Dealing with tantrums


If you have a toddler I am sure you have been there .Toddler temper tantrums are common and if properly addressed they can be completely manageable.

Knowing the reasons for your child’s behavior will help you to address the problem much better and maybe avoid the tantrum all together.

The part of the brain which regulates emotion and controls social behavior is called the prefrontal cortex.According to scientists the prefrontal cortex is preoccupied helping children to learn a new language up until the age of 4.

Children aged 4 and under therefore throw tantrums because their brain is not yet developed enough to control and regulate their emotional and social behaviour. You cannot stop your child from having tantrums, but you can deal with them and maybe prevent some of them.

If you’re concerned your child’s tantrums are outside the norm start a simple diary to follow your child’s behaviour. Record the time, duration, situation before and after each tantrum. After 7 days examine the results, look for patterns and make decisions accordingly.

Also, the stress that toddlers and preschoolers have increases their cortisol level, which is the root of Tantrums.
Wondering what kind of stress a toddler can have?

Being a young vulnerable child entirely dependant on Mum and Dad to meet your basic needs never mind all the more complex things like your forming wants and desires is STRESSFUL! Can you imagine not being able to go about your day and help yourself? That every time you need or want something there is a very real possibility you’ll be told ‘No’ , end of , no explanation – just ‘NO’ …..

The 4 types of tantrums:

Power tantrums happen when your child hears “no” and doesn’t know how to respond to that. Simply giving a choice can alleviate this .

Helping your child to feel they are in the driving seat of their life. So , as your child begins to draw on their hands/the wall etc don’t just shout ‘no’ ! Still absolutely say ‘no ‘ and don’t allow them to draw on walls – but , offer a choice as well , you could try it like this : ‘uh-o , no , we don’t draw on walls , hmmm….where can you draw? How about on this page? Or will we find you a colouring book?’ .

Just loudly stating ‘No’, will have effect in getting your child’s attention yes ,but it needs to be followed through on . I always try to put myself in my child’s shoes, to understand how they feel just hearing a blunt ‘no’. I would react defiantly too if a ‘no’ was doled out without reason , would you not?

Instead of lifting your toddler , plonking them on the changing table and starting to undress them, change nappy and dress them again involve them in the process , ‘we need to change your nappy – do you want up on the changing table ? Or will we change you here on the floor?/ would you like this dress or your dungarees today?’

Attention tantrums . Ok so this one is usually met with , don’t give them attention or they’ll learn it’s an acceptable way to get what they want – I disagree! A child who is screaming for your attention , NEEDS your attention! Give it to them. Give it to them BEFORE they need to tantrum for it. Attention tantrums need never happen if you take time every day to connect deeply with your child (each of your children) It can be as simple as looking them in the eye while you ask what they’d like for breakfast.A good morning hug. Gently combing and tying up their hair.Eye contact while you smile at them and just be present in that moment – for only a moment – and then on with your busy day. Trust me , just taking that brief moment to be present will transform your day and your child’s day.

There are 3 times a day that I feel are the most important for connection. A Mum I shared this with recently told me it has been a complete game changer in her home. The first 3 minutes after your child wakes , make sure your communication is positive , un-distracted and make eye contact . Also the first 3 minutes when you are reunited after crèche/playschool / school and lastly the last 3 minutes before bedtime. Commit to being present , positive and interested at these 3 times (at least) and see attention tantrums completely disappear!

Frustration tantrums You’ve been there right?You’ve been trying everything in your power to open that jar and it’s not budging – grrrrr!!!! Or you’ve asked your child to put their shoes on 10 times in 10 different ways , you’ve begged and pleaded and commanded and they’re still not responding – what do you do?Arrrrrgh!!!! Frustration.

When we can’t control our environment we get frustrated , and unless we’ve been taught/taught ourselves more constructive ways of dealing with our frustration – we tantrum! And so do our children! So how can we reduce the amount of frustration in our children’s lives? Well , again giving choice helps , having things at your child’s level helps , teaching them independence skills helps , but a lot of the time – just understanding that they are frustrated and empathising is as much as we can do.

In life – there will be frustrations and we can’t take that away from our child without crippling them by depriving them of opportunities to learn how to handle their frustration.As parent’s it’s natural to want to jump in there and help them/ do it for them , but do resist that temptation. In time your child will learn the skills they need and frustration tantrums will come less and less often , by hopping in there and doing it for them you delay this.

