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Ten Things To Remember If You Have A Child With ADHD

Ten Things To Remember If You Have A Child With ADHD

Having a child with ADHD is hard for most parents. Let’s face it, there aren’t many of us proudly telling other parents “Oh yes, my child has ADHD, and I’m so proud of him. It is such hard work, but it’s so rewarding”. It’s exhausting, never-ending and not for the faint-hearted. Because of the stigma attached to ADHD, most parents tell very few people. ADHD is often linked with other issues such as dyslexia, oppositional defiant disorder, sensory processing disorder, and a whole heap of other “labels,” so parents can find themselves feeling even more overwhelmed and lost in a morass of labels and confusion.

When you type ADHD into Google, a mere 58,100,000 results come back, and I can guarantee you that the majority of them will be negative, scary and gloomy. On the first page of Google results, ADHD is described as a brain disorder or a mental disorder involving neurodevelopment – talk about focusing on the negatives! However, there are so many positives to this type of personality that aren’t always discussed or highlighted among stressed and overwhelmed parents.

There is a legend that the Native Americans couldn’t see Christopher Columbus’s ships sailing to shore. It’s said that because they’d never seen anything like this before, their minds simply couldn’t process the information and their brains wouldn’t allow their eyes to see the ships. As the story goes, one man noticed ripples in the ocean, so every day he would watch the ripples, until eventually he could spot the ships.

Once he spotted the ships, he told all other the Native Americans, and then they too could see the ships. Now, where am I going with this? I’m telling you this because if your child has ADHD, like most other parents, you have probably spent an enormous amount of time sifting through some of the 58,100,000 Google results, and you are probably feeling sad, confused, overwhelmed and scared for the future of your ADHD child.

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Well, today, I would like you to think of yourself as one of those Native Americans, and I’m man who has just seen the ships. It may be hard for you to see the ships, and I totally understand that it could take some time, but just allow yourself for the next few minutes to open your mind to a more positive side of ADHD.

1. Learn about all the people in the world who are thriving with ADHD

There are so many amazing people on this planet right now who have ADHD and are thriving. There are so many writers, musicians, artists, actors, athletes and entrepreneurs who have ADHD and have learned to see it as a gift. They have learned how to use this “superpower” as their ultimate positive trait, and they are thriving in life. And it’s not just grown-ups, there are children and teenagers with ADHD who are making a mark in this world and sharing their journeys. Start to read about these people, gain knowledge about them, and empower yourself. Then you can empower your child and watch their confidence grow. Try searching Google for things like: “ADHD is my superpower,” “Thriving with ADHD,” and “ADHD kids rock.” You get the drift!

2. Discover who you are

There are so many parents who discovered they had ADHD after their child was diagnosed. I’m not suggesting that every parent who has a child with ADHD has ADHD themselves, but it’s becoming more recognised that the little ADHD apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Think about who you were as a child. What did you parents say? What did your school reports say about you? Were you a drifter or a wanderer? Remembering who you were and discovering who you are now could help not only yourself but also your child. And, better still, it may strengthen your bond with them. Remember the saying, “birds of a feather flock together.” Maybe you and your child have more in common than you think!

3. Help your child to find his or her passion

I know it’s hard when you feel that you can spend most of your day either screaming at you child or wanting to scream at him or her, but take some time to discover your child’s strengths. Does he or she like art, nature, or building things? Is your child good at running, dancing, or gymnastics? There was a little boy in America named Pierson Feeney (he’s one of the positive ADHD searches you should type into Google). His mum noticed that he would constantly move his feet and that he found it difficult to concentrate in school. Medication didn’t work for Pierson, so his desperate mum decided to try something different. She enrolled him into a dance school, and the rest, as they say, is history. Pierson now dances after school every day, and because of his love of dancing, he has learned how to focus on something he loves. He is now able to focus more in school and is thriving in life – for Pierson, ADHD is his greatest asset!

