Calming the storm

toddler tantrum
toddler tantrum 

There's a reason they're called the terrible twos. The period between 18 months and three years can be challenging for both parents and toddlers alike. But while tantrums and other forms of aggressive behavior are not uncommon amongst small children, it is important to recognise what your child is trying to tell you.

Many young children throw tantrums when they are experiencing a range of emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, frustration and jealousy. Regardless of your child’s motivation, it is important for parents to help their children understand that tantrums and associated behaviours such as biting, pinching and hair pulling are not always acceptable and that there are better way to express their feelings.

Ways to Manage Toddler Behavior:

  • Make Sure to Use a Gentle yet Firm and Fast Response- When your child acts aggressively, unclamp your child’s hand or mouth, and say something like “no hurting”. Then, temporarily remove them from the situation, or move them away from the stimulus. It may take a few repetitions for children to understand that what they are doing is not allowed.
  • Consider the triggers- Sometimes children act aggressively because they are bored or seeking attention. If parents are able to recognize this then they may be able to target why the behavior is occurring, and deal with it accordingly.
  • Use positive reinforcement- Praise your child’s good behaviors.
  • Use feeling words- By assigning words to your child’s feelings or emotive states, they will eventually learn to identify how they are feeling themselves, by using such words. Although this may take a long time especially if your child is very young, eventually your child will be able to use these words to both describe and take control of their own feelings without resorting to violence.
  • Consistency- It is important not to give in to whatever your child was wanting which triggered the tantrum.
  • Use therapeutic tools like the Just Like When CardsI feel Angry or It’s not fair to offer and improve emotional literacy and self expressions.

What not to do:

  • While some parents may think that in order to get their child to stop a behavior they should show them how it feels by doing it to them, this is certainly is not the recommended approach to take. Parents should never bite, pinch or pull their child’s hair just to show them how much it hurts. Regardless of the parents’ intention, this is actually a form of child abuse and is punishable by law.

How to prevent tantrums from occurring

  • Make sure your child’s day is full of positive experiences
  • Try to avoid taking your child on outings when he is likely to get hungry or tired or always have a snack handy.
  • Distract her from potential tantrum triggers with a story or other activity she enjoys
  • Take note of events that trigger tantrums and try to understand what causes it.
  • Use tools like the Face It Cards to offer a visual support to explore feelings and emotions. This resource has been developed by the Quirky Kid Clinic and tested in the clinic and home setting.