about what you feel like when you’re swept with exhaustion, rage and hopelessness. If you do lose it, you want someone else there holding things together, reassuring you and helping you get yourself under control — but only after you’ve had a good cry.

After the tantrum:

First, take some “cosy time” together to reconnect and reassure. (No, you’re not “rewarding” the tantrum. They needed this connection with you or they wouldn’t have had the tantrum, to begin with! And of course, make sure that your child gets enough “cosy time” with you that they don’t have to tantrum to get it.)

Second, tell the story of what happened, so that your child can understand and reflect, which builds the pre-frontal cortex:

“You were having such a good time playing at the playground…you didn’t want to go home. When I said it was time to go, you were sad and mad…You yelled NO and hit mummy? I said No Hitting! and you cried and cried…. I stayed right here and when you were ready we had a big, big hug…. Now you feel better. It’s hard to leave the playground when you’re having fun. It’s okay to feel sad. You can tell me “SAD!” and I will understand. But no hitting. And you know what? We can go to the playground again tomorrow and have fun. There is always more fun for us!”

 Each child is totally unique, and not one way of dealing with a tantrum will help all children, but I hope these may be of some help to our First Steps parents.

If parents do wish to know any more information, please contact Ian on hello@firststepspoynton.co.uk or call 01625 859867.