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4. Don’t feel embarrassed when talking to teachers

Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimmer, has won 23 gold medals, but when he was younger, he couldn’t concentrate in school. His mother was told by his teacher that Michael couldn’t focus on anything, yet he has gone on to be the most decorated Olympian of all time. He couldn’t concentrate in the classroom, but he could focus on swimming, and like Pierson, through his passion, he learned how to focus. Instead of talking about what your child can’t do, ask the teachers to explore what they are good at. Are they good at sports? Are they are a fast runner? A good singer? Do they have rhythm or a good ear for music, or do they have artistic talents? Oftentimes, kids with ADHD are very creative. Ask the school to work with you to find your child’s passion. If they are good at something, their confidence will grow, and they will thrive – this could be the thing that makes them succeed!

5. Accept what it is and go with it

So many parents want to try and change their child, and this could simply be because of peer pressure. We all want to conform and come across as a “normal” family, but kids with ADHD are different, and making peace with the situation and accepting it can be very liberating. Parents want their child to stop being impulsive, hyperactive and inattentive, but realising that their brains are wired differently, letting go of how you think your child should be, and embracing the child that you have is very healing. Recognising and accepting their flaws will help you stop and see their rainbows on a rainy day. Every child is good at something, but it’s often hard to see this when you are hell-bent on trying to change them.

6. Try to make peace with your child’s bad days

So many parents feel that their ADHD child does things to upset them on purpose. They don’t listen, and they are hyperactive and defiant. However, learning to make peace with it and accepting what is will help so much. When they act out, often it’s because they are over-stimulated or feeling anxious. Kids with ADHD can have emotions that are so much more intense than other kids’, and they struggle with the simplest of changes. A change in routine, a different teacher, or even a different type of clothing or meal can flip them into a rage. Remembering this on bad days or during bad moments can help so much. Just go with it, accept it and be confident in yourself as a parent. Try not to feel embarrassed in front of other parents; everyone is going through something, it’s just that no one talks about it!

7. Use a positive type of discipline

At the end of the day, we are raising mini-humans, and just like in the animal kingdom, they need the leaders of the pack to keep them in line. However, like animals in the wild, if you try taming your spirited children too much, they will fight back! This can then mean that you can’t even get them to obey a single instruction, which is draining and hard for parents. Using a simple method like “pasta in the jar” is great because it’s visual and easy for both the child and the parent. You simply place some dried pasta in a jar, and each time the child doesn’t listen to your instructions, you take one piece of pasta out of the jar. As soon as you take pasta from the jar, immediately give them a way to earn that pasta back. This allows them to act in a positive way and helps them to self-regulate. If they have all the pasta in their jar by the end of the week, then they get a reward! Simple!

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8 One-on-one time parent time is crucial

Having one-on-one time with your child who has ADHD is often something that can fill you with dread, but having that special time with your little bottle of pop can often be the thing that helps their behaviour. Don’t overthink it; this special time could be as simple as doing crafts together, taking the dog for a walk, or visiting the park. Try not to use this time as a reward for them; instead consider it essential “mental health” time. Even if they’ve had a particularly “bad” week and you feel like you don’t want to give them this special time, try and remember: the children who need the most love are often the ones who ask for it in the most unloving ways.

9. Give them a safe space

ADHD kids will often have more thoughts before breakfast than most people have all day, and in time, this could be their greatest gift, but when they are young it can send them into sensory overload! While going to a friend’s house to play or meeting friends at a café or restaurant might seem like nothing to you, to them it can seem like the end of their world. Allowing yourself to see who they and accepting it will help you in these moments.

Be honest with family and friends that you may not always be able to attend dates, and don’t apologise for this. You have a different type of child who needs to be nurtured in a different way. When you see that your child is overwhelmed, encourage your child to go to his or her safe space. It could be their bedroom (this is why it’s great not to use this space as a punishment room). It could be a den that they have made, even under the table – but it will allow them to self-regulate once again. Trying to get them to conform will often end in disaster for the parents.

10. Choose Love

ADHD kids can be hard to love, but at the same time they are often very intuitive, and they know when people don’t like them. They will feel disapproval from their parents too, and the more they feel this, the more they will rebel! Being mindful of how you talk to them and how you speak about them (when they are in earshot) will affect their self-esteem so much. Low self-esteem in children causes them to be anxious, which can then supercharge their ADHD. Their impulsivity, hyperactivity and inattentiveness will then be on steroids, and it will become almost impossible to parent them. Showering them with love (even on bad days) won’t breed spoilt children with attachment problems. It will instead raise their self-esteem and give you a happier, more compliant little human.

