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Sunday 7 May 2017

Temper Tantrums and Why Your Child Has Them! #toddlerbehavior

Brianna, © 2017
I like to compare my daughters temper tantrums to a summer storm... sudden and at times fierce. One minute I could be in a restaurant enjoying dinner with her, and the next minute she's whining, screaming, throwing things all because her straw is bent. Children between the ages of 1 and 3 are prone to tantrums.

Though at times you may worry that you're raising a brat, keep in mind... at this age, it's not likely that your child is throwing a fit to be manipulative. More likely, she's having a little mini meltdown in response of being frustrated. Toddlers are just starting to begin understanding more of the words they hear, however, their ability to produce and respond is limited. When they can't express how they feel or what they want, the frustration erupts.

Tips on handling tantrums...

Don't lose your shit! A tantrum isn't fun, nor is it a pretty sight. There could be kicking, screaming, and pounding the floor. Your toddler may throw things, start hitting, biting, and even holding their breath. Even though this is hard to handle, this is very normal behavior for a child having a tantrum.

When your child is in the middle of one, she's unable to listen to reason, but will most likely respond... negatively. I find that the more I shout for Brianna to stop, the wilder she gets. What usually works, is when I sit down and just be with her. I let her have her mini meltdown. If I was to leave, it might make her feel abandoned... the storm of emotion she's going through is most likely frightening to her, and she'll appreciate knowing I'm nearby.

Sometimes when I get overly frustrated, I need to calmly leave the room for a few minutes. Then return once she's stopped crying. By staying calm, it should hopefully help her stay calm.

I've read many articles where experts recommend picking up your child and holding them... that your embrace will be comforting. But at the same time, I believe that it's kind of rewarding the bad behavior. I still feel it's better to ignore and let the tantrum happen, until they calm down. Maybe a short time-out could be a solution. However you choose to handle the tantrum, consistency is key.

You're the adult. Whether the tantrum is one minute or ten, don't give in to the demands or negotiate with your screaming toddler. It's tempting to give in, but try not to worry about what others think around you... anyone's who's  been a parent has been there!

If you give in, you'd be teaching your child that throwing a fit will get them what they want... this sets the stage for future conflicts. Your child is already frightened from being out of control, the last thing she needs is to feel that you're not in control. If the tantrum escalates to the point of hitting, biting, or throwing things, pick her up and carry her to a safe place. Tell her why she's there, and let her know that you'll stay there until she can be calm. If you're in a public place, which is always common for a tantrum...  be prepared to leave if they have one. Leave and have a time-out until they calm down.

Use time-outs sparingly. Every child is different, so using a time-out will be different with every child. They will most likely begin around the age of 18 months, and it may help them manage their feelings when having one. A time-out can at times be helpful when the tantrum is more intense, and other techniques aren't working. Placing your child in a quiet spot for a short period of time, can be self soothing. It should be roughly one minute per year of age.

Explain what it is that you're doing, that way they understand why they're having a time-out. "You're going to have a time-out so you can calm down, and mommy is going to be sitting over there"... let them know that it's not a punishment. If they refuse to stay in the time-out, simply place them back in the spot firmly and go about your business. Other than making sure their safe, don't interact or give attention during the time-out.

Talk about it after. After the storm subsides, hold your little one close and talk about what just happened. Discuss the tantrum in simple terms, and acknowledge her frustration. Try and help her put her feelings into words by saying something like, "You were very angry because the food wasn't the way you like it". Let her see that once she expresses herself in words, she'll get better results. Say with a smile, "I'm sorry that I didn't understand you. Now that you've calmed down I can find out what you want".

Let your child know that you love her. Once your child is calm and you've had a change to talk about the situation, give her a quick hug and tell her that you love her. It's very important to reward good behavior, including something like your child settling down... be sure to talk things over.

Try to stay away from tantrum-inducing situations. Pay attention to what situations push your child's buttons. If she has a meltdown when she's hungry, be sure to carry snacks with you. If she gets cranky in the afternoon, try and take care of your errands earlier in the day or after a nap.

If you sense a tantrum coming on, try and distract your child... try changing locations, giving her a toy, or doing something that she wouldn't expect... like making a silly face.

Your toddler is becoming more independent, so try to offer choices whenever possible. No one enjoys being told what to do all the time... "Would you like broccoli or carrots"? rather than "Eat your broccoli". It will give her a sense of control.

Try and monitor how often you use the word "no". If you find that it's jumping out of your mouth quite often, you're probably putting unnecessary stress on both of you. Try to ease up and choose your battles!

Watch for signs of stress. Even though tantrums are a perfectly normal part of toddler life, it's a good idea to keep an eye out for possible problems. Has there been any sudden changes in the family? Has it been extra hectic the last little while? Parental tensions? These can all provoke tantrums.

If your child's tantrums seem overly frequent or intense to the point of hurting herself or others, seek help. Your doctor will discuss your child's development and behavioral with you at routine appointments. Regular visits are a good time to talk about concerns, and  help rule out any serious physical or psychological problems. They can also suggest ways to deal with the outbursts.

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