Taming Tantrums

Rebecca Harris, Early Education Writer   •   December 19, 2018

We all know what it's like to have a child go into full meltdown, and how frustrating it can be to deal with it. Tantrums are inevitable for toddlers; it's how we as adults handle them that makes the difference. How we react to our child shapes the way they will behave in the future. It's important to know why your child is having a tantrum and the best ways to respond whether you're at home or in public.
Our children are still learning how to use their words and have a limited vocabulary to express themselves. This results in screaming, crying, and having a meltdown to try and fix their problems. Toddlers also don't have a clear grasp of their emotions. Whenever they feel a negative emotion like disappointment, frustration or anger, it's much easier to funnel those feelings into a tantrum rather than dealing with them. Always remember that children get stressed too! If you're in a new or chaotic space, your children could be feeling overwhelmed or anxious. Having this perspective gives a greater understanding of your child and allows you to better handle their reactions.
The first step in handling a tantrum is keeping your cool and remembering that children tend to mirror their parents' emotions. As stressful as it is to deal with a tantrum, try not to let it show. If you're at home and your child has a meltdown, it can sometimes be best to just let them cry it out. After they calm down, you can talk to them about how they feel. As long as they aren't harming themselves or others, not giving them "the reaction" they want from you and letting them get out all their negative emotions can be the best option for everyone. Your child needs to understand that screaming and crying is not going to get them a positive result. After they have cried, get on their eye level and tell them that you don't understand them when they cry and scream and that they need to use their words to get what they want.
This can be much harder when you're in a public space. If it's possible, a simple distraction and moving on can be the easiest and fastest solution. If that doesn't work, taking them out of the environment is a good tactic in helping manage your child's behavior. Putting them into a new space can relieve the stress of both you and your child and can deescalate the situation. Also, acknowledging how they are behaving in a straightforward way will make your child realize how they are behaving in other people's eyes. Ask your child to look at the faces of the people around them. Ask them if they look sad or worried. This will make your child aware of how their actions are affecting the people around them. Tantrums are rough for everyone involved, yet remember that you aren't the only parent that has dealt with a crazy toddler fit meltdown before! People are understanding, and a meltdown in the grocery store over sugary cereal isn't the end of the world. The tantrum will pass, your day will go on, and everyone will be fine.