Over-stimulation tantrums , Some children more than others will become overstimulated by their surroundings. In my family , this was my son and I found that even as a newborn, if the lights were too bright or too many people were looking at him or holding him he would become overstimulated, and cry and cry for me to help him to deal with this uncomfortable feeling. My daughters seemed to be able to tolerate brighter , noisier and busier environments but still have their own limits , where it goes from fun and games to meltdown.

Often times as parents we bring these tantrums on ourselves. Maybe on pinterest or instagram that party looked incredible – but in real life – for your child – it’s just too much – too different from their everyday environment. They aren’t being ungrateful for the time and effort you took to plan their party , they aren’t necessarily high on sugar (though they may be) and they aren’t being ‘naughty’. The same goes for when you take them to a soft play centre , the cinema , on a shopping trip , to visit relatives .It always seems like the most inopportune time that your child has a meltdown , And maybe your embarrassed , but the discomfort you’re feeling in that moment is nothing compared to the overwhelm your child is suffering and your disapproval only adds to their hurt.

My advice? Get them out of there! They are feeling so overwhelmed and uncomfortable their screams and cries are their way of pleading with you for help. Forget insulted relatives – theyre adults – they can deal with it . Your child needs to be removed from that situation to rebalance and reconnect with what truly matters . So lift them and cuddle them and go to the car , or outside , or some secluded area if you can’t bring them home. Empathise , listen and just be there until they realign. If they seem to be caught in their upset unable to break free of it , I’ve found bursting into song helps , being silly , distractions at first and then as they begin to calm you can tell them how you understand , perhaps you’ve been there yourself , or know someone who was . Let them know that what they felt was ‘normal’ and okay , and that you’ll be there as long as they need you. Maybe , you need to rejoin the party, so tell your child ‘ok , we’re going to have to go back in soon ok? Are you ready now , or do you need another minute?’ . Reassure them that if they feel overwhelmed again they can just tell you and you’ll take them out. If they’re not yet vocal, allow them to lead you by the hand ,or point at the door when they need to leave. For small babies , respond to their cries , rock them , feed them , let them sleep , cuddle them in a sling to avoid ‘pass the baby’, and, show them through your actions that you understand , and you will be there for them.

There will be times when it’s hard to keep your cool and not melt into a full-blown parent tantrum!

Remember :

  • Toddler temper tantrums are part of your child’s normal development. Every child tantrums and it will pass. 
  • Avoid thinking that your child is manipulating you. They simply don’t know how to deal with that bad feeling they have.
  • Humor is good – do distract yourself by watching something funny or thinking of a joke. However , I absolutely do NOT mean you should laugh out loud when your child is upset – ABSOLUTELY NOT! That will only be condescending and hurtful to your child. Thinking of something funny or beautiful or calming inside your own mind while your child is tantruming will assist you in changing your physiology from a frown to something more neutral or maybe even positive. When your child is lost in a sea of frustration , overwhelm or anger your calm disposition will be reassuring and comforting , and if the only way you can provide that is by not being completely present in the moment and going somewhere else in your mind then do that. Responding to your child’s tantrum by tantruming yourself will only serve to teach your child that yelling , and fighting is an acceptable way to deal with high emotions.
  • Ignore other people. The looks you get from other people when your child has a tantrum , may or may not be supportive but that’s irrelevant.
  • Go easy on yourself. You’re child’s tantrums are not an ill reflection of your parenting.
  • Take a break, If you feel at the end of your tether , when you can’t respond kindly to your child – take a break – for both of your sake’s. You can’t pour from an empty cup!

Disciplining after a tantrum:
Don’t give in.Stay consistent with your household rules.Don’t give in to avoid or appease a tantrum. The rules are the rules .You consciously choose those rules for your household ,so they are obviously important for you. You can be empathetic and loving and compassionate towards your child who is finding keeping these rules difficult at the moment – without changing the rules.Be supportive as they navigate their path , allow them to feel their feelings and empathise , give them choices and listen to their objections – the rules are still the rules!

It might take months , it might take years, but believe me, one day your patience will definitely pay off.

As with all areas of parenting your behaviour is a living model for your child.Meeting a toddler tantrum with a tantrum of your own ,punishing, yelling, threatening, will only increase the tantrums in the future.

Remember, toddler temper tantrums are a part of your child’s development. Do not feel bad, stress out and most importantly do not fall into thinking your child is manipulative or spoilt. Be kind, supportive, show love and empathy.


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