Grandparents usually get a good laugh when you tell them you are having trouble dealing with your child’s temper tantrums because they’ve already been there and done that, and they are also thinking it’s now your turn to deal with the same type of anguish you caused them years ago!
In order to learn how to deal with temper tantrums you must first understand why they occur in the first place; most toddlers don’t have the coping mechanism most of us have as adults in trying to voice displeasure and anger. That is, they can’t explain it the way they want to, so instead, they express themselves the only way they know how; by kicking, screaming, and carrying on.
Luckily, as a parent, you have many resources available in helping you deal with these episodes which are, to put it quite frankly, perfectly normal for little boys and girls.
Here’s how to handle temper tantrums and regain the control you once thought you had before they started:
- Be preventative. Start teaching your children how you want them to act when they are frustrated or angry. You can tell them when they start feeling frustrated or angry to say, “Will you please help me,” or to get your attention by calling out your name so you can attend to their needs right away. This one works wonders after a while because it can become an automatic response mechanism built into their little minds to replace their inability to communicate with words effectively. Once they get your attention, make sure you appear sincere in taking them seriously.
- Know what triggers the tantrums. Does your child freak out when he or she is hungry? Make certain you always carry your child’s favorite snacks. Does your kid hate it when you go on long road trips? Take an occasional break at a rest stop and offer comfort. If you know what sets them off, you stand a better chance of avoiding most temper tantrums through your diligence. A word of caution; don’t allow them to get their way if it’s the wrong thing to do, just to stop a tantrum.
- Use distraction techniques. For example, if your child refuses to get off the swing you can say something like, “Wow, look at what your sister (or brother) is doing over there on the slide. Let’s go see them and maybe we’ll go home and play with your (name a favorite) toy right after.”
- Remain calm and don’t let them see you are affected. Sometimes, children throw fits because they have already learned how to push your buttons. Resist the temptation to yell or spank, and instead, calmly reassure them you are there to help them with their frustration and their actions will not make the situation any better.
- Give them choices. When you start seeing them become upset you can issue a stern warning in a calm voice by saying something to the effect of, “Jenny, I see you are starting to get angry. If you are going to continue to behave this way, go up to your room right now until you have calmed down.” This way, your child has a choice and if he or she chooses to remain calm, reinforce their positive actions with a compliment on how well they have handled themselves.
What Do You Do If Nothing Works as Expected?
If your child is not responding at all and appears to be having the “king” of all tantrums, make sure he or she is not placed in a situation where they can hurt themselves or others and simply say you will be glad to help and talk about whatever is at issue after your child calms down. If you have to hold your child down to prevent injury, do so with as little force as necessary without showing any aggression. You may also want to consider removing your child from an area with other people so they don’t get hurt.
When Should I Consult With a Professional Regarding My Child’s Temper Tantrums?
If you suspect your child has some sort of developmental difficulty and is still having temper tantrums past the age of four, you may want to consult with a physician to consider your options. Additionally, if your child has been diagnosed with a developmental disability you should immediately consult with your physician and let him or her know exactly what your child is experiencing, regardless of their age.
It is a well-known fact amongst physicians that even perfectly normal adolescent children and adults may throw a fit of anger every now and then; this is not normal behavior and should be addressed and is usually caused by their inability to communicate and express their thoughts and needs effectively.