Why do Temper Tantrums Happen and How to Soothe Your Toddler?
While temper tantrums are not the most pleasant thing about raising a child, they still occur and are a healthy part of your toddler's development.
You might see your child scream, throw themselves on the ground, and shake, kick, run away, hold their breath, vomit, or even break things.
Yes, this sounds horrifying, but temper tantrums happen for a reason. It's a way for a child to express the built-up emotions they can't communicate verbally.
Toddlers are still in the early social, emotional, and language development stages. Of course, they won't be able to express themselves verbally, creating a barrier to delivering their needs and feelings. They learn to behave in a certain way to influence parents or caregivers. The suppression of emotions or inability to communicate will eventually become a temper tantrum.
We're talking about toddlers here, but sometimes, older children have tantrums as well. It happens when they haven't learned safe and healthy ways of expressing their feelings.
As parents and caregivers, we're responsible for teaching our children how to deal with their emotions and express them; So that they can grow into emotionally healthy adults.
So why do temper tantrums happen?
We already talked about built-up emotions, but we also know temper tantrums are more likely to happen in certain situations and states:
- Temperament and sensitivity - Children who are more sensitive or react quickly to changes in the environment are more likely to get temper tantrums.
- Tiredness and hunger - Along with tiredness and hunger, overstimulation and stress can affect a child's condition.
- Wanting something - This can be your child wanting to get a toy or something else. Toddlers often have trouble coping with such situations while unable to express themselves.
- Strong emotions - Fear, anger, and shame can be overwhelming for young children.
All the factors we listed above can affect a child's mood and state. They often seek independence but need reassurance, help, and affection from their parents. This can create an internal conflict, resulting in a tantrum.
When should I worry about toddler tantrums?
While temper tantrums are natural occurrences, sometimes they can become problematic. Tantrums usually last from two to ten-fifteen minutes. But violent outbursts that last longer than fifteen minutes and occur often indicate that the child is in constant distress. This is the time when you should talk to your healthcare provider.
How to handle a temper tantrum when it happens?
There's no one way of handling tantrums, but we've got a little list of things you can do when your child gets frustrated:
- Make sure that the environment is safe for your child and others - Temper tantrums can get violent. And even if we're talking about a two-year-old baby, they can be a handful when shaking and kicking.
- Reassurance and comfort help toddlers calm down - By reassuring your baby, you're showing them that you understand their feelings. Stay calm, keep your baby close, and offer them some comfort.
- Try using 5 calming down steps - For children aged 3-8, calming down strategies can work well. Pause, help them identify the emotion, name the emotion, help them calm down, and discuss the solutions to their frustration.
- Find a distraction if you can - This is handy when you see your child getting frustrated but hasn't blown into a full temper tantrum yet. Direct their attention to something interesting or engage them in a different activity.
- Get in on it and make it a game - This sounds paradoxical, and that's what childhood development experts usually call this method. Give your child permission to scream louder; let them scream out their emotions and even playfully compete with them.
What not to do during a tantrum
- Don't threaten or argue with them - Try to stay as calm as you can, and don't argue with your toddler. Further frustration may lead to extended tantrums. You can talk to your child later when they're calm.
- Don't give in to the demands and ignore the tantrum - This might sound difficult when you want to calm your screaming child, but giving in might lead to them learning that screaming can get them what they want. Ignore the tantrum and try calming them down instead.
- Don't bite or kick back in response - Responding might sound like a great idea since it should teach children that their violence may hurt people. But instead, they learn that it's an acceptable behavior since the parent is also doing it.
What happens when the temper tantrum is over?
You did it! Your baby is not screaming or kicking, and they look a bit calmer than ten minutes ago. The temper tantrum is over, and now you can sit down and address the issue:
- Acknowledge their feelings - Let them know that you care about their frustration and understand how tough it can be. Use a calm, reassuring voice when talking to them.
- Talk about emotions and label them - Toddlers don't have a broad vocabulary and can't name their emotions as well as adults do. Give them an example and tell them, "Oh, I see you're angry right now."
- Teach your toddler how to handle difficult emotions - Five calming down strategies can be helpful when you decide to do this. But keep in mind, that this is a long-term process and needs patience from your side.
- Don't forget to set a good example - Children copy their parents and address issues as presented. Set a good example and show them how you handle difficult situations healthily.
How to help yourself calm down after a temper tantrum?
Good job! Your baby is calm, and they can safely continue whatever activity they like to do. Now it's your turn to calm down and process what happened and how you handled it.
When temper tantrums happen, it can be seen that the child is in distress. They're screaming, biting, kicking legs and arms, and throwing things around. Parents are equally distressed, but it's less noticeable in the heat of the moment.
You're not a bad parent for being unable to soothe your child every single time they express frustration this way. They're tiny little human beings with limited language, social, and emotional abilities. They'll grow into healthy and functioning adults soon, but meanwhile, you can work on yourself and your well-being.
Here's how to take care of yourself after a tantrum and how to prepare for the next one:
- Be organized and prepared - Tantrums are no fun, but they still happen, so you need to have a plan on how to address the next temper tantrum. Devise a plan according to what helped during the previous tantrum and how your child responds to different strategies. Be prepared and execute the plan when you see a tantrum coming.
- Ignore people who give you dirty looks when your child is screaming their lungs out - Yes, the noises can be disruptive and irritating, but that's how children function. The people who give you dirty looks have either never had a baby or have long forgotten how challenging it is to calm your toddler down.
- Remember, you can't control your toddlers' emotions - You can only guide them and help them during frustration.
- It takes time, don't give up - As we already mentioned, children grow out of temper tantrum age and grow into healthy adults. Give it a little time and patience.
- Use calming down strategies on yourself - If you feel overwhelmed, tired, and frustrated after listening to ten minutes of screaming (understandable), you can use strategies to calm down. Do breathing exercises, identify your emotions, and reassure yourself.
We'll keep reminding you that temper tantrums are normal during toddler years. Yes, they're frustrating but don't worry, children grow out of that age soon.
Remember to keep your baby safe and close to you, and take care of your mental health as well. We hope these tips help to cope with the challenging experience of tantrums.