It’s happened to everyone. You’re in the middle of the grocery store and your little guy just won’t let go of that box of Double Chocolate Sugar Puffs. Or you’re trying to buckle your toddler into the car seat and they’re so adamant about sitting up front they start tearing patches out of the upholstery. They’re screaming, crying, whining, and kicking – there’s no doubt about it, you’ve got a Level 3 temper tantrum on your hands. What can you do?
First, breathe. Remember, it’s completely normal for children to have temper tantrums. They’re just starting to develop control of their emotions, and haven’t yet figured out that while it’s okay to be frustrated at not getting a toy they want, it’s not appropriate to start kicking over displays in the toy store. Besides lack of emotional development, there are many more specific reasons kids act out. Toddlers who are just learning to speak can become angry when they can’t express themselves. Some children act out for the attention.
Whatever the reason for a tantrum, show the tantrum thrower that their actions are NOT the way to get what they want. Immediately caving in to Hurricane Mikey’s demands for an ice cream sundae may work in the short term, but over time he’ll figure out that all he has to do is throw a fit and Mom and Dad will rush to reward him. But what should you do instead?
Ignoring the outburst may be the quickest and easiest way to handle their behavior. Kids learn best by example, so if you make a point of keeping calm they’ll quickly see that their efforts are wasted, and maybe even calm down themselves. Of course, if their temper turns destructive, then it’s time to step in and give them a time out.
Tantrums are preventable. Take advantage of young kids’ short attention spans by distracting them with a toy or game when you see the tears coming on. And praising kids when they’re being good is a great way to reinforce and encourage positive behavior, which should lead to fewer incidents.
Each time your child throws a tantrum, try and ask yourself why it happened. Understanding the reasons behind your child’s mood swings will go a long way in successfully defusing the situation. Showing them healthy, effective ways to work through their emotions will help them learn valuable lessons in self-control, acceptance, and tolerance. Letting them know it’s okay to be upset but encouraging them to stay in control will help turn the Terrible Twos into the Terrific Threes.