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Instead of thinking about all the negative aspects of ADHD, we need to think about the positives. We need to imagine Mozart composing his symphonies or Dali and Picasso drawing their masterpieces. We need to think about Jim Carrey and Robin Williams making people laugh, Steven Spielberg and Walt Disney creating some of the most iconic movies of all time, and David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue Airlines, making positive changes in the aviation industry. All these people not only had ADHD, but better still, they had someone who believed in them. Someone like that one man who could see not only the ripples in the water but the ships themselves. ADHD kids are hard to parent, but with a little compassion and understanding and a truckload of patience, they can become the most awesome humans! We could be holding the key to the success of future writers, musicians, artists, actors, athletes or entrepreneurs – let’s be the ones who help them achieve it!

Featured photo credit: Jason Rosewell via unsplash.com

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Susy Parker

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Published on April 18, 2019

An Expert Parenting Guide to Dealing with Toddler Tantrums

An Expert Parenting Guide to Dealing with Toddler Tantrums

My daughter who is now seven, was two-and-a-half years old when we visited an indoor playground. I vividly recall her complete meltdown and tantrum when I said it was time to go home. She threw herself with full gusto onto the padded floor of the play area and began to wail with tears streaming down her face.

At the time, I had twins who were about six months old. I had already loaded them into their car seats and snapped the car seats into the stroller. I was ready to head home and get everyone down for a nap, so I could nap as well. At that moment when my daughter began to wail, I felt like I wanted to cry too. Short on sleep, hungry, and with my hands full with three children ages two and under, I was feeling overwhelmed.

When my toddler’s meltdowns had happened at home, I didn’t feel overwhelmed or flustered. However, when this particular meltdown happened in public, which became the first of many, I wanted to cry, or make her somehow stop her tantrum, or just hide from the dozen or so people watching this situation unfold as their sweet children played happily on the indoor climbing structure.

I tried to reason with my daughter. That didn’t help at all. If anything, that made her wail even louder causing some eyebrows to go up around me. I could almost hear them thinking “can’t she control her child.” My response would have been “well obviously I can’t!” Nobody said a word to me though.

When the reasoning didn’t work, it led to me pleading with her to get off the ground and walk to the car with me, so we could have a nice lunch at home. I then tried to bribe her. I said if she went to the car, I would give her candy. I had remembered that there was a sucker in the side door of my car from the pediatrician’s office that I hadn’t let her have the day before. I probably would have given her $100 in that moment. I just wanted the tantrum to stop.

She continued with her wailing, thrashing on the ground, and crying for several more minutes. Nothing I was saying or doing was working. In the end, I picked her up and put her under my arm and carried her surf board style out of the building while pushing the double stroller with my other hand. Another parent held the door open for me. By this point, I could see other parents were feeling sorry for me in this situation.

After this public meltdown and a few more later that week, I started to read up on toddler tantrums and how to handle them. I found techniques that worked! It may not necessarily ease my embarrassment when they happened in public, but I learned how to handle the tantrums in the best way possible to simply get through the toddler tantrum stage.

We may not be able to eliminate all toddler tantrums, but we can learn ways to minimize them. Below are helpful tips for all parents of toddlers.

Ignore the Tantrum and Don’t Give in!

Your toddler is throwing tantrums because they are looking to get your attention or get something they want. More often than not, they are doing it because they want something.

In my daughter’s case, she wanted to stay at the playground longer. If I had given in and let her play longer, I would have been teaching her that if she has a temper tantrum, then she gets to stay longer.

Never give in to the child. You are reinforcing their tantrum throwing behaviors when you give them what they want. For example, if you are out shopping and your toddler throws a fit because they want a candy bar at the checkout, then giving them the candy bar to make them quiet only teaches them to have a tantrum the next time you are in a store — your child now knows that they can get the candy bar if they have a tantrum.

Don’t give in to their tantrum by giving them what they want, even if it is something small and inconsequential to you. If you have said no, stand your ground. Caving in and giving your child what they want when they have a temper tantrum reinforces the bad behavior. You will end up with a child who throws even more tantrums because you have taught them through cause and effect that tantrum throwing gets them what they want.

