taming-the-tantrums

Taming the tantrums

Tantrums are a normal part of development. We want our kids to grow into independent adults, with all their own thoughts and opinions, but it can be a rocky road. Sometimes our little people get totally overwhelmed with their big feelings of frustration and uncertainty and find themselves in a tug of war between wanting you close and pushing you away.

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Kids often feel very passionately about things, but don’t often have much control. Not all children have tantrums, but you can be sure that most do, simply because it’s likely that a child will want things they can’t or shouldn’t have. And that’s disappointing. Disappointment is unavoidable and so your firmness and warmth will help them through this big stage.

Tantrums are often about things like

  • “I want to do this on my own” – put my shoes on, butter my toast, feed myself and do it my way
  • “I don’t want any help”
  • “I don’t want to do the thing you’re suggesting”
  • “I want to control this situation”
  • “I must have this thing in order to survive”
  • “I’m anxious and afraid”

Things you can do

To prevent tantrums or avoid them escalating

  • Check in and see if they’re tired, hungry, feeling too hot/cold, or feeling disconnected from you.
  • Have predictable routines that a child can count on – it will set a rhythm of safety and certainty for them. Do some things the same way each day. It might look like a song you sing, a break for morning tea, a special story time, or a call to mum or dad to say hello.
  • Factor in extra time to get things done (like leaving the house) so that the atmosphere stays calmer and more peaceful – rushing around feels stressful for everyone.
  • Try to stay calm. Children in the throws of a tantrum are often frightened by the intensity of their own emotions. They need the adults in their lives to stay connected to them and supportive.
  • Think carefully about what you are going to say to a request. It is important to back yourself up – you’ll be tested!

When a child has a tantrum

  • Put language to what your child might be feeling. “It looks like it’s a hard job for you to put your shoes on the way you like them to go. It sounds like you’re frustrated because they’re getting stuck. Would you like some help with that good job you are doing?”
  • Be prepared to offer support and comfort so that the child feels your kindness, not your ridicule.
  • Don’t over-talk a tantrum. It’s easy to spend lots of time focusing on it and mentioning it to others.

If you’re out in public

“Never make a rule that you wouldn’t get out of the shower to enforce.” – Heidi Golden, parent

Be prepared to stay the course. If you’re out in the supermarket and your child wants you to buy them a treat, and you have said that today is not a treat day, then follow through – if only to save the next lot of trips to the supermarket.

If the noise and scene is unbearable, park your shopping and pop out to the car or a seat outside. Cool down, comfort your child, and return to the job. Having a plan for what you’ll do when out in the public eye can be a life-saver.


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