Tantrums... All moms with kids ranging from one to three years old know all too well what it means to deal with a child who throws a tantrum, especially if it's happening in public. These fits of anger aren't pretty at all -- the child can be crying, screaming, kicking, falling down, or trying to run away from their mom. It isn't the most fun thing in the world to witness, and it's most certainly hard to cope with this situation. The funny (or not funny?) thing is a tantrum can happen over almost anything. A child may get upset because their meal doesn't look like they expected, because they think that their pants are too short, or because someone touched their favorite toy.
A lot of parents feel frustrated or upset when their toddler throws a tantrum, thinking that they're doing something wrong. In fact, even the most perfect mom's toddler will have at least one outburst. So, one might be led to wonder, "Then, what does being a good mom mean?"
The answer is simple: being a good mom, among other things, means knowing how to cope with a toddler's fit.
With that being said, behold the smart parent's guide to dealing with a kid's tantrum. It has everything a mom needs, from what she should do during the tantrum, to the methods she should resort to before and after it.
22 First And Foremost - Don't Allow Yourself To Melt Down
If your kid is having a tantrum, it can be incredibly difficult to remain calm yourself. But, however hard it is, remember that if you meltdown as well, you won't help your child become quiet and will only make things worse.
To be able to stay cool during a tantrum, you need to understand that it doesn't happen because you're a bad mom or because something's wrong with your kid.
"For children between 1 and 2, tantrums often stem from trying to communicate a need—more milk, a diaper change, that toy over there—but not having the language skills to do it," says Ray Levy, a clinical psychologist. "They get frustrated when you don't respond to what they're 'saying' and throw a fit."
So put yourself together and deal with the situation properly.
21 Don't Try To Calm The Kid Down
At a certain point in the middle of a tantrum, it's absolutely useless to try to calm the toddler down. Keep in mind that the tantrum happens because your kid is flooded with emotions, so it's impossible to reason them by trying to access their thinking functions. What's more, by doing trying to calm them down, you may end up upsetting your child even more.
If you don't know what to do during a tantrum, then do nothing. Make sure that your toddler doesn't hurt themselves or anyone around them and don't indulge their cries. This approach will work because the kid won't get a positive reinforcement of their tantrum and will gradually understand that it's not the way to communicate.
20 Ignore People Around You
For a lot of parents, public tantrums are the worst thing that can happen. All these people staring at you and thinking that you're a bad parent, because you can't calm your kid down (probably, they don't even think so, but you're sure that they do)...
But, wait a minute? Who cares about them? Are they some kind of committee that decides what kind of mom you are and how your child is going to grow up? No, they aren't. They are just some random people you see for the first and, probably, for the last time in your life.
Yes, at the moment they might be giving you some bad looks, but the next minute they turn away and forget all about you.
And even if they do judge you, it means that either they've never had kids, or dealt with a toddler such a long time ago that they've forgotten what it's like.
19 Speak Softly
When someone's yelling at you, it's a normal reaction to yell back. But normal doesn't mean proper, especially when it comes to a yelling child. Remember the golden rule of dealing with a tantrum: the louder the kid yells, the softer you must speak.
If you speak softly, your child will eventually have to match your tone. Besides, if you yell back, you'll only frustrate them more.
Try offering them options, such as whether to sit on a couch in a living room or to go to their bedroom. If the lack of control was the reason of the outburst, giving some simple choices can help your kid to come back to senses.
18 Try Blake Lively's Way: Compromise
Blake Lively, the mother of two girls, 4-year-old James and 2-year-old Inez, certainly knows her way around toddlers and has certain tricks that help her put an end to her their tantrums. She shared with E!News that one of the things she does is making compromises with her daughters.
"She [James] wanted to wear jellies, and I was like, 'It's 20 degrees outside. You can't wear jellies,'" Lively shared. "We don't argue over taste. For me, it's just practical. You wear Uggs when it's 20 degrees, and when it's warmer, you can wear strappy jellies. So I put the jellies in my purse so she could transition into them indoors."
What a wise decision!
17 Understand The Reaction
Again, always remember that your toddler throws a tantrum when they're frustrated or upset.
Besides, since they're only learning to handle their emotions, even the slightest disagreement can lead to an outburst.
Be ready for it when your child is entering the toddler years because there's no way you'll get through without even a single tantrum.
Your toddler might also be frustrated when they need your help in something because they want to affirm their growing independence. In this case, a tantrum can occur, if your kid fails to tie their shoes and needs to ask you to help them. It may sound sad, but it'll pass, as soon as your kid learns to do more things on their own.
16 Use Body Language
Now it can be a surprising advice, but it actually works very well!
