It wasn’t until my kids turned three that I found out the wrath of temper tantrums and they started making too-often appearances. It was a rough patch in my parenting as I tried to figure out how to best handle them. I’m talking full blown temper tantrums that involved rolling on the floor, screaming and unstoppable crying no matter if we were at home or at the store. Where did my sweet little babies go and what’s with these not-so-sweet temper tantrums!?
Around age three our kids were starting to assert their independence and the range of emotions at any given time were all over the board. With my daughter, I could easily reason with her to think rationally and calm down or I would offer a hug and that was the end of it. My son was a completely different story. Once he started, being able to talk him down to calm was a challenge and I had to develop an accessible bag of tricks. It was exhausting but thankfully we’ve turned the corner on these daily occurrences.
The best thing that comes from trying to figure out calming techniques to tantrums is that I have a tried and true short list of tactics that I can go to if they pop up. Give them a shot and hopefully, you can add to your bag of tricks as well.
PAY ATTENTION TO TRIGGERS
As parents, we’re not psychic and sometimes trying to read a kid’s emotional state is pretty much impossible but they will develop certain triggers that you look for and be prepared to handle.
I know with our son, when he was younger, he didn’t react well to the unknown so if I didn’t give him the full run-down of our day and something happened that we hadn’t talked about, it usually resulted in an opposing reaction. Once I figured this out, I could prepare him appropriately.
CHANGE YOUR VOICE
I love this little trick because it is so incredibly easy. Instead of reacting by raising your voice, change the tone of your voice to a whisper or talk in a funny voice. You’ll see that it immediately shifts the situation and gets your child’s attention. It may even cause a few giggles and help to diffuse the situation.
As much as you may not always want to comfort someone that is hurting your feelings or testing your patience, often times, getting down to their level and giving them a hug might be all they need. In the middle of a tantrum, if I ask any of my kids if they need a hug, they almost immediately give into a warm snuggle and the situation begins to defuse itself. Afterwards, they may be more responsive to communicating their feelings.
Just like when they were babies, being hungry or tired are big triggers for tantrums in kids. I always keep snacks that hold well in my diaper bag and car to whip out for the occasional melt-down take-down. These include mini raisin boxes, granola bars, little bags of trail mix and fruit strips. I don’t like to give them candy or suckers because there are no special rewards for poor behavior and we try really hard to limit sugars to natural sugar only.
GIVE THEM ONLY TWO CHOICES
Bottom line – giving your toddler or preschooler any more than two choices is too many. The choices need to be short and simple in order for them to make a quick decision. If they cannot make a choice in five seconds, make the choice for them. Allowing them to choose gives them the power and independence they’re looking for. Here are some examples:
– “Would you like to go to bed now or in five minutes?”
– “Would you like to take a bath or would you like to take a shower?”
– “Would you like broccoli or green beans with dinner?”
– “Would you like to walk or sit in the cart?”
Even if what they want or demand seems completely unreasonable (because what tantrum is reasonable??) and borderline insane, you have to show them that you’re respecting their feelings and are at the very least, listening to them. Get down on their level and ask them to explain their feelings. They have a voice too and the least you can do is consider the way they’re feeling.
DON’T REASON WITH THEM
This is the most important takeaway my husband and I got from the book, 1-2-3 Magic. Kids aren’t adults, they don’t think like adults and they don’t act like adults so don’t try to reason with them like you would adults. They are not capable of the level of reasoning you expect from adults.
LET THEM GET IT OUT OF THEIR SYSTEM BUT STAND THEIR GROUND
If all your tricks haven’t made a dent in calming the storm, and sometimes nothing may work, it is Ok to let your child throw a fit until they calm down. It is not fun especially when it is in the middle of Target but giving in and buying the toy they’re screaming for or maybe its piece of candy cannot have, DOES NOT solve the problem. It only creates more problems in the long run. They will quickly learn that if a tantrum works to get what they want, well guess what? They’re going to continue to do it to get what they want every time.
Hang in there, temper tantrums are just a phase. A phase won’t last forever but you can learn how to handle tantrums and in turn, your child will learn how to handle their emotions and reactions.