Do you remember the times of BC (before children) seeing someone out with their young child who was having the mother of all meltdowns? If you’re like many of us you’ll probably have felt bad for the parent, thrown them a look of sympathy and mentally decided that your children would never throw tantrums. Oh, how naive we were back then….
The wonderful thing about a tantrum is that they may strike from out of nowhere with little or no warning. The chances are that this means you’ll be on the school run, in the supermarket and without a doubt running late. A child who tantrums is not a “bad” child (there’s no such thing) or a “naughty” child; they’re just a child.
Why Do Children Tantrum
There may be a number of reasons that a child might tantrum. They may be tired, feel hungry, be bored, upset (tots and children get anxious or scared about things sometimes us grown-ups can’t fathom and if they can’t communicate this it can be difficult to reassure them) or it may even be their own way of exerting control. Small children don’t control much but when they get to the age where they start to become independent tantrums may be their subconscious way of doing something they want (or to try and convince you to let them do what they want).
Children do not throw tantrums because you are a bad person, a bad parent or because they are trying to embarrass you. The chances are they have no idea why they’ve done it.
Dealing With Tantrums
Tantrums are loud, things may get thrown, people might tut and stare and your child might look more like a mini tornado than the sweet and lovely child of five minutes ago. The important thing to remember when dealing with a tantrum is that they are just a child.
Being consistent with how you deal with the tantrum is essential. Initially ignoring the tantrum (provided they are safe) is a good idea. Continue making tea, sorting your shopping trolley or whatever it is that you are doing. They are demanding your attention and if you give them it then they will see this type of behaviour as a way to get what they want. They aren’t as calculating as that makes them sound however they are very clever, despite being young.
Ensuring that you have rules in place for safe and appropriate play etc is also important. If a child knows what is expected of them and what is coming next they are less likely to be worried or confused, something that often contributes to tantrums. Ensure that anyone else who looks after your child knows what routines and boundaries you have in place and how you deal with tantrums so that they may do the same.
Reward Good Behaviour
Children like to be noticed, they love praise and knowing that you are proud of them. Once the tantrum starts to wind down talk to them slowly, clearly and quietly but in a positive way. Show them that you are happy that they’ve stopped screaming, throwing, punching the floor or whatever their particular tantrum looks like as they need to associate good behaviour with praise and attention, not tantrum behaviour.
Avoid Tantrum Triggers
- If your child is likely to scream blue murder because he or she is over-tired on the school run perhaps it might be an idea to alter their nap routine, making it earlier, longer or shorter so that they wake up refreshed, have not overslept or haven’t slept so are already feeling cranky.
- If you know that being in a busy supermarket is something that your little one struggles with (some don’t like all the noise and how busy it is), try shopping at a quieter time, get them involved with the shopping (distracting them in a positive way) or perhaps consider online shopping if it really is a big problem for you (avoiding shopping altogether doesn’t teach them to cope/manage behaviour when shopping however it can be wise to pick your battles).
- If you have a child who hates queues and waiting (we feel their pain), play games while you’re waiting, take books and quiet toys to play with if waiting for an appointment or similar to alleviate boredom and to keep them occupied with something interesting.
- Monitor your child’s routine to identify triggers and this could go a long way to avoiding them before they get started.
While the majority of advice for parents on tantrums is how to avoid them or to manage them we wanted to include something else… how to look after yourself. Tantrums are exhausting (we know, we’ve been there). While we tell ourselves that we don’t care what other people think of our four-year-old suddenly smacking his head off the floor because you’ve told him it is time to leave or our three-year-old daughter screaming that she doesn’t like you anymore and trying to kick or bite you while you’re doing your shopping, we do. It IS embarrassing, tiring and downright upsetting.
Remember that our little ones are still learning and growing, that they don’t hate you, that they aren’t always going to tantrum and that you are not the only one going through this!
Make sure you take time for yourself to take a deep breath when you can and pamper yourself a little. Talk to others who understand as not only will you feel less isolated, they might also have some great tips that might help.
Sources of Support
Here at Dream Bear, we encourage our mums and dads to comment and share experiences. There are also a number of other people and organisations who are also able to help. Talk to other parents, your health visitor, nursery or school if you need reassurance or ideas to help ensure your little one is safe and well. While often tantrums are just one of those things many children do as they grow sometimes there might be something, in particular, worrying them. If your little one’s tantrums are prolonged, have been going on for some time and they are injuring themselves or others it might be worth asking your GP or nurse for help as they will put you in touch with someone, possibly from CAHMS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services – don’t let their name put you off) who can help support you are your little one if needed.
Parenting is like a rollercoaster, with plenty of ups and downs. Our advice is to enjoy the ups, manage the downs as best you can and remember that before long you’ll be climbing back up again!