Handling temper tantrums: a mum and educator experience

As a mum of a wonderful, energetic, and full of spunk two-year-old daughter and the Jumbo nursery room leader, I am with children aged between 6 weeks and two years old around the clock! Through my studying on early childhood, reflecting on everyday experiences, trial and error, along with a calm and patient manner, I have developed an understanding and skill set to work with this adorable age group. 

One of the more common questions families ask about is how to best deal with tantrums and saying ‘no’, so I thought it worthwhile to share some tips that work for me and the team here at Jumbo.

What exactly is a tantrum?

Tantrums are very common in children aged 1-3 years. You might see crying, screaming, stiffening limbs, an arched back, kicking, falling down, flailing about, or running away. In some cases, children hold their breath, vomit, break things, or get aggressive as part of a tantrum.

What causes tantrums?

Tantrums are a normal part of child development. Tantrums may happen when kids are tired, hungry, uncomfortable, or feel misunderstood. They can have a meltdown because they can’t get something (like a toy or a parent) to try to get what they want. 

Tantrums are common during the second year of life, when language skills are starting to develop. Because toddlers can’t yet say what they want, feel, or need, a frustrating experience may cause a tantrum. 

As language skills improve, tantrums tend to decrease. Learning to deal with frustration is a skill that children gain over time. Dealing with tantrums is also a skill that parents can find hard to master tending to give in to our child because we often find it the easier road to take. However, in the long run, giving in will only cause further challenges. 

How Can We Avoid Tantrums?

·  Be consistent 

Establish a daily routine so that your child knows what to expect. Stick to the routine as much as possible, including nap time and bedtime. Set reasonable limits and follow them consistently.

·  Encourage your child to use words

Young children understand many more words than they’re able to express. If your child isn’t yet speaking — or speaking clearly — teach him or her sign language for words such as “I want,” “more,” “drink,” “hurt” and “tired.” As your child gets older, help him or her put feelings into words.

·  Let your child make choices

Avoid saying “no” to everything. To give your toddler a sense of control, let him or her make choices. “Would you like to wear your red shirt or your blue shirt?” “Would you like to eat strawberries or bananas?” “Would you like to read a book or build a tower with your blocks?

·  Praise good behavior

Offer extra attention when your child behaves well. Give your child a hug or tell your child how proud you are when he or she shares or follows directions.

What should I do during a tantrum?

Tantrums should be handled differently depending on ’why your child is upset?’. Sometimes, you may need to provide comfort. If your child is tired or hungry, it’s time for a nap or a snack. Other times, its best to ignore an outburst or distract your child with a new activity.

If a tantrum is happening to get attention from parents, one of the best ways to reduce this behavior is to ignore it and stay calm and consistent. If a tantrum happens after your child is refused something, stay calm and don’t give a lot of explanations for why your child can’t have what he wants. Move on to another activity with your child.

If a tantrum happens after your child is told to do something she does not want to do, it’s best to ignore the tantrum. But be sure that you follow through on having your child complete the task after they are calm.

Kids who are in danger of hurting themselves or others during a tantrum should be taken to a quiet, safe place to calm down. This also applies to tantrums in public places.

Talk it over afterward

When the storm subsides, hold your child close and talk about what happened. Using simple language, acknowledges their frustration, and help put their feelings into words. Let them see that once they express themselves in words, they’ll get better results. Say with a smile, “I didn’t understand you because you were screaming. Now that you’re calm, I can find out what you want.” Then give them a hug.

Read more about how to deal with temper tantrums and keep your ‘Zen’ on our blog.

This article has been contributed by Neha – Jumbo nursery room leader and mum to Miraya