Jennifer is a former microbiologist turned mom, writer, and pet sitter. Jennifer, along with her husband, three boys (plus a menagerie of pets) live in North Carolina. She has written for websites including Scary Mommy, Pregnant Chicken, BabyGaga, Her View From Home.
Taming the toddler tantrum is tantamount to taking a tiger by the tail. Ok, that’s lame.
Alliteration aside, surviving the toddler tantrum can be the single most frustrating part of early parenthood.
They call it the terrible twos but from my experience they run from about 18 months to question mark. My three-and-a-half-year-old has had at least two major screaming meltdowns this week and it’s only Tuesday. I am not a childhood or parenting expert but believe me when I say, I am in the trenches. I’ve been dealing with tantrums for over two years and, while I haven’t earned a degree in Taming Tantrums, I believe this advice can help you from the onerous ones, to the terrible twos, and onward to the terrifying threes, the fearsome fours…you get the idea.
Before we get to the three tips, I feel it’s important to mention that understanding the tantrum is vital. Knowing why they are screaming isn’t the only issue. They might be screaming because you won’t give them what they want, but underneath they are probably overtired or hungry. Taking steps to prevent their being tired or hungry will help curb their tendency to melt down.
My favorite, tried and true method for dealing with tantrums is ignoring them. Not engaging their behavior and especially not giving in to the tantrum is key. Doing these things reinforces their behavior.
I’m not going to say I never give in because on those days when your patience is the thinnest, you’ll do anything to make it stop. In the long run, it does more harm than good. By ignoring the offending behavior, you are teaching them that it doesn’t work and they aren’t going to get what they want.
It’s not always possible to ignore the tantrums, however, and there are other ways to deal, which I will get to. Unfortunately, these little people have big emotions and limited ways of dealing with them. You know how sometimes a good cry is the best feeling? If possible, letting them get their anger out will help them. Once the anger is spent, they will hopefully calm down, reassess and their short attention spans will kick in-they’ll be on to their next idea.
When they are screaming, you screaming back to them only enforces that what they are doing is acceptable. By lowering your voice, you force them to quiet because they want to engage with you and to do that they have to hear you. It won’t be instantaneous, but it might work.
This would be a good tactic to try in public. You obviously don’t want to yell and make even more noise when you’re trudging through Kroger doing the weekly shopping.
You know your kid and you know what might set him or her off. By spotting the signs of a brewing storm, you can try to divert them before a tantrum happens.
Try giving them a toy they haven’t played with in a while or change the activity A change of venue might be all that it takes to divert your “tantrumming” toddler. If you’re in public, take them outside or to a different part of the store or restaurant and explain that their behavior is unacceptable. Reasoning with young toddlers is really a crapshoot. Sometimes I’m surprised and Oliver, my two-year-old, will actually appear to understand and fall in line. Removing your child from the situation allows you to gain control and might be all it takes to snap them out of it.
These three simple methods are recommended by parenting websites like Parents.com. There are obviously myriad things you can do and you know what works for your child.
Threats and bribes work if used sparingly. If you can, offer the bribe before a situation occurs because in the throws of a fit, offering a treat reinforces the bad behavior. If you’re in the car, on the way somewhere that good behavior is required, let them know and offer a treat for after that you can easily take away if they don’t toe the line. Be sure to follow through if you make bribes or promises. Know what your child’s triggers are-most often they are linked to being tired or hungry, so plan ahead. Bring snacks on outings and ensure that your child gets good rest at night and during naps if they are still taking them.
If you have any tips or tricks that work well for your kid, leave them in the comments! We can all benefit from some advice from other parents who are in the trenches!