Toddlers and temper tantrums are something that go together. The child is attempting to express their outrage at a complex world through these radioactive-like “melt-downs.” Parents are tasked with remaining calm and patient during these episodes. The toddler is striving toward a sense of independence, yet is far to young to understand that their safety may be at risk. What’s a parent to do? There are proven methods to redirect or distract the child without being punitive. These tips will help a parent get through these tumultuous years, only to face them once more throughout puberty.
1. Stop it before it starts.
Let the child know ahead of time what is going to happen. “Bedtime is in ten minutes.” or “You can have one more turn before dinner time.” In this way, the child is able to anticipate an event without being surprised by it. Talk with the child throughout an activity. For example, discuss the items that are being shopped for, what is for dinner, or the child’s day. In this way the toddler has more things to think about than becoming angry or frustrated.
2. Distract. Distract. Distract.
Fortunately, very young children are easily distracted. Put some rice or beans in a Pringles© can, replace the lid, and let the child shake it. Give the child a wooden spoon and pots and pans to bang on for a while. Flip through a magazine and point out the bright pictures. A picture book serves as a great, quiet distraction. Give the child a warm, relaxing bubble path and engage in water play. Take a nature stroll around the backyard.
3. Provide simple choices.
Letting a child make their own choices helps them feel more independent and in control. Limit the choices to only two things. Ask, “Would you like to wear the red or the blue shoes today?” The choice to go barefoot has not been provided as an option. Or say, “Do you want milk or apple juice for lunch today?” This eliminates soda as a choice. Instead of asking if he or she wants to wear shoes or a drink for lunch, be specific and limit the child’s options.
4. Stay calm and take a breath.
Dealing with a rising temper tantrum is difficult for any parent. Breathe and count to ten before confronting the issue. If a parent is upset, the child can pick up on the emotion and become easily frustrated. When it is safe, simply walk out of the room or walk outside. It may be preferable to place the child in his or her crib for a few moments, so you can collect yourself and calmly deal with the situation.
5. Allow the child to cry out.
Letting the child simply cry out his or her frustrations is a kind of release valve in this situation. This is especially true when the tantrum has not been stopped in time. Sometimes it is simply best to ignore the child and allow him or her to cry out the anger and frustration. Stay in the room, but walk a few feet away while refraining from making eye contact. You might try not talking to the child until the tantrum is over and then engage the child in an enjoyable activity.
6. Give a hug.
While it is possible that your toddler may be engaged in some unlovable behavior, a firm hug may be just the thing. Scientists say that a hug helps the child feel more in control. The step helps the child feel better in a time when they may be feeling powerless and unhappy. A simple hug is also a way to let the child know that it’s okay to get upset sometimes.
7. Offer a snack.
Being hungry or tired are at the top the list for a toddler having a blow-out. Provide a fruit cup, yogurt, or other healthy snack and allow the child to eat quietly. It’s a kind of time-out for both parent and child, as the child is allowed a little space to breathe or think things through. Often dealing with a temper tantrum need not be drawn out or complicated.