Dealing with preschool temper tantrums
While shopping at the supermarket, you are startled by an ear-piercing shriek. It’s coming from a little girl wailing to buy the latest toy while her mother (tries to) ignore the embarrassing behavior.
For a parent this is not a new scenario. In fact, ask anyone and they are likely to agree that handling a toddler’s tantrum is one of the most challenging parts of parenthood. Toddler tantrums are common, especially in children between the ages of 1 and 4 when they are still learning to communicate properly. It is estimated that more than half of young children will have one or more tantrums a week to vent their frustrations and inability to control emotions.
Of course, as common as they may be, toddler tantrums can be distressing and embarrassing to parents, especially when they occur frequently.
Why do kids have tantrums?
These fits can take a variety of forms from crying and whining to screaming, hitting, kicking, and even breath holding. Tantrums usually happen when kids are hungry, tired, uncomfortable or can’t get something (either a person or an object) that they want. It is children’s way of showing they are frustrated or upset. Over time, their language skills improve and the frequency of tantrums decreases. But until they are able to communicate their desires or problems, parents must cope with the tantrums.
But take heart! Below are some pointers for avoiding a blowout.
- Give your child plenty of positive interaction throughout the day. Sometimes kids act up when they want more attention from their parents. Praising them for good behavior and spending time with them will reduce the occurrence of tantrums.
- Give them choices. For example, “Do you want apple juice or orange?” or “Do you want to take a bath now or after dinner?” This empowers children and gives them a voice.
- Keep off-limit or hazardous objects out of children’s reach to avoid struggles. Obviously, this may not be possible outside the home, but try to avoid areas that trigger your child’s tantrums.
- Distract your child during the tantrum phase by offering them something else in place of what they can’t have. Start a new activity or simply change the environment.
- Consider your child’s request carefully and avoid the abrupt “no.” Maybe their demands are not so outrageous.
- Keep your child’s limits in mind and avoid activities like shopping during their naptimes or snack time.
Most importantly, keep your cool during the tantrum and avoid screaming to let out your own frustration. Remember, your job is to teach your child how to stay calm. Hitting and spanking doesn’t help. It will show your child that using force and physical punishment is acceptable and can result in negative behavior in the future.
And of course, don’t give in to your child’s tantrums. This will only prove to them that their tactics were effective and can be used again and again.