Is your toddler always throwing tantrums? What do you do when it happens? Maybe your first instinct is to stomp your feet and sit down on the floor and cry.
Fortunately, you know better. Throwing a tantrum yourself (because that’s what it is) isn’t an option, that’s for sure.
So what should you do then? First of all, try to understand where your child is coming from. In order to do that, let’s take a look at tantrums and why kids sometimes have them.
Temper Tantrums In Toddlers
Tantrums are fairly frequent in toddlers and often begin at around 18 months. Biting and striking are also frequent.
This is due, in part, to toddlers’ difficulty in expressing themselves despite their desire to do so. They experience frustration, which manifests as a temper tantrum.
Children are less likely to throw tantrums once they are able to communicate more. By age 4, tantrums are far less frequent.
14 Months Old Tantrums
Tantrums at 14 months old are your baby’s way of letting you know that they are ready to express themselves, so don’t worry.
Your child is capable of seeing and interacting with the environment in a completely new way by the time they are 14 months old. At this age, your child may be walking or even running.
An unrestrained fit of rage is referred to as a tantrum.
This might begin with whining or yelling and progress to include stomping feet, tossing things, and even biting!
Depending on the cause of the tantrum and the amount of pent-up fury your kid is feeling, these typically don’t stay long but can last up to 30 minutes.
Your youngster will most likely start throwing lengthier, more complex tantrums as they become older.
Depending on what they are attempting to say and how quickly their brain is digesting the intricate issues surrounding it, this will happen.
According to studies, babies with more brain development (smarter) throw more tantrums because they can grasp more than they can articulate.
Tantrums before bedtime are fairly typical because as your child grows more worn out and stimulated during the day, they will get more agitated and exhausted by the time they go to sleep.
Tantrums Are Normal
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The occasional toddler tantrum is completely normal. Throwing a tantrum is part of a young child’s growth and development.
The reasons behind them, which follow, are logical and understandable. However, the tantrum itself — the kicking, screaming or whatever else happens during its course — is obviously unpleasant.
So, as a parent, the key to dealing with tantrums is to get to the root of the problem — find out why your child is acting up and take it from there.
Why Is Your Toddler Throwing Tantrums
There are a number of reasons toddlers throw tantrums, most of which are simply expressions of other issues. Licensed marriage and family therapist Mauren Donly, MA, MFT suggests employing the HALT method to figure out why your child may be throwing a tantrum:
Is your toddler HUNGRY?
Being hungry is no fun — you should know. You’ve probably found yourself grumpy, too, when you’re hungry.
When it comes to hunger pangs, there are blood sugar issues to think of, too. The amount of sugar the blood carries to the brain to make it function properly goes through highs and lows between meals.
While these ebbs and flows are normal, drastic changes affect our moods significantly, so make sure your toddler is eating a balanced diet with healthy snacks between meals. Limiting junk food and processed foods to rare occasions will also reduce the “tantrum effect” foods can have on your child.
Is your toddler ANGRY?
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Anger can lead kids to blow up. Backtrack to figure out what happened before the meltdown. “Did something happen at school today that I don’t know about that is manifesting now in this meltdown?” muses Donly.
But even asking the questions can prolong the anger. So the best way may be to just let the child be and do nothing. Tantrums, as researchers have found, have a pattern and rhythm. Once the child is past the angry phase, they enter the sad phase, which is when they reach out for comfort and when we should finally be giving it.
“Understanding that tantrums have a rhythm can not only help parents know when to intervene, but also give them a sense of control,” says James A. Green, who co-authored a paper on children’s tantrums entitled, Screaming, yelling, whining, and crying: Categorical and intensity differences in vocal expressions of anger and sadness in children’s tantrums.
Is your toddler LONELY?
Sometimes though, young kids can also be anxious because they lack A-T-T-E-N-T-I-O-N, specifically yours.
Let’s face it: spending an hour or two at home in the evenings with your toddler underfoot is not giving them attention. If you’re a stay-at-home mum, spending your day immersed in housework and/or going out with your friends — with the kids tagging along — is not the kind of attention your child needs.
What they really need is for you to spend time with them face to face, one on one — playing, reading, talking, listening, etc. That’s the best kind of attention you can give them.
Is your toddler TIRED?
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If your child lacks sleep, a tantrum can most likely occur. Young children simply can’t cope with being too tired or fatigued — so they usually end up having tantrums.
To avoid this, try to stick to your child’s regular routine of naptime and bedtime. If possible, arrange your schedule so that these are not interrupted.
“Don’t worry about the content or whatever the transgression was or whatever triggered the meltdown. Go for, hungry, angry, lonely, or tired; and address that,” advises Donly. “Once everybody calms down, you can deal with whatever was the presenting issue later.”
Tantrums are not a toddler’s way of embarrassing you just for the fun of it. Most of the time a tantrum is the expression of hunger, anger, loneliness or feeling tired, as licensed marriage and family therapist Maureen Donly has pointed out. However, sometimes a tantrum could also be caused by the following:
Is your toddler not feeling well?
Your toddler doesn’t know how to tell you he has a headache — he doesn’t know what one is. Similarly, he doesn’t understand how to tell you he has a sore throat, his ears hurt or that he is aching all over.
So, if your toddler is having an exceptionally “off day,” do a little detective work. Ask questions and observe their behaviour so you’ll be able to deal with the real issue at hand.
Is your toddler fearful or anxious about something?
When a toddler’s home life is unstable or full of drama and trauma, the only way they can deal with it is to take it out on anyone and everything.
