Tantrums are a part of a child’s development. While it’s usually attributed to wilfulness — especially with older children — most outbursts occur because your tyke is frustrated that she isn’t able to communicate as well as she’d like, or because she feels that you haven’t quite met her needs.
Child psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer points out that your little one might also be using tantrums to explore her influence over other people. Whatever the case, these sudden bursts of emotion can be scary for your young ‘un, until she learns to calm herself.
Incidentally, if you take your mini-me out when she’s tired, you’re increasing the chances of a tantrum, points out psychologist Dr Sandra Wheatley. That’s not to say you should give in to every outburst either.
By thinking about a situation from your sweetie’s perspective, you’re showing her that she’s important and you’re taking her seriously. In most cases, this is enough to placate her and end her frustration.
Dr Wheatley advises, “If she’s asking the impossible, explain your position in a way she can understand.”
But what if the balance has tipped and the tantrum is in full swing? The first thing to do is make sure she’s safe, so if you’re at home and she’s thrashing about, put her in her cot. If you’re walking along a busy road, make her walk or carry her to a safe side of the street. The best thing you can do is to stay calm. Dr Gummer points out, “If you lose your temper, you’re showing her it’s acceptable to scream and shout when you don’t get what you want.”
Similarly, bribery to silence her is the quickest way to the next outburst. “Go down this route and she’ll see throwing fits as a means to getting her own way,” Dr Gummer warns. Until the tantrum blows out, all you can really do is keep watch.
Distraction is your best option to prevent a full-blown fit. Introducing her to a game, putting on a puppet show with her teddy, or asking her to help you with a task, such as sweeping or writing a to-do list, should keep her busy long enough to forget whatever it was that upset her.
Once it’s over, get things back to normal as quickly as possible. Dr Gummer says, “If you show your anger, your child might see tantrums as a way of provoking you. And while a hug reassures your love for her, you should only give her one if all the issues have been resolved.”
So, if the tantrum was triggered by her dropping her ice cream and she’s accepted that you won’t get her another, a hug reassures her that she’s behaved well by moving on. But if she’s still complaining, a hug could send the message that she was right to have the tantrum in the first place.
Sure, tantrums are tough to deal with, but the good news is, they will pass.