Tips to Prevent Tantrums
When the fit hits the fan.
Toddlers and tantrums go together like peanut butter and jelly, except these situations can often get a lot stickier for parents — especially in public places. It’s remarkable how fast your sweet little baby can go from happy to hysterical in just a matter of minutes, sometimes even seconds! We’ve all been “that” parent at the grocery store with the screamer.
If you’re like me, with a strong-willed, independent child, you don’t worry about if, but rather when, your kid will hit the floor. Do I pick him up? Let him cry it out himself? Bribe him to stand still and stop screaming? It’s a tough decision that has to be made quickly. After all, time is ticking, people are watching and my patience is running out.
It’s hard to imagine when you’re caught up in the moment, but experts actually say there are things you can do to help prevent an outburst before it ever begins. Dr. Caron Goode explains in her Pediatrics for Parents article that preventing tantrums takes observation, quick action and a little understanding.
“As your child moves from babyhood to toddlerhood, she learns at an extraordinary pace. She is literally learning something new every day. Unfortunately, her cognitive and physical skills are oftentimes not in sync. This leads to frustration, which leads to temper tantrums.”
This means that when my son gets upset because a puzzle piece won’t fit or because I gave him water instead of milk, his reaction isn’t necessarily to get attention. Instead, it’s a release of frustration for not being able to express his wants coupled with limited problem-solving skills. This combination creates the perfect path leading straight to —you guessed it — tantrum town.
For most children, temper tantrums ease off with maturity. “Once their speaking and reasoning skills improve, children no longer need to have tantrums,” says Dr. Goode. In the meantime, you can help by knowing the signs. Observe your child for tantrum triggers such as slumped shoulders and face with a scowl, prolonged whining, playfulness interspersed with lots of lying down and thrown toys or food.
As soon as you spot one of these signs, take action with these tantrum-stopping tricks:
Stop for a snack.
Hanger —you know, hungry anger?— doesn’t just affect adults. It hits toddlers too. Be prepared with a healthy snack packed with plenty of protein and fat such as cheese, peanut butter crackers or an avocado, which energizes little brains and bodies.
If hunger isn’t the problem, sleep likely is. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, toddlers need 12-14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. Look at your schedule over the past few days; if things aren’t adding up, sleep may be the answer.
Take a walk.
A change of scenery works wonders for the frustrated mind. So take your toddler for a stroll. Yes, even when it’s cold. Just bundle up! Being outside allows a toddler to clear his head and take in the wonder of nature. It also frees you up from correction and discipline for a bit. A 30-minute walk can reset your entire day!
You’ll know best whether this oncoming tantrum is a time when your little one wants your attention or needs to refocus. If it’s time with you she needs, invite her up to mommy and daddy’s bed for snuggles. Get comfy and flip through a book together.
You won’t always be able to stop a tantrum. When the fit hits the fan, keep cool and offer comfort. Tantrums can take a toll on children. Often, when it is over they are not even sure why they were angry in the first place. Offer your child a warm hug and some reassurance. Let him know you disapprove of tantrums, but that you love him.