Specialists say that since toddlers have a limited vocabulary, sometimes they can't tell you what they want because they can't link the word and the object. In this case, sign language may help.
Melanie Pelosi, a mom of three from West Windsor, New Jersey shares what she does when her 2-year-old daughter freaks out, "I say, 'Show me what you want,' and then I see if she'll point to it. It's not always obvious, but with a little time and practice, you begin to communicate better.
If she points to her older brother, for example, that usually means that he's snatched something away from her, and I can ask him to give it back. I can't tell you how many awful, drawn-out meltdowns we've avoided this way!"
15 Notice The Links
As you already know, tantrums don't come out of nowhere. To understand their nature even better, you should watch your child's reactions to everyday situations.
Does your kid throw a fit when they're hungry or sleepy? Do they do it, while in a store or at a cinema? Or, perhaps, their meltdowns happen at the same time every day?
All these things are not coincidental. They are the situations that trigger tantrums and, being a wise mommy, you should avoid these triggers. "Feed them, water them, and let them veg -- whether that means putting them to bed or letting them watch a little TV," specialists say. After all, remember how cranky you can become when you're hungry or sleepy.
14 Motivate To Behave
Don't forget that positive reinforcement is very important and, sometimes, do it in advance. For example, if you know that your kid is likely to have an outburst during a long and boring meal at a restaurant, motivate them to behave beforehand.
"It's about recognizing when you're asking a lot of your child and offering him a little preemptive [incentive]," nurse practitioner Linda Pearson says. "While you're on your way to the restaurant, for example, tell him, 'Alex, Mommy is asking you to sit and eat your dinner nicely tonight. I really think you can do it! And if you can behave, then when we get home I'll let you watch a video.'"
Since it's done on your terms and in advance, this kind of motivation is perfectly fine!
13 Try Drew Barrymore's Way: Keep Bubbles At Hand!
Drew Barrymore is another famous mom, who knows what to do if her toddler is acting out. A mother of two daughters (6-year-old Olive and 4-year-old Frankie), the actress says that she uses toys to make things get back to normal. Once she shared the simplest, strategic, and most awesome tip how to thwart a screaming fit...
"Summer toddler tip: keep bubbles on hand. You cannot tantrum if you are breathing and you cannot blow bubbles without breathing. You can't tantrum while smiling and you can't catch bubbles without lots of smiles. Quick distraction to get back to calm," the actress stated, according to PopSugar.
The genius lies in simplicity, right?
12 Stay Calm And Smile
How you behave during your toddler's tantrum defines whether they'll calm down soon or throw even more fits.
Since you obviously strive for the first option, don't show that you're upset with your child's behavior.
"Kids, even very young ones, are smart," Alan E. Kazdin, professor of psychology and child psychiatry says. "If you get angry or stressed or cave in and let him get his way just to end the meltdown before more people start staring, he'll learn that—aha!—it works."
In this case, the best thing to do is put on a Mona Lisa smile and pretend that everything's just fine. Besides, if you look calm, you'll look better in the eyes of people around you and it should give you some more strength.
11 Change The Venue
At times, the best way out of a tantrum is to change the setting. "It's also a great strategy when you're out and about," Levy recommends. "If your child starts melting down over a toy or candy bar he wants, pick him up and take him either to a different area of the store or outside until he calms down. Changing the venue really can change the behavior."
So just snap your child out of the situation and take them somewhere else. It can serve as a great distraction for them because they'll see something new and will probably forget about the reason for their fit.
10 Don't Accidentally Reward Tantrums
It's very important to make sure that you don't accidentally reward your toddler's tantrums. For example, if they throw a tantrum over a toy they want, the last thing you should do is give them that toy. If you do it, the kid will understand, "Hey, it works! I should try it some other time!" With that, the next tantrum won't be far down the road.
Keep in mind that pleading with your child or shouting at them is also a kind of reward. Your kid wants attention, you give it to them (no matter, negative or positive), and they begin thinking that their fits of anger are working.
9 Distract The Attention
Distracting your toddler's attention is one of the best things to do during a tantrum. It works especially well, if you try to distract your child at the beginning of a tantrum, or when it's only starting to form.
There are a few key strategies you can try to distract your kid, according to Parenting For Brain.
First, offer them a choice. For example, if they say they don't want to eat, don't force them, but offer to eat their rice or salad first.
Second, give them a toy. Keep in mind that it shouldn't be the one, over which they're throwing a tantrum. And third, sing them a silly song. It will spur their curiosity and distract them from their negative emotion.
