It’s the third time your child throws a temper tantrum today. He screams and cries and you ask yourself if you’re handling the situation properly. Really, the only thing you want to do is run away or disappear. You feel frustrated and confused in the midst of all the chaos. You’ve already tried everything you can think of to make the tantrums go away and have no more new ideas.
After tantrums, there is a lesson and an opportunity for you to learn how to manage emotions better. Today we’ll offer you some tools and strategies to change your view on tantrums and learn how to take advantage of them as learning opportunities.
What are temper tantrums?
Between the ages of 2 and 4 years old, most children express their frustration in a very intense way, through tantrums. Temper tantrums are a common emotional reaction during this age. They are normal and disappear normally between the ages of 4 or 5.
At this age, children start acquiring more appropriate language and strategies to express their frustration or discomfort. Thus, they no longer feel the need to use tantrums to express themselves.
Besides being a useful way to express frustration and discomfort, tantrums also occur when children are hungry, tired, or uncomfortable. Or when they don’t get what they want. They may also happen when kids try to do something by themselves, but don’t have the skills to accomplish it.
“Our rage is more degrading to ourselves than the situations which produce it.”
-Marcus Aurelius –
How to prevent temper tantrums
Up next, we’ll show you a list of guidelines on how to prevent tantrums:
1. Identifying the causes of the temper tantrums
Identifying what causes them doesn’t mean that you’ll prevent all of them or that the world has to adapt to what your child’s needs. Tantrums can be triggered by a common reason, such as hunger, lack of sleep, wanting an object or attention, or for any other particular reason.
Routines can be very helpful in this matter. It’s also good to try to follow them on the weekends too, which is when you spend more time with your children and when tantrums are more likely to arise.
“Education is what most receive, many pass on, and few possess.”
2. Considering your child’s request
When your child makes a request, it’s a good idea to actually consider what he is asking for. Let’s think about it, is it too unreasonable or excessive? If not, give in when the aspects of his request are reasonable.
This doesn’t mean you have to give in to every one of his desires. You must set limits. These might be:
- Will he hurt himself?
- Will he hurt others?
- Can I give in without granting him authority?
- Will he harm the environment?
As adults, we’re the ones who have the last word, but usually, we say “no” by default. This way, we’re restricting their curiosity, freedom, and even the language they use. By doing so, we end up provoking more tantrums than what’s normal for this age.
To encourage your child to express himself, the best thing to do is to ask simple questions with concrete alternatives that are easy to understand. For example: Do you want chicken or fish for dinner? Do you want to wear this shirt or that one? It boosts their confidence and make them feel important. You’ll also prevent them from automatically saying “no” to a directive question.
“A child can teach an adult three things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires.”
3. Anticipating certain situations
Tell your children what is going to happen. For example, “Today you will go to school, and I will go get you after you take a nap and have a snack. Then, we’ll go to grandma’s house.” or “We’ll have dinner, then you will take a shower and brush your teeth. We will read a bedtime story, and you’ll go to sleep.” You can do something like that with other activities they have to do as well.
Knowing what comes before and after gives the child a sense of security. If you’re firm and always follow the routine, you’ll avoid sowing chaos and having your child want to break them. You’ll keep temptations that lead to tantrums away. Telling him what you’re about to do prevents him from generating alternate plans in his head.
For instance, let him know 5 or 10 minutes ahead of time when you have to leave a place. You can also negotiate “5 more bites”, “one more time down the slide“, and so on. This will prevent fights. Plus, the child will feel more respected and things will go more smoothly
“Do not let your children avoid the difficulties of life, teach them rather how to overcome them.”
4. Giving your child options
When it’s necessary for them to do something but they refuse, give them options. For example, “one more time and then we leave”, “let me help you and we’ll do it together” or “first you take a shower and then we can play together for a while.”Children can feel very helpless when faced with orders.
Since they are shaping their personality, “no” is an almost automatic reaffirmed response. To keep them from getting angry or frustrated, you could offer them an option in exchange for what you’re going to deny them.
What not to do when you sense a temper tantrum is on its way
- Don’t give in to the child’s demands to prevent a tantrum. You may prevent this one, but others will come and they will probably be even worse.
- Don’t give your child long explanations. Let’s not forget that children have limited attention spans.
- Don’t lose your patience or calm. Remember that you are their role model, so you can’t have temper tantrums either.
- Don’t leave the room. Stay with your child, give him options, or distract him.
If handled well, tantrums are likely to disappear between the ages of 4 and 5. Besides, since they are a normal part of life, if you’ve managed them properly your children will actually come out of them with more skills for living in this complex world. A world that won’t play hesitate to place obstacles in his path.
It’s important for you to remember that you’re not alone in these situations. Other parents also have trouble with their children’s tantrums, and talking to them might give you new ideas. Also know that if things get out of control, there’s nothing wrong with seeking professional help.
“That is why people with a sense of fulfillment think the world is good and would like to conserve it as it is, while the frustrated favor radical change.”