Toddlers throw temper tantrums. In fact, tantrums, which usually happened due to a lack of language skills, seem to be a normal part of any child’s development. But all kids are not the same — while some have huge temper tantrums, others don’t.
Why do toddlers throw tantrums?
Toddlers often know what they like and what they don’t like, but lack the ability to express their feelings and desires. This conflict is frustrating in itself. Now, if a psychological conflict comes with physiological problems, such as hunger or tiredness, things usually get worse, and a child is likely to throw a tantrum.
In some cases, the child will throw a tantrum to get your attention, protest against what someone has done, or avoid doing what you want them to do. Again, if that happens it’s because the child sees no other way to communicate their desires or frustrations in a more appropriate manner.
When do tantrums stop?
As the child’s language and communication skills develop, they are able to express how they feel and what they want, so temper tantrums reduce. For most children, language skills improve tremendously by age 3. Thus, tantrums tend to get better after the third birthday.
Ways to deal with with your child’s tantrums
Here are some tips for handling your child’s tantrums:
- Be calm and control your reaction during tantrums: When Your Child throws a tantrum, try to stay calm. Take notice of the child’s behavior, but don’t overreact as this may only help to reinforce the negative behavior.
- Ask the child what they want: It often helps to find out what is making the child angry, so ask them what the problem is and what they want. If it’s something you can solve, then, take care of it immediately.
- Validate Your Child ’s feelings: Sometimes, it may be easier and more helpful to validate your child’s feelings. You can say, “I know you’re angry, tell me about it.” This way, you help the child express their feelings and make them know that they can always tell you what they are feeling.
- Whisper, don’t yell at the child: Tantrums can be quite loud. Try to bring your baby’s voice down with a whisper. You can whisper a few calming words to your little one or try to change their attention. There’s a chance your soft, soothing tone will arouse their interest to listen to what you have to say.
- Create a distraction or sing a song: Try to distract your little one when they start acting up. You may make a funny face or point out something interesting. Alternatively, you can sing their favorite song — this usually has a calming effect on children.
- Firmly discourage any aggressive behavior: If your child’s tantrums are aggressive — hitting, biting, or destroying things — stop them immediately and make sure you let them know that it’s absolutely not acceptable. If the child is in danger or at risk of hurting themself, grab them and take them to a safe place or warn them about the danger. State clearly that such behaviors will never be tolerated by you.
- If nothing else works, you may need to ignore your child: If you’re at home and you know that the child won’t hurt themselves, you may have to ignore the child at that moment. Some kids throw tantrums to get attention and giving them the attention, even negative attention, can reinforce the behavior and make them want to try it next time. In such cases, it’s better to ignore them.
- Offer a snack or a nap: Sometimes, the source of frustration is hunger or a lack of sleep. In that case, you can offer a snack, a bottle of milk or simply invite your child to lay down with you and read a book.
Ketsupa Jirakarn (Mental health specialist) (31 March 2021)