8 Try Jennifer Garner's Way: Be Consistent
Jennifer Garner knows that staying consistent is the key to win any tantrum. Since she's a mother of two daughters and one son, we can certainly believe her judgment.
In her interview with US Magazine, Garner shared a story about one of the tantrums thrown by her son. "My littlest one [Samuel] saw something he wanted. I had just said, ‘We’re not buying anything,’ and he threw a fit. The people at the store said to me, ‘Please let us just give this to you’ because he was so unhappy.
And I said, ‘I’m sorry that he’s throwing a fit in your store and you’re so sweet to want to give this to him. And thank you for asking me first. But he’s going to have to throw a fit.’ I said no. No is no... It’s not pretty. I don’t think that I’m always the best at it but I try my best to be consistent and for them to know what they can expect from me."
7 But Don't Punish, Either
Punishing the tantrum is a bad idea, as well. Remember that giving your child a timeout or leaving them alone to calm down are the last resort and you should use them sparingly when nothing else works. The thing is, if you punish or isolate your child for expressing their emotions in the only way they can at their age, it makes them lose trust in you.
They start to think that you can't help them in the moments when they're most upset and vulnerable.
It's better to stay around so that they know that you're there for them, but don't give them the attention that can work as negative reinforcement.
6 Just Wait It Out
You've tried everything and nothing works? Then just stop trying. There is a point in a tantrum, when no reasoning and no distraction will work, and the things will get back to normal, only if you allow your child to let off the steam.
Make sure that your toddler is in a safe place and even leave the room if you want (again, remember that you shouldn't do it every time during a tantrum). Come back in a few minutes to check on the kid and see that they calmed down a little bit.
It's even better if you stay with them, but make sure not to pay any attention to them for the time being.
5 Talk About Emotions
And since your toddler doesn't understand their own emotions, you're the one, who needs to tell them what's going on, when they are feeling bad and want to throw a fit. Name these emotions for them because they don't know these words and their meanings yet.
The best thing to do is talk over these negative emotions in detail after the tantrum is over. For example, you can say, "You were very angry because your food wasn't the way you wanted it. Let's see what you could do about it."
This way, you show your understanding of the situation and offer an alternative solution to a problem. Thus, you'll gradually teach your child to find a way to cope with their negative emotions in different situations.
4 Try Kristen Bell's Way: Kids Are Kids
Kristen Bell, a mother of two daughters, knows that kids are kids and that sometimes it's better to wait out a tantrum, without even doing anything. And it doesn't bother her, whether her child's tantrum happens at home or in a public place. She doesn't let this ordinary situation embarrass her.
"If my child is acting a fool in the grocery store, the embarrassment is on her. In truth, that shouldn't make me feel a certain way," the actress said. "She's going to act the way a child acts, and I'm not going to let that reflect on me or bring me down. That shouldn't make me feel ashamed or embarrassed in any way. Only you can make you feel a certain way."
The woman is a genius!
3 Know Your Child's Personality
Any toddler is likely to throw a tantrum once in a while, but some of them do it more often than others. It doesn't necessarily mean that they're spoiled or that you're bad at parenting. The reason can be part of their personality.
Your child's temperament defines how strongly and how quickly a child will react to certain triggers. If your child is more likely to get upset over a frustrating event, they're also more likely to throw fits than those kids, who are calmer in general. You should know your child's personality better than anyone and be aware of the things that might upset them.
2 Give Your Child A Hug
Sometimes, during a tantrum what your child needs the most is your love. So give them a big hug and tell them how much you love them.
"This may feel like the last thing you want to do when your kid is freaking out, but it really can help her settle down," Ray Levy says. "I'm talking about a big, firm hug, not a super cuddly one. And don't say a word when you do it—again, you'd just be entering into a futile battle of wills. Hugs make kids feel secure and let them know that you care about them, even if you don't agree with their behavior."
Hugs don't only work on the emotional level. Science says that hugging activates the calming system and triggers oxytocin, a feel-good chemical that helps regulate emotions. Isn't it what you need during a tantrum?
1 Take Steps To Prevent Tantrums
Wise people say prevention is better than a cure. Isn't it better to prevent a problem than to deal with it, when it occurs? Same with toddler tantrums - take steps to prevent them and you won't have to go out of your way to calm your kid down.
Experts recommend to set aside a separate time with your kid when you'll play with them and they'll have your full attention. Due to this positive experience, you'll have a great relationship foundation and your child will trust you more. Another good idea is to always point out good behaviors, even small ones. Also, start modeling healthy ways to deal with negative emotions, such as taking a deep breath.
Little by little, your kid will learn that there are better ways to self-express than falling down and screaming!