Tantrums can be quite a frustrating time, both for you and your little one. Tantrums aren’t something to be worried about, it’s all part of development and with a few ways to help calm your little one, they’re easier to tackle.
What is a tantrum and Why does this happen?
A tantrum is where a child is struggling with regulating their emotions and getting their point across, which leads to a meltdown. Tantrums can look like crying, screaming, hitting, throwing themselves on the floor, biting, tantrums show up in different ways with each child. Children tend to tantrum if they can’t express their wants/needs, they want something they have been told they can’t have, basically if things don’t go their way. Tantrums are also more likely to happen when your little one is tired, hungry or feeling uncomfortable or anxious.
As Adults, we can clearly communicate our needs and if we are feeling uncomfortable or emotional. Children are often unable to do this, especially if their speech isn’t fully developed yet, which is why we see tantrums in young children, more than older ones. Imagine if you asked for something in a shop and the assistant said no with no explanation? Surely you’d get a little angry and confused, but we as adults have the communication skills to ask why and question their answer, where as your toddler sees this as the worst possible move and therefor throws themselves on the floor or screams, not being able to understand why they aren’t allowed to put their fingers in a plug socket.
How can I prevent a Tantrum?
Tantrums do not need preventing, your little one will need support during this developmental time. Tantrums are absolutely not a bad thing and it is so important to validate your little ones feelings and let them know that it’s okay to show emotions, even negative ones. Suppressing tantrums will only lead to bigger ones down the line, as your little one will hold those emotions in and may struggle to regulate them in the long term. Showing an understanding and also observing your child to see what triggers the tantrums, is a great way to support them. Once you realise the triggers of a tantrum, you can begin to talk about them and put things in place to help them understand and cope better with the trigger. A good idea is to set time limits, especially if your little one is prone to a meltdown before a change of routine or going out, letting them know they have until the end of a TV episode or count down from 5 minutes, this will allow your little one time to process the change and be ready.
What can I do to support my child during a tantrum?
I think the main key to success with supporting your little one through a tantrum is to let them know you’re there and available if they want to talk or if they need a hug. It is absolutely a case of seeing what works for your child, each child will respond differently to different approaches, but i have listed some below that have worked for me over the years.
- Talk through their feelings – This is a great one for older children. Talking through their tantrum and let them know that you’re there by explaining how they’re feeling i.e “I can see you’re really upset about not being able to watch anymore TV today.”
- Validate their feelings – this is an important one. There is nothing more invalidating than being upset and someone saying “get a grip” or “stop crying”. Let them know that it’s okay to feel this way and that it will pass.
- Make a calming kit – This is usually a box with calming/comforting items in it, including a stress ball, sensory bottle, different textures to touch or things to smell. It’s great fun to make a calming kit with your little one, whilst talking about why you would use it.
- Give them space – If they are independent and your presence is making them more upset, then simply take a step back and let them know that you’re moving away and that you’ll be here when they need you. Make sure they’re in a safe space where they cannot hurt themselves (if dealing with violent/angry behaviours) and observe from afar.
- Offer them a cuddle – this is not being “soft” on your child, you know better than anyone what they need when they’re showing a lot of different and confusing emotions, talking it out and a cuddle is always a great option.
If you take anything away from this blog post, please let it be the fact that your little one isn’t throwing tantrums to make your life difficult. They are developing their level of understanding and feeling so many different emotions at once. Talk to them, validate their feelings and support them during these moments. If can be incredibly stressful and upsetting, but please don’t feel embarrassed, we all have meltdowns every now and again, even as adults!