Tantrums are very stressful – for parents and children.
Temper tantrums can happen for various reasons. Your child may:
- Not have the wordsto express feelings
- Feel frustratedor angry with the challenges of the
- Be having trouble figuring something out or completing a task.
- Be thirsty, hungry,or tired, which can make it harder to tolerate stress.
Ideas for preventing toddler temper tantrums:
- Observe your child. Pay attention to when and where tantrums occur. Are they in certain places, around certain people? What is happening around your child before, during, and after the tantrum? Look for patterns and avoid these triggers as possible.
- Offer choices. Help your toddler feel capable by giving her choices. For instance, if being sock-less is not an option, don’t ask whether she wants to put her socks on. Give her options like wearing red socks or blue socks.
- Validate emotions. Often, toddlers have tantrums because they don’t feel understood. When your toddler starts getting upset, validate what she’s feeling. In a firm and gentle voice, say something like, “I know you are upset because you really want a cracker. I don’t have any to give you right now and that makes you feel mad.”
- Offer a replacement or distraction. Say or do something silly or point out something interesting. To see distraction at its best, check out the popular 1-minute video of a doctor distracting a baby with tissues.
- Offer exercise or outside time. You and your child are both likely to feel better with fresh air and stretching of muscles.
- Sing. Soothe your child by singing or playing recorded music. Give him a chance to dance, too, which is great for motor skill development.
- Follow a routine as possible. Often, children have tantrums because they have physical needs like being wet, tired, or hungry. With a predictable routine, you can prevent many of these issues.
- Give notice before ending an activity. Tell children that in 5 minutes you will stop what you’re doing and then tell them what is coming next. This gives them time to finish what they are doing and prepare for their next activity.
- Support language development. Children have tantrums when they don’t have words to express their feelings and needs. Help your toddler develop language by reading books, having conversations with her, making up silly songs, and more.
- Help identify emotions. Toddlers are not only learning language, they are also learning about their emotions. After age 1, toddlers develop a range of complex emotions, and they can have trouble handling them. Label your own emotions whenever you can; when you’re feeling happy, tired, etc., tell your child the word for your emotion.
- Give snuggles. Spend time holding, cuddling, and expressing love towards your child. Physical contact helps children’s bodies, minds, and emotions develop.
- Practice “positive” time-outs. When your child is calm, help her create a time-out space by choosing what it should look like, what to put in it, and what to call it. When she is upset, encourage her to go to her time-out space. When you are upset, you can go to a time-out space of your own.
- Don’t use the “counting method.” With this method, parents count (1, 2, 3), in order to give a child a chance to correct himself before being punished. Unfortunately, it teaches children that they don’t need to listen when you say something the first time. Also, when young children get stressed out, they may not know or remember the proper way to behave.
- Choose your battles. Children learn by testing limits of adults. Make rules and stick to them, giving similar consequences each time they break a rule. However, avoid fighting over little things.
- Get developmental screenings. Tantrums may be a sign of important needs your child has. Developmental screenings can help you learn more about your child’s needs.