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How To Deal With Your Child’s Tantrums (And One Thing Not To Do)

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Your toddler is kicking and screaming in the middle of a grocery store. Everything you are saying and doing is not working. You feel embarrassed as other shoppers walk by you.

Does this scenario sound familiar? The next time your child has a tantrum, understand how tantrums, and calm them down. It can help you find a new strategy that works for you and your family.

Why Do Tantrums Happen?

Tantrums are common in early childhood developmental stages. However, there can be other reasons for a child’s tantrum such as after experiencing trauma, exposure to violence, neglect, or other underlying developmental or mental health issues (such as autism, ADHD, social anxiety, or a learning disorder). If your child starts a tantrum that seems unusual for their age group, it could be a sign of distress. They may deal with discomfort from transitioning from one activity to another one.

Many children have regular meltdowns in common situations: homework, bedtime, and playtime. Typically, the cause is told to do anything aversive to them or avoid doing anything that’s enjoyable for them. They rarely like to do something they don’t want to do or something that’s not fun. Meltdowns over something unstimulating and requiring control can trigger particularly for children who have ADHD, such as a lengthy car trip or visiting an elderly parent.

How Can You Avoid Tantrums?

Here are some ideas to prevent tantrums whenever you can:

Give lots of positive attention. Compliment your child whenever they do something good. Encourage your child with praise.

Let your toddler decide over some small habits. Give small options such as “Do you want carrots or apples?”, or “Do you want to put away your toys before or after taking a bath?”. This way, you’re not asking, “Do you want to put away your toys?” — which your toddler will respond with an emphatic “no”

Keep things out of sight and reach. It makes the daily struggles less likely to happen. This is not always possible, particularly outside the home where it is difficult to regulate your environment.

Divert your child’s attention. Go to another room or go outside. Begin a new activity replacing the irritating activity that your child does not like anymore.

Help children to learn new skills and to be successful. Commend them to make them feel proud of what they can do. Start with something simple and then move on to more demanding tasks.

When your child wants something, contemplate the question. Is it indignant? It does not. Choose your struggles.

Know your toddler’s limits. If you know your toddler gets sleepy in the mid-afternoon, it’s not the best time to go shopping at the local shopping center or try getting in one more errand.

What Else to Do During a Tantrum

Validate Your Toddler’s Emotions

To validate someone’s feelings is to embrace them. You may not agree or disagree with their emotions, but you show that you listen to them. For example, you can point out, “How come you are so unhappy? You know you cannot have dessert for breakfast,” You can also acknowledge their feelings by saying, “you’re angry with me because I won’t give you ice cream for breakfast”.

Your child will likely not be pleased. But validating how they feel can prevent tantrums and ease any emotionality. You can help them talk through their feelings and regulate or calm their emotions.

Ignore Any Harmless Tantrums

The aim is to disregard the behavior, to withhold all parental concern for meaningless tantrums. Also, harsh reinforcement like reproaching or attempting to convince your child to stop was shown to improve the action in a constructive way. By praising your toddler’s obedience, you teach skills and decrease your toddler’s tantrums.

One thing to not do is attempt to negotiate. Your child does not have the attention span to pay attention to what you are saying to them. You want to encourage a child to negotiate when he does not blow up and you are not either. You may need to teach techniques to work through problems, break them down step by step for children who are immature, or who have deficits in thinking and communication of this type. You may need to teach them how to work through problems for immature children or children who lack this kind of thinking and communication skills by going step by step through their problems.

What Should You Do After a Tantrum?

When parents get upset, they should take time off. Wherever the tantrums take place, validate your feelings too. It is natural to feel annoyed, or ashamed. You cannot problem solve when you’re upset. Slow breathing and self-assurance techniques can help parents to calm down.

Children may become hyper, disagreeable, and show extreme behaviors with too little sleep. Having enough sleep will lessen the tantrums significantly. The need for sleep falls within a set number of hours, depending on your child’s age. Discover how much sleep your child needs.

When Should I Get Help for My Child?

If you get angry at or give into your child’s tantrums, or if your child exhibits aggressive behaviors in their tantrums, then it may be time to seek professional counseling.

Often hearing or vision problems, chronic illnesses, language delays, or learning disabilities can make children have tantrums, which could be a cause to seek a specialist such as a speech pathologist.

Keep in mind that tantrums are normally not a cause for alarm, and they typically end on their own. As children grow older, they will get over tantrums. They learn to communicate and to deal with disappointment. When they have better control, there will be less tantrums and calmer parents.

For more information or to schedule appointment online please visit our Child Counseling page or call at 919-647-4600.

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