Table of Contents
- What is a temper tantrum?
- What can we do to try to keep our children from having a tantrum?
- How to act in case of a tantrum?
If you are about to read this article about tantrums I guess it is because you have a child between 18 and 36 months old (or maybe a little bit older) who is having these episodes. The first thing I want to tell you is: Congratulations 👶! You have a healthy and normal child! because that is what is normal, that a child in this age group has some tantrum episodes.
What is a temper tantrum?
Having clarified this, which is the most important part, I would like to say that a child tantrum is an explosion of uncontrolled and disproportionate anger and rage in relation to the cause that provokes it. There are times when parents cannot even identify the cause or we are very surprised by the insignificant reason that provokes it.
It is important to understand that, in this evolutionary phase of children, they begin to feel “independent” but their cognitive level is not yet able to understand some situations, however obvious they may seem to us adults. Let us not forget that a child’s brain is in constant formation and there are certain capacities that are formed over the years and at this stage, it is in full development.
The causes that can originate a child’s tantrum are varied. Some real examples are: because we don’t let him drink wine, because he dropped a toy, because he doesn’t want to go out with his coat on in winter, because he doesn’t want to keep the wound he got on his arms days ago, because he doesn’t want to get dressed to go out in the street (he wants to go out naked) or because we don’t let him pee in the middle of the sidewalk. Our parents have a lot of stories that bring a smile to your face when you think back with hindsight. But when you’re in the present, it’s a very tense situation and your heart rate goes through the roof. There are parents who can have a hard time and even feel ashamed when these tantrums happen in the street, in a public place, or in the family.
In this article, I will try to give you some ideas to try to prevent tantrums as much as possible. But be careful, I say “try” because there will be many that, because they are unpredictable, are impossible to avoid and, in that case, we will give you some advice on what to do when the tantrum has already started. Here are some tips to prevent tantrums:
What can we do to try to keep our children from having a tantrum?
1.- Hungry, Thirsty, or Sleepy
Try to avoid as much as possible situations in which your child may feel hungry or thirsty. Try to always carry extra water and a snack to fall back on in these situations.
It is also very important to make sure your child gets enough rest. A tired child at this age is a ticking time bomb and in these situations, the chances of anything causing a tantrum are greatly increased. Maintaining stable rest schedules helps a lot.
2.- Don’t always say “NO”
Our children don’t like the word “NO” at all. It’s normal, neither do we. But they don’t like it even less because they don’t fully understand the explanations. That is why it is important that you reserve the “no’s” for things that are really important and for certain limits that you do not want to pass. There are certain things of minor importance in which you have to be flexible. For example: If your child doesn’t want to cross today where you always do and wants to cross at the crosswalk a little further ahead, do it.
Sometimes parents have the “no” in their mouths and there are many things that are not worth it for the child to have a tantrum (with the consequent displeasure, tension, and loss of time, loss of time sometimes much greater than if you had given in to that small request).
Say “no” to things that are of real importance.
3.- Say it in a different way, if possible.
Try to say no in another way and, if possible, don’t use it at the beginning of the sentence or just the “no”.
Example: If your child wants to eat candy and you don’t want to give it to him/her…
Avoid: “No” or “No, you can’t eat sweets now”.
Better: “Are you hungry? Look what I have for you” (and offer him something you prefer him to eat).
Sometimes it doesn’t work, it’s true, but the “no just because” increases the probability of a tantrum a lot.
As I said before, there are some tantrums that are unpredictable and unavoidable for parents. In cases where a tantrum has already started, I recommend:
How to act in case of a tantrum?
4.- Keep calm
This point is as important as it is difficult, but it is essential that you remain calm. Your child has gone out of control and the last thing he/she needs in this state of internal uncontrol is that you also get angry, out of control or that he/she perceives you as upset. If necessary, use techniques to help you relax. Deep breathing, for example, helps.
5.- Accept the tantrum and take your time until it passes.
Okay, the tantrum has started. So you just have to accept that it has arrived and that there is little you can do but wait for it to pass. Try to relax and accept that on average 15 minutes will be like this (some children last longer).
In your day-to-day life, try to go to your important appointments with plenty of time to spare, as a tantrum can happen at any moment. There is nothing more distressing than, for example, you have to pick up your older child and your younger child starts a tantrum when you are on time. Try to go in plenty of time so that, if it happens, you don’t have an even more stressful situation (being late for something important).
6.- Don’t give in once the tantrum starts.
Sometimes tantrums are so explosive that parents are so afraid of them that they do anything to avoid them, including giving in to what has provoked the tantrum. If, for example, the child has started a tantrum because he/she wanted a cookie and they have not given it to him/her when he starts a tantrum they give it to him. Be careful. It is very very important not to do this because the child interprets that the tantrum has served him/her to get what he wanted, so he can use it as a tool in the future to get what he wants. And this prolongs the intensity, quantity, and duration in time of the tantrums, becoming chronic.
It is better that you anticipate, as we talked before, and if you think that it can provoke a tantrum not to give him the cookie at that moment and you do not see yourself capable of coping with it that day, give him the cookie if he asks for it, but never give it once the tantrum has begun.
7.- Be there for him/her.
Accompany him in a tantrum calmly and as he lets you. First of all, for his safety, since there are children who can really hurt themselves and, secondly because the child needs your presence.
If he/she lets you do it, hug him/her. There are children who allow this contact and it helps them to calm down. But there are others who refuse you. If so, respect him and wait calmly nearby until he calms down. Do not engage in dialogue. A child in tantrums is not in the disposition to dialogue and understand.