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Taming Toddler Tantrums

New moms soon find out that their toddler will kick up a fuss when they don’t get their way. These temper tantrums are also a result of frustration as your toddler navigates his way through verbal expression.

This is a typical stage of child development and is usually a result of your child not having the verbal skills that allow him words to communicate his desire to do (or not do) something. Most often this frustration is demonstrated with temper tantrums, although some children develop this as a tool to challenge their parent’s authority.


Types of tantrums

Temper tantrums should be separated into two distinct categories, namely, manipulative and frustration tantrums. Children know how to push their parents’ buttons and will often use tantrums as a way to manipulate you into giving them what they want — if it gets a response.

If you are the type to respond quickly to a tantrum, your child will continue to use it to get their way.

Try using verbal cues and body language that clearly indicates that you won’t accept tantrums. You send a clear message when you don’t respond to the uncontrolled behaviour. Choose to walk away, thus teaching your child that the tantrum will not be accepted or rewarded with attention.

Frustration tantrums are different to manipulative ones and require empathy from you as the parent. Your child’s mental and motor development has developed more quickly than his ability to communicate and there literally are no words (in their world) to describe their frustration.

Help ease your child’s frustration by assisting them through a complex task or direct your little one’s efforts onto a more manageable part of the task. Doing this will establish your authority as the parent as well as build your child’s trust and confidence.

A common example of the frustration tantrum is seen through the “I’ll do it myself” gesture. This is when your child is determined to complete the task at hand –regardless of its complexity. Encourage your child to use words or body language, (even if limited), to communicate their feelings and needs.

Don’t take the tantrum personally. View it as an opportunity to teach your child about self-expression and channelling frustration.


Identify the triggers

Children don’t choose the best times to throw a tantrum. It could literally happen anywhere such as while you are on your phone, at the supermarket, or busy with someone else. Take note of what triggers the tantrum. Often there are pre-tantrum signs. These are seen through behaviours such as whining or being irritable. This is the last chance to stop a possible on-coming tantrum.

Common causes for a tantrum include boredom, hunger, tiredness and being over-stimulated. Note the times and events leading to a tantrum and prepare yourself better next time. Perhaps your child sleeps at a certain time normally and you are not at home at the said time. Preparation could mean scheduling your travel plans in such a way that allows the same napping time.

One of the best ways to prevent a tantrum is to plan ahead. Expecting your energetic and curious toddler to behave in a controlled manner when he is hungry or tired is unrealistic. Time these activities for after you are both rested and fed.


Keeping a cool head

Although temper tantrums in public places are embarrassing — making it difficult to consider your child’s feelings — you need to stay cool. To ease your frustration next time, remove him from the situation, to a calmer space like a public toilet or your car. This gives you enough time to blow off steam and quietly handle the situation.

There are certain times when tantrums are not acceptable, and you cannot give in under any circumstances. Staying in the car seat is one of these times and a common one that parents deal with. Make sure you do not respond to your child’s theatrics by standing your ground. If the car seat is an issue, place your child in the seat and walk a short distance away until he calms down. Once your child is calm, try to discuss the purpose of the car seat and explain that you want your child to be safe because you love them. 

Do not ignore a frustration tantrum as this deprives your child of a valuable support resource. Once your toddler develops the language skills necessary to express themselves you will bid the tantrums farewell.


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