If you’re having marital issues, financial problems, illness in the family, relocating to another place, etc., make a consorted effort to keep things as normal as possible in your toddler’s routine.
Does your toddler have behavioural problems or health issues?
Children who have difficulty hearing, seeing or controlling their emotions are often scared. So their tantrums are actually cries for help.
Admittedly, there are some little kids who are more aggressive than others and are downright difficult to handle. But even these little darlings can and should be taught to express themselves more constructively and appropriately.
Is your toddler disciplined enough?
Of all the reasons for a toddler to throw a tantrum, this is the worst and the most difficult to deal with. Why? Because, for the most part, the resolution has to come from YOU!
You have to be the one to change your behaviour, as well as your reaction to your toddler’s behaviour. The tantrums of an undisciplined child usually are the result of:
- Confusion over inconsistent parenting. If they can get away with something one day and not the next, your mixed messages throw them into a state of chaos. And we all know how a toddler deals with chaos… by creating more.
- Several years ago, there was a parenting fad that basically said parents should allow their children to set their own limits; that they would know when enough was enough. I bet you can pick out the teenagers and young adults whose parents fell for that, right?
- “Over-parenting” is also a precursor for tantrums. Toddlers need to be able to explore and discover their surroundings, get a little (or a lot) dirty, make a few messes and wear their clothes backwards and their shoes on the wrong feet on occasion.
- As for yelling and nagging, these are telltale signs of a lack of discipline in your home — and poor modelling, too. Remember: yelling and nagging parents make for yelling and nagging toddlers.
Toddler Hitting Others
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Does your toddler hit you or other people? Learn the potential causes of this behaviour.
1. They are testing limits
Hitting has a common goal, like many toddler actions (throwing applesauce at your work blouse, yelling in a high-pitched voice in rush hour traffic), which is to push the boundaries of what is acceptable.
What would occur if I did this? All of these things are part of their learning process, such as realising that their sibling cries when whacked with a stick or that hitting their mother is not the same as beating on a drum.
2. They haven’t developed self-control
A toddler’s impulse control is essentially nonexistent when they are around. Without hesitation, kids use hitting to convey their feelings of frustration, happiness, or boredom.
The good news is that between the ages of 3 and 9, according to study, they begin to demonstrate favourable progress in this area (with more significant development in girls than boys in this area). The bad news is that, while you’re having trouble right now, ages 3 to 9 cover a rather large span.
3. They don’t understand it is bad
The fact that some infants use force without being provoked by others supports the theory that they are only curious and lack a moral compass or the capacity to grasp that doing harm to others is wrong.
When toddlers between the ages of 11 and 24 months hit other people, the youngsters were typically not in any kind of distress, according to research on this issue.
4. They don’t know how to process their feelings
Toddlers use hitting as a coping mechanism for their “huge” emotions, which is another reason why they attack others and themselves.
They are frustrated, but unlike an adult who could calmly express their frustration to a partner or close friend, toddlers frequently lack the language skills and self-control to pause, consider how they are feeling, and respond in a way that is helpful, socially acceptable, or suitable.
Toddlers may have wants, be upset, or believe they have been wronged in some manner by a friend. Let’s face it, you might want to hit them as well if someone tipped the enormous block structure you had been constructing for a half-hour over.
Why Is My Toddler Biting Me?
Why do toddlers bite?
Biting is a pretty typical toddler behaviour that can happen for a variety of causes, despite the fact that it can appear primordial. Attempts by toddlers to bite include:
- Be relieved from teething. Due to the discomfort of teething, your child may begin to bite or chew on anything in their line of sight, including your arm.
- Get a certain reaction. Your child may bite again to see what response he would get the next time if you say, “Ow!” afterwards.
- Express feelings. Toddlers may bite to express anything from displeasure to sensory overload to boredom to even affection when they are unable to express their feelings verbally.
- Demand attention. Your child might take a bite to signal, “Pay attention to me!”
- Satisfy their curiosity. Your child might bite to compare the flavours of your arm and your dog’s ear.
- Protect what’s “theirs.” Your child might bite if a friend at the park removes a toy before he’s through using it, so always guard what’s “theirs.”
How To Stop a Toddler from Biting When Mad
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Most young children will occasionally bite, push, or otherwise harm another child. Toddlers are inquisitive and might not comprehend that chewing or tugging their hair causes pain.
This does not imply that your kid will become violent as an adult. You can instruct your youngster that this behaviour is inappropriate in the following ways:
1. Never hit, bite or kick back
Your child can come to believe that doing something is okay as a result. Instead, be very clear that you won’t tolerate what they’re doing and that it hurts.
2. Talk to them
Children frequently go through phases of being sad or insecure and act aggressively to communicate their feelings. The first step in being able to assist someone is learning what worries them.
3. Tell them you love them but don’t like the way they act.
It’s possible that children are acting out because they want more attention. When they’re not doing badly, show them you adore them by complimenting their good behaviour and giving them lots of cuddles.
4. Encourage them to express their emotions in another way.
Find a large area, like a park, and let your kid run around and shout there. Your child will find it simpler to express their thoughts without hurting others if you let them know that you understand them.
You might try stating things like, “I understand you’re upset about… ” They will be able to identify and reflect on their own sentiments as well as see that you understand how frustrated they are.
How To Control Tantrums in Toddlers
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In reality, there is no one specific solution to your child’s tantrums. There is no one magic word or thing that works, but here are a few things to try:
This is a must! No matter how hard it is to be firm or how badly you want the behaviour to