Summit Children’s Center wants to give our tips on how to stop temper tantrums. One of the most common phenomenons in toddlers and preschool children is temper tantrums. Without having learned the necessary coping skills to navigate their lives, tantrums are the only thing that kids can use for getting out their frustrations. The best thing a parent or teacher can do is be aware and tune in to the child’s emotions in order to help them avoid all that can trigger their emotional outbursts.
What are tantrums?
Before we talk about how to stop temper tantrums, let’s define them. A child’s tantrums can come in all forms. They might look like giant anger explosions or severe frustration and disorganization (losing it). Your child might have fits of crying, periods of screaming, limbs may stiffen, or they may even get violent and aggressive.
Why do tantrums happen?
Tantrums are quite commonplace for children ages 1-3 years. This is the age when a child’s emotional and social skills are beginning to develop. Kids just don’t have the vocabulary for expressing their emotions. They want some independence at this stage, but they fear separation. Plus, they are finding out that an outburst can change a situation they would rather not face.
Tantrums are one way for a child to get his feelings out, express emotions, and understand what is happening in their environment. If an even older child displays tantrums, it is usually because he hasn’t learned acceptable ways of expressing himself. Whether a toddler or older child, there are some factors they both have in common:
- Temperament affects how strongly and how quickly a child might react to frustration. A child who upsets easily may be more prone to exhibiting a tantrum.
- Stress, fatigue, hunger and even overstimulation make it very difficult for some children to focus and express appropriate behavior.
- Poor coping skills may make situations very stressful for a toddler, especially when other children are dominating the environment and controlling activity.
- Intense emotions like fear, worry, anger, and shame can be too much for some children to deal with.
Children will start to develop ways of self-regulating and managing their emotions at about 12 months old. As the child grows older, they are able to calm themselves down in stressful situations and avoid getting themselves upset. The result is fewer tantrums, and sometimes just a child growing up is how to stop temper tantrums.
Reducing a child’s tantrums
Strategies for making tantrums less likely:
- Eliminate your child’s stress. If he is tired and hungry, tantrums are more likely to occur.
- Be attuned to their feelings. If you are tuned in, you may be able to detect when your child is losing control and unable to manage his frustrations. This is the beginning of how to stop temper tantrums.
- Notify the triggers. Learn when your child is susceptible to tantrums and plan for them ahead of time. Maybe a nap or snack is necessary at these times.
- Talk with your child about the frustrating situation and help them express themselves. If he struggles with difficult feelings, help him to give a name for the feeling and, more importantly, what caused it.
Use praise and rewards when your child behaves appropriately. If he recognizes the trigger and calms himself down before erupting, give him plenty of positive reinforcement.
Sometimes, regardless of any preparation, tantrums will just happen. Here is a list of good ideas for handling tantrums when they occur:
- Be calm (at least pretend to be). Collect yourself for a moment, if necessary. You will make the situation even worse if you get angry. Remain calm, act deliberately and use a calming voice.
- It’s perfectly acceptable to acknowledge his feelings. An example might be, ‘I know it’s very upsetting when your toy car breaks, isn’t it?’ This may even give your child enough time to check his own emotions and possibly diffuse the tantrum on his own.
- Wait it out. Remain close so he can trust you are there but do not try to reason, argue or distract him. It’s too late.
- Take charge if necessary. You might be tempted to fix the problem, but don’t.
- Remain calm and consistent. Giving in and helping him to avoid confronting the issue will only make it worse.
Preschool and early school-age tantrums
Use the strategies above for dealing with preschool and early school-aged kids. They are better able to recognize that actions have consequences. Consequences, at this age, can be used to alter a child’s behavior.
Be sure you don’t reward the tantrums. Pleading and arguing with him while he has a tantrum can also be rewarding to him because it is giving him attention.
Coping with temper tantrums can sometimes be very stressful and draining. You may feel like you must intercede and end the outburst immediately. But as long as things are safe, you’re better off to just breathe and let it happen.
More ideas for staying calm and using reason during temper tantrums:
- Have a prepared strategy for when tantrums occur. Prepare a concise plan for how to handle a tantrum for any given situation. Focus on putting the plan in action when a tantrum occurs.
- Know that you can’t always control a child’s behavior or emotional displays. You can keep him safe and help him work through it, trying to teach and guide him toward better decisions next time. This is a good tip on how to stop temper tantrums in the future.
- Know that it takes some time for changes to occur. Children have a lot of growing to do and tantrums are going to happen at first, but not forever. Help your child to develop and practice self-regulation. Learning this skill is a life-long task.
- Avoid letting yourself believe that your child is throwing tantrums on purpose or trying to get back at you for something. They don’t have temper tantrums intentionally. Rather, they are stuck in bad behavior or habit and have yet to figure out that there are more suitable alternatives for coping.
- Don’t lose your sense of humor. Don’t laugh while he has a tantrum, which might actually reward him with attention.
- Ignore the dirty looks from other people. They obviously have never had kids or they have forgotten the realities of parenthood.
Don’t be hard on yourself. There is no need to judge yourself based just on the number of tantrums your child has. All children will have tantrums. Focus on how you respond to his tantrums. And be aware that you are human and a big part of parenting is learning. Both you and your child will benefit in the long run when you are prepared on how to stop temper tantrums. Summit Children’s Center is here to help you through the process.