Tantrums are a totally normal part of child development and can be a way for toddlers to communicate their frustration or disappointment. They can be triggered by the smallest or most ridiculous of things and sometimes seem to come out of nowhere. Some children seem to have them all the time, while others have very few. And some parents find themselves treading on eggshells or adapting their own behaviour to ensure they avoid things kicking off, especially when they're out.
6 Reasons Why Toddlers Have Tantrums:
Lack of communication skills: Your toddler may not have the verbal skills to express their needs or wants, which can lead to frustration and tantrums.
High expectations: When your toddler was a tiny baby, they were completely depending on you, but as they have grown they have gradually learnt new skills that will eventually lead them to become independent. While they are learning these skills you have to provide all they need, and this often turns into all they demand. As your baby grows into a toddler, these demands can grow into unreasonable expectations that can't always be met and this can lead to tantrums.
Limited ability to control their environment: Your toddler is just starting to develop a sense of independence and may feel frustrated when they are unable to control their environment.
Difficulty regulating emotions: They are still learning how to manage and regulate their emotions, and may have tantrums when they feel overwhelmed or upset and are unable to self-soothe to become calm again.
Fatigue or out of their comfort zone: Your little one may have tantrums when they are tired or somewhere that is unfamiliar, as these situations make managing their emotions more difficult.
Attention-seeking or learned behavior: In some situation, tantrums are simply a way for your child to get your attention, because it something they have done before and it has worked.
8 Tips To Help Stop and Prevent Tantrums
Prevent tantrums by setting clear boundaries for your toddler, and consistently enforcing them. This can help your toddler feel more secure and understand what is expected of them. Be sure to explain the boundaries clearly, using positive and age-appropriate language, and try to be consistent in enforcing them. Explain natural consequences of what will happen if they push the boundaries, such as, "If you go out without your shoes, your feet will get very cold, as it's the winter and it's raining."
Help your toddler express their feelings by giving them words to describe what they are feeling. They may not have the verbal skills to express their emotions, so helping them find the words to describe their feelings can be helpful. You can say things like, "I can see that you're feeling angry right now. It's okay to feel angry, but you must not hit as that hurts."
Provide them with some choices as this can help them feel more in control. Instead of always telling them what to do, try giving them a few options to choose from. For example, you might say, "Do you want to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt?" This can help them to feel like they have some control over their environment, which can reduce the likelihood of a tantrum. However, if you give them too many choices, they could feel overwhelmed and this could lead to more tantrums, so you need to get the balance, and only give choices that they can cope with, and only a few each day.
Give your toddler plenty of positive attention and praise for behaviour that you want to encourage. When they are following instructions, being kind or helpful, be sure to give them lots of positive attention and praise. This will help reinforce the good stuff and encourage them to continue doing these positive things.
Stay calm and try to empathize with your little one's feelings, even if you don't agree with their behaviour. It's important to remember that tantrums are a normal part of child development, and your toddler is still learning how to manage their emotions. By staying calm and trying to understand their perspective, you can help your toddler feel more understood and supported. Acknowledge and accept their emotions by saying, "I can see you're feeling very cross. It's okay to feel cross. I would feel cross too if that happened to me."
Avoid giving in to tantrums by giving them what they want when they are kicking off. This will only reinforce the tantrum behaviour and teach your toddler that they can get what they want by having a tantrum. Instead, try to stay firm and consistent in your boundaries and rules.
If a tantrum does occur, try to remove your toddler from the situation and give them time to calm down. This can be especially helpful if the tantrum is occurring in a public place that could be making them feel overwhelmed. Once your toddler has had a chance to calm down, you can try to understand why they were feeling and behaving in that way and you can help them understand how to communicate in a different way so that you can help them to feel more comfortable. You might say something like, "I know you were feeling angry when you hit your sister, but you must not hurt her. It's important to find other ways to express our feelings, like using words or taking a break to calm down."
Demonstrate ways to calm down by doing it yourself when you get cross or frustrated. Say, "I'm feeling cross because you just hit me so I'm going to go into the other room to take some deep breaths and listen to my music to help me to calm down. I'll be back in a few minutes." It is important to ensure your toddler is somewhere safe, or keep an eye on them while you calm down. They will learn from observing this behaviour, and it will strengthen their ability to self-soothe, preventing tantrums.
Remember that tantrums are a normal part of child development, and it's important to be patient and consistent as you work with your toddler to manage them. With time and practice, your toddler will learn how to express their feelings in more appropriate ways.
If you're struggling with your child's tantrums and you would like some support, you can book in for one of our home or online consultations. Just fill in the contact form at the bottom of the page and we will give you a call shortly.