We all throw tantrums. Right from an infant to an adult. What happens when someone who had committed to the deal, backs off in the last moment?
You would feel frustrated, angry and betrayed, right? And what you would do instantly with these emotions are that you would call them up furiously and say words that would equal their behaviour.
When as adults you aren’t aware or have been taught to regulate your emotions in a healthy manner, it would be unfair to expect a toddler or a young child to behave good all the times.
Usually toddlers receives more than they ask for. Be it – attention from everyone around, toys to play, regular meals etc.
And what’s important to understand as a parent is why does a toddler throw tantrum in spite of being pampered and loved all time?
A toddler often throws tantrums when:
a) they are hungry, stressed, tired and over-stimulated. These make it harder for them to manage their behaviour and express those feelings.
b) they are too young to verbally express their needs and emotions, so they feel throwing a tantrum is the only effective way of communication as it quickly and strongly gets the attention of the care takers.
c) there is a situation where a child does not know how to cope up with. For example, when a toddler is playing with a toy and another child takes it away from him.
Also, at times I find it playful to tease my son by taking away something that he is playing with for few seconds. And he immediately starts throwing his legs and hands in the air to get it back from me. And when I asked my friends if they had done something similar, they all invariably said,
“It was fun to tease and a joy to watch these tiny souls do everything in their power to get what they want and we would finally give them what they wanted”.
And so if you repeatedly carry this behaviour of playing with your toddler, teasing them temporarily for your momentary joy, they will start to learn that tantrums are quite effective as they receive attention and also their demands are met.
Research says that mind works the way it has been wired. And especially young children (infants & toddlers) are quick to absorb and learn what behaviour works the best for them. So if you give into their tantrums, you are unconsciously paving a challenging journey ahead both for you and as well as for your child.
Regulating, managing and expressing emotions in a healthy way is something that a child primarily learns by seeing how their parents do. So if you get angry, impatient and irritated when your child doesn’t listen to you when you ask them not to jump on the sofa, you will find your children getting angry, impatient and irritated when you don’t listen to them when they ask you to buy that expensive toy in the toy shop.
So when a toddler throws a tantrum the few things you could do are:
a) make a judgement when your child doesn’t want to do something. For example, when your toddler has been sitting inside the bath tub for a long time and isn’t ready to come out of it, you can drain the tub so she now has no water to play with instead of forcefully pulling them out.
b) remain calm – most common parenting advise yet it’s one of the most challenging ones. But if you want your child to stay calm you need to show them how to stay calm. So, if your toddler is throwing a tantrum, you need to show him how gentleness can soothe and calm the big emotions. When you speak, keep your voice calm and level, and act deliberately and slowly.
c) distract them just as they start to throw a tantrum. Toddlers don’t cling onto something for a long time. So, distraction works beautifully. When my 1.5 yo son is enjoying climbing the small ladder and after sometime we try to get him off the ladder, he fights back. We sure can use some physical power but that’s going to make him throw a big tantrum. So, we distract him to with a new object that he finds peculiar, so he sits down and curiously starts playing with it.
According to Potegal’s research, the average tantrum lasts about three minutes. So, I suggest you add 10 more minutes to it and refrain yourself from falling into the trap of anger.
I have tested and experienced this with my 1.5 yo son and it definitely works almost all the times. And I suggest that you test this 3+10 minutes mantra and do let me know what the results of your experience.
Finally, beware of thinking that your child is throwing a tantrum on purpose or is trying to upset you. Children don’t have tantrums deliberately – they’re stuck in a bad habit or just don’t have the skills right now to cope with the situation.
Do share in the comments below of your thoughts about this article and also if you have any new idea to add to the list to help support more parents and care takers in dealing with children tantrums in an emotionally healthy way.