Temper tantrums range from whining and crying to screaming, kicking, hitting, and breath holding. … Some kids may have tantrums often, and others have them rarely. Tantrums are a normal part of child development. They are the way young children show they’re upset or frustrated. The terrible two’s start at about 15 months and end at about 4 years old. This is a normal part of development but can be very trying for most parents. Everything is a battle. Some days it is changing clothes and some days it is brushing teeth and some days it is just… “No! I will not eat my pancakes”. You wonder how your beautiful sweet baby turned into a little monster. Tantrums are caused by your child’s need for independence. Approximately 20% of toddlers have at least two tantrums a day. And most will have at least one a week. They are emotional outbursts, yelling, crying, hitting, kicking, and even biting to express their feelings but luckily, most are short-lived and children recover quickly from them once they are distracted.
Try to prevent tantrums from happening in the first place, whenever possible. Give plenty of positive attention. Get in the habit of catching your child being good. Reward your little one with praise and attention for positive behavior. Try to give toddlers some control over little things. Offer minor choices such as “Do you want orange juice or apple juice?” or “Do you want to brush your teeth before or after taking a bath?” This way, you aren’t asking “Do you want to brush your teeth now?” — which inevitably will be answered “no.” Keep off-limits objects out of sight and out of reach. This makes struggles less likely. Obviously, this isn’t always possible, especially outside of the home where the environment can’t be controlled. Distract your child. Take advantage of your little one’s short attention span by offering something else in place of what they can’t have. Start a new activity to replace the frustrating or forbidden one. Or simply change the environment. Take your toddler outside or inside or move to a different room. Help kids learn new skills and succeed. Help kids learn to do things. Praise them to help them feel proud of what they can do. Also, start with something simple before moving on to more challenging tasks. Consider the request carefully when your child wants something. Is it outrageous? Maybe it isn’t. Choose your battles; accommodate when you can. Know your child’s limits. If you know your toddler is tired, it’s not the best time to go grocery shopping or try to squeeze in one more errand.
Ignore the Tantrums
Tantrums require an audience. Has your child ever thrown a tantrum when no one was around to watch? Children naturally want attention, especially from their parents. Typically, the best way to respond to a tantrum is to stay calm and ignore the behavior. You also might try to distract your child. … If your child is hitting or kicking someone, hold him or her until he or she calms down. When your child quiets down, you might say, “Tantrums won’t get my attention.” So, when you are paying attention to them because they are screaming and throwing themselves to the floor, you are just reinforcing to them that tantrums are great way to get mommy to put that computer down (or that baby, or that book, or those dishes, etc).”
Be Sure Your Child is Safe
If the tantrum is happening somewhere unsafe (as you are crossing the parking lot), pick your child up and move to a location where they can flail and cry and dramatize the end of the world because you wouldn’t buy the toy that they suddenly need. If a safety issue is involved and a toddler repeats the forbidden behavior after being told to stop, use a time-out or hold the child firmly for several minutes. Be consistent. Don’t give in on safety issues.
Do Not Become Frustrated
Most important, keep your cool when responding to a tantrum. Don’t complicate the problem with your own frustration or anger. Remind yourself that your job is helping your child learn to calm down. So you need to be calm, too. Your actions set an example for your child. Hitting, spanking, or yelling don’t help. And they send the message that using force and physical punishment is OK. That can result in more negative behaviors over the long run. Instead, have enough self-control for both of you. It’s easy to throw the adult version of a tantrum when you are frustrated with your child or embarrassed by your child’s behavior. Losing your own temper in front of your child just teaches them that yelling is okay. Child abuse happens commonly when adults lose their patience. If you need it, make sure that your child is safe and give yourself a time-out.
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The Whole Child Pediatrics provides pediatric primary care that helps children thrive physically, mentally, and emotionally. We give our patients and their families one-on-one, personal, and comprehensive evidence-based medical care. We serve the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area and have hospital privileges at St. Elizabeth South, St. Elizabeth West,and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
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