As parents it’s important to remember that temper tantrums are normal and common for children ages 1-3 years old. The reason for this is because their social and emotional skills are just beginning to develop and they don’t have the vocabulary or knowledge on how to express themselves. Toddlers are experiencing big emotions and need help learning how to express them appropriately. But before a parent can teach their child how to manage their emotions, it’s important to understand what tantrums mean and what they don’t mean.
What Tantrums Don’t Mean:
- I hate you
- You’re mean
- You’re a bad parent
- I’m a bad child
- I’m manipulating you
- I need you to meet every demand that I’m yelling
- I need you to punish me
What Tantrums Do Mean:
- I’m overwhelmed
- I’m trying to tell you about a need I have
- I’m possibly hungry, tired, overwhelmed, lonely or angry and I don’t know how to handle that yet
- I need to learn a new way to ask you for this need when I am calm
- I’m new at figuring out big feelings
- My brain can’t understand you when I’m feeling this much emotion
- I need you to be calm so I can figure out these feelings
- I don’t want to be acting this way
- I’m watching how you respond to my big feelings so I know how to respond next time
- I love you and feel safe with you
It’s important to remember that having a tantrum from time to time is developmentally appropriate. If your child was not having tantrums at this age then that would be something that’s out of the normal. While tantrums are inevitable, you can do a few things to reduce the likelihood of them occurring.
- Reduce stress related to being tired, hungry or overstimulated
- Pay attention to your child’s feelings. This will help you to anticipate certain feelings and prevent them from becoming too big.
- Identify any tantrum triggers. Like certain places or times of the day
- Talk about emotions with your child. Explain what each one means, looks like, feels like.
- Stay calm during the tantrum - speak in a calm tone
- Acknowledge your child’s feelings rather than telling them to get over it
- Ignore attention seeking behaviors that are non aggressive
- Praise your child every time they are able to control or express their emotions appropriately
- Don’t give in if the tantrum is happening because your child wants something. That will only teach them to tantrum in the future to get things
- Be consistent with your approach
Dealing with tantrums can be very draining and stressful. But understand that this is developmentally appropriate and a great way for you to teach your child how to manage their big emotions appropriately.