Temper tantrums, unfortunately, are an inevitable part of toddlerhood. Growing up is hard work and filled with lots of emotions! Young children are learning about the complex world around them while developing mentally, socially, emotionally and physically. They are bound to get frustrated when they don’t have the words to express themselves or the ability to do what they want when they want. Offering children choices, avoiding situations that might trigger a negative reaction, and modeling appropriate ways to express feelings can avoid many tantrums altogether. But what about those emotional “explosions” that just seem to happen out of the blue? Your child is happy one minute but having a complete meltdown the next. Here are some ways for parents to cope with a child’s tantrum without having one of their own.
- Stay calm. Parents admit that this can be the most difficult thing to do when their child’s behavior is out of control, but reacting angrily will only escalate the tantrum. By closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths, you are also modeling an appropriate way to deal with your own anger.
- Show empathy. Let your child know that you understand the reason behind the tantrum, even if the behavior is not acceptable. “I know you are so mad right now, but you cannot hit your brother.” Children want to know that they are being heard.
- Be present. When a child is really hysterical, talking to her might not even be an option. Sit or stand far enough away that her flailing arms don’t hit you, but close enough that she knows you are waiting nearby.
- Reconnect. When the tantrum is over and your child is calm, use it as a teachable moment. Offer plenty of hugs as you talk about the appropriate way to express that particular emotion.
Help children develop self-control and learn how to handle big emotions by giving them some coping strategies to deal with anger and frustration. Ripping up paper or stomping their feet could be acceptable ways for children to express their emotions.