Here Comes a Tantrum!

When you least expect it…
Tantrums happen! No matter how hard you try to understand your child’s needs, sometimes you just can’t prevent a kid from kicking, screaming and crying. It’s not fun for you or your child and it can be a helpless and embarrassing feeling especially when it happens at your favorite restaurant or in the middle of the grocery store. But take heart, tantrums are a normal part of typical child development and there may be a little comfort in knowing that most parents have been in your shoes.

What causes a meltdown?
It’s often hard to pinpoint the cause of a meltdown. After all, there’s a lot going on inside the head of a toddler. He truly wants to be independent, but his skills don’t yet match his desires. Not only is your toddler learning how to handle a lot of different emotions, but also how to handle being hungry, tired, bored, or overwhelmed.

Sometimes our busy schedules are a little more than a toddler can handle. Most parents are pretty good at recognizing the early signs of frustration that can lead to a meltdown. It might start with a frown, sighing or pulling away or an attempt to communicate that is not very clear.

A child could go from smiles to stomping and screaming within seconds. But the good news is tantrums do not last forever. In fact, usually by age 4 or 5, they seldom occur.

Stay close and stay calm.
It’s tempting to get upset when your child is having a tantrum, but it is not a good idea. As tough as tantrums are for you, keep in mind your child is not having fun either.

So what can you do when a tantrum happens? Stay close and stay calm! Your child needs you. Talk softly and let her know you understand. You’re helping her to feel safe and she’s learning to manage her emotions by watching how you handle her’s and yours!

That’s not okay!
Once your child has settled down, ask her what she was feeling. Was she “angry” or “frustrated” or “hurt”? If someone was hurt (or something was broken) during a tantrum, let her know that her behavior is not acceptable. You might say “It’s not all right to hurt someone.” If the child has not done anything wrong, don’t punish her for having a tantrum. Instead, talk to her about her behavior and let her know that her feelings are important.

Helpful parenting tips
Tantrums may be difficult, but they can be a great opportunity to teach your child about emotions. Don’t expect him to be able to clearly tell you what is wrong. He is still developing the skills to both handle emotions and communicate his feelings. With a little patience, you’ll both get through it.

  • Take a deep breath and try to stay calm. It doesn’t help, and likely makes things worse, if you get upset.
  • Stay close. Bend down or sit on the floor. It may take a few minutes for him to settle down.
  • If your child has hit someone or damaged something, let him know that his behavior is not okay.
  • Once your child has settled down, talk about what happened. “I know you are mad that you can’t stay at the park, but we have to go and pick up your brother.”
  • Tantrums are a normal part of child development and a signal of your child’s growing independence. Tantrums usually disappear by 4 or 5 years of age.