Do Nothing

Your child needs to learn that temper tantrums get them nothing. Some children do it because they are seeking attention. Give your child attention, but not while the tantrum is happening.

If you recognize that they are throwing temper tantrums because they want more attention from you, then make an effort to give them attention at a later time, when they aren’t throwing a tantrum.

When the child is in the midst of a tantrum do nothing, say nothing, and ignore their tantrum.

I learned very quickly that in the case of my daughter’s public tantrums, I could get them to stop by continuing to pack up our items and move toward the door with the intention to leave. I didn’t respond to her tantrum. Continuing my actions let her know that I was serious and I was leaving the building. It was amazing how she would quickly pick herself off the ground and sprint towards us, fearing that she would be left behind.

I never left my children anywhere, but if needed, I would go outside and stand on the other side of the glass door, watching her and simply waiting until she finished her fit and was ready to get up and come home with us.

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When she learned that her tantrum did not get her what she wanted and that she got even less attention from me while she was doing it, her behavior changed.

Avoid Trying to Calm The Child

Instinctively, we want to soothe our child and go to them to try to calm them down during a tantrum. This is not effective with temper tantrums, especially if they are doing it for attention.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, make all efforts to avoid calming the child down. If they are doing it for attention, then you are rewarding the temper tantrum by giving them attention. It communicates to the child that a tantrum will get your attention.

Solve the attention problem after the tantrum by spending quality time engaged with your child. However, don’t give them attention, even by trying to simply calm them, during the tantrum or you are reinforcing the bad behavior.

Warn Them in Advance

I also learned to be proactive in situations where tantrums had happened previously. I began giving my daughter a five minute warning at the playground. She was told on each visit to the playground when she had five minutes left to play and that we would leave immediately if she complained or throw a temper tantrum.

This was a warning that I gave very clearly every time we went to a playground. I always said this in a firm, yet kind tone “You get five more minutes to play and then we have to leave, if you complain or throw a tantrum then we have to leave immediately.” This worked amazingly well!

Letting them know what is expected is what kids want.

Keep Them Safe

If the child is a danger to themselves or others, for example, because they are throwing toys across the room during their tantrum, then physically remove the child and take them to a safe and quiet spot for them to calm down.

Some children need to be held so that they don’t harm themselves. Holding them gently, yet firmly, because they are hitting themselves, pulling their own hair, or slamming their body into walls, is important to do immediately when you see any self- harm take place.

Hold them and tell them you will release them when they have calmed down. Say it gently and with empathy while holding them just firmly enough so that they cannot harm themselves or others.

There is no need to be aggressive or squeeze the child in this process. Take action calmly, but with the intention to cease their harmful activity immediately.

After the Tantrum

Acknowledge that the child has complied by ending their tantrum. Giving a praise such as “I am glad you calmed down” will help to reinforce the ceasing of the bad behavior.

Not rewarding their tantrum is crucial in this process. If you give in and give them what they want and then they stop the tantrum, you are thereby praising them when they don’t deserve the praise because you gave into what they wanted. In doing this, you are defeating yourself.

Don’t give them what they are throwing the tantum about. For example, if it is because they want a certain toy and another child has that toy, then do not give them the toy because of the tantrum.

Praise them for stopping the tantrum once they calm themselves down. If they finish with their tantrum and you haven’t given in to what they were asking for, then praise them for calming themselves.

For example, if they have completely calmed down and the other child is now done with that toy, then you can give it to the child when they are completely calmed. Have them practice asking for the toy nicely. Let them know they get to play with the toy because they asked nicely, they aren’t throwing a tantrum, and because they have completely calmed down.

Get Professional Help if Needed

If you feel like your child’s tantrums are excessive or you are having difficulty handling the tantrums, then talk to your child’s pediatrician. They may be able to guide you.

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There are also medical reasons that can cause a child to throw tantrums more often. For example, they may have speech problems and they are frustrated that they cannot communicate with words what they want to express. This frustration can turn into tantrums.

Chronic pain or an underlying medical condition can be causing the child distress and discomfort which can lead to tantrums as well.

If you feel that the temper tantrums are beyond your ability to handle as a parent, or you feel that there may be some other reason for the continued tantrums, then speak with your child’s pediatrician.

Tips to Avoid Tantrums

There are some practical parenting methods that parents and caregivers can utilize that will help to diminish the occurrence of toddler temper tantrums. These tips may not entirely eliminate tantrums, but they can help to minimize them for occurring.

Giving Choices: The Love and Logic Model

Love and Logic parenting methods[1] are golden. In this method of parenting, it is taught that parents should give their child choices every day, all throughout the day.

Allowing the child to make choices gives the child a sense of control. For example, allowing a decision for which book to read at bed time whereby the parent offers two choices that they don’t mind reading. Another example is offering them two options of outfits to wear in the morning.

The parent chooses two options that are both acceptable and allows the child to make the final decision on which outfit they want to wear. This decision making helps the child feel that they have some control over their life.

When children are told where to go, what to do, and how to do it, with little or no flexibility they will act out. That acting out often comes in the form of tantrums with toddlers. They are at a phase where learning to be independent is part of their development. If their independence is completely crushed because they aren’t allowed to make any decisions, then they will act out.

Create Decision Making Opportunities

As parents and caregivers, we can create opportunities for decision making all throughout the day. By presenting options, all being acceptable to the parent, the child feels empowered and has a sense of independence that is natural in their developmental phase.

If you are experiencing tantrums daily and you have a controlled home environment, yet you can’t quite pinpoint the problem, try giving more choices to your child. They can’t tell you that they want choices and are working on developing their independence.

Developmentally children are seeking to become more independent little humans during the toddler phase, and offering them choices helps facilitate that need for independence.

Trying out choices will help them feel like they have some control of their life and activities. However, if the choices lead to tantrums because they don’t like the options presented, then you let them know that those are the options and if they don’t chose, you will have to choose for them.

Follow through and make the choice for them, if they continue throwing a temper tantrum. Don’t reward their bad behavior by allowing a choice. Take away the choice in that circumstance and moment in time because of the tantrum.

When it comes time to offer a decision later in the day, perhaps for example, offering them juice or water with their lunch, remind them that if they throw a tantrum, then you will make the decision for them.

Be Calm and Consistent

Be consistent in your parenting. When you give in to a tantrum one day by, for example, giving them the candy bar at the checkout to make them stop crying and the next time you yell at them, you are confusing your child.

By remaining calm, telling them what is expected, and following through each time they are on the verge of a tantrum or they are throwing a tantrum, you help eliminate the tantrums.

Consistently ignore the tantrum until they have stopped. Do not give in. Remain calm and do not yell or raise your voice. It makes things worse when you get heated in the midst of their tantrum. Count to ten or one-hundred if necessary.

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If you must remove the child from the situation, do so calmly and without berating them. Don’t give attention to the temper tantrum, other than praising them when they calm down on their own.

Ignore the actual temper tantrum while it is happening. This doesn’t mean leave them alone. You don’t want them to harm themselves or others, so stay close, but act unfazed by their tantrum.

Distractions

Your child may have some triggers. You may already be fully aware of what they are. It could be leaving the playground, going past the toy section while out shopping, or taking away items that are not safe for your child to be playing with.

Whatever the trigger may be, you can distract your child creatively and thereby avoid a temper tantrum. You have to remember that this temper tantrum phase is just that…a phase. You have to ride out the phase, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try to avoid the tantrums using some creativity.

If you know that the back of the store where the toys are located will lead to a tantrum, then avoid that section of the store. If you know that your child likes to play with your phone and you don’t want them to play with your phone, but taking away the phone leads to a tantrum, then get creative.

Be prepared with a different object or toy to distract your child. Have this toy in your purse or in the car, so that you keep the child content, avoid the tantum, and without sacrificing your phone. Maybe you have an old flip phone in a junk drawer. The next time you are out doing errands and your toddler tries to reach into your purse for your phone, which is in the cart next to them, simply remove the purse and hand them the old flip phone.

If they throw the phone because it’s not the one they wanted, then put it away and say “I’m sorry you didn’t want it, now you won’t have anything to play with.” Teach them that their bad behavior won’t get them what they want. Try the flip phone another time (at a later time and different circumstance) and remind them that they don’t get your phone but they can have this phone, which is now theirs.

Act excited about the phone you are giving them, while also letting them know that if they throw it, you will put it away in your purse like you did the last time.

Be creative about distractions. They may not all work, but at least you tried something different. When you do find something that works, for example, you sing a little song to distract your toddler when you have to take away something they shouldn’t be playing with, like an extension cord or the dog food, then keep doing it.

When you find a distraction that works, keep using it until it no longer works and then try something new.

Ensure They Have Plenty of Sleep and Food

Children tend to act out when they are hungry or tired. If your toddler is not getting enough sleep at night, they will be prone to temper tantrums. If your child is having a tantrum and you realize that they are badly in need of a nap, then when they have calmed down, get them home and in their bed for a nap.

Toddlers are highly reactive when they haven’t had enough sleep or they are hungry. Toddlers are not equipped with the skills to express how they feel. When they are tired or hungry, it makes them upset, but most of the time they aren’t able to express that they are tired or hungry, instead anything can set them off into a temper tantrum.

Keeping toddlers on a good sleep schedule and keeping them feed every couple of hours, meaning meals with healthy snacks between meals, will help to minimize tantrums that occur because they tired or hungry.

Give Attention through Quality Time

Some temper tantrums occur because the child wants attention. It would be great if your toddler could approach you and say “I need some attention from you, I am feeling distant from you, so I need to you spend some quality time with me today.” Toddlers won’t say much, if anything at all. Instead, they act out.

Temper tantrums are often the easiest and quickest way to get adult attention. You can help to prevent this from happening by spending time with your toddler.

Get on the floor and play with their toys alongside of them. Read them books at bedtime. Give them hugs many times a day and let them know that they are good boy or good girl and that you love them very much.

These small actions throughout the day help your child know that you notice them. It is those moments of pointed, quality time and attention that keep their need for attention satisfied.

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Praise Positive Behaviors

If you fail to praise the positive behaviors, you may end up with a child who acts out and has tantrums so that they can get a reaction and attention from you.

Negative attention is better than no attention in the mind of toddler. Give them positive feedback and praise when they do something good.

Perhaps it was sharing a toy with a friend at the playground, they put a puzzle together on their own, or they adequately washed their hands before meal time. Whatever the small act was, if it was something you can praise them for, then say it. It will help them feel loved and that your attention is on them for that moment.

When you do this all day long, you are giving them positive feedback and reinforcing good behavior. It is a win-win situation.

Help the Child Better Communicate

A toddler’s vocabulary is limited. They have a hard time telling you what they want, even when they know exactly what they want. Perhaps they want juice, but that word isn’t in their vocabulary yet.

Sometimes asking your child to show you what they want can help bridge the lack of vocabulary. Tell the child that if they can’t tell you, they can try to show you what it is that they want. Let them know that you care and want to know what they are trying to express.

Tantrums often come from toddlers because they can’t express themselves or they feel that their parents aren’t trying to understand them. Again, it goes back to feeling ignored or lack of attention.

If you can see your child is wanting something, but you don’t know what it is exactly, don’t just brush them off and move on because you could likely be setting up the situation for a toddler tantrum. They get frustrated and temper tantrums is how they let it out.

If they do start the tantrum, let them have their tantrum, ignore it; once it is done, seek to help them communicate and assist you in understanding what it is that they want.

Final Thoughts

Temper tantrums are not a pleasant experience for parents, but are nonetheless a normal part of toddler development.

Most toddlers will have tantrums between the ages of one and three. Some extend beyond that age as well. The frequency of tantrums varies from one child to the next.

There are ways for parents to handle the temper tantrums that help to eliminate the behavior rather than reinforce the bad behavior. Ignoring the child during their temper tantrum is one of the best techniques to discourage temper tantrums.

There are also parenting behavior that can help reduce or minimize the occurrence of toddler tantrums. Some of these parenting behaviors include spending quality time with their child, praising good behavior that the child exhibits, and ensuring that the child gets plenty of food and sleep.

There is no magic cure for temper tantrums. They are part of the developmental process and a phase of life that toddlers go through.

The key for parents is to create an atmosphere where tantrums are minimized and positive behaviors are reinforced.

Featured photo credit: Mike Fox via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Love and Logic Parenting Methods

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