Toddlers: The tears and the tantrums

Toddlers strive to be independent but they can also find it frustrating; demonstrating determined independence to helplessness or refusal! They want to please but also test the limit, and feel a sense of power to match their emerging independence.  Who’s had the screaming toddler in the supermarket, church, in a queue, on a walkway, in the car, on a plane? I can put my hand up to all of those and I have the stress lines on my face to show it. (Give limited choices; Be playful; get the toddler started on the task to be done)

Helpful tips to manage the tantrum!

Preparation. Some need to know ahead of time what will be happening if its not part of the daily routine (or sometimes even if it is!). Keep them well informed about big events such as moving house, going to the doctors. Make sure their basic needs are met: not tired or hungry.

So many tantrums seem to happen in public! This is the time when as parents we feel the most vulnerable…You’re thinking “Oh dear, an audience” and your toddler will learn this is peak time to get what he wants depending on how you react. Its time to consider your options! (Are you nodding to this one?)

Deep breath, but don’t be embarrassed…we’ve all been there! Don’t give in to the tuts and the glare. Someone in that supermarket, has great empathy!

Keep calm. Why are they having a tantrum? Is there anything reasonable that you can do? Boredom or seeking attention? If so give it!

However, …

Option 1: No means no! Don’t give in to unreasonable demands but do choose your battles carefully. Be clear about what the boundaries are in your family and as they say “don’t sweat the small stuff”. If you are happy to give your child sweets at the checkout, just reinforce that they ask properly. A tantrum is not an acceptable form of communication when asking for sweets! Be very careful that you don’t reward tantrums or other forms of undesirable behaviour.

Option 2: Ignore it. Well, yes fine at home, not so good in the supermarket

Option 3: Distraction. This works really well for young children or if they are bored and simply wanting stimulation. It has been known to work on adults too!

Option 4: This is real. Its happening! Don’t try to reason with your toddler but you could try empathy. “I can see that you’re tired (angry, upset)…”

And when it’s over…Be available to help your child reconnect with the world. Talk it through in simple language. Re-enforce the positive aspect that they have calmed down Find words that express the feelings “I know you were really angry that you couldn’t have the sweets. Tomorrow is sweetie day”

Written by Kate Elliott-Cannon, Early Years Development Manager, YMCA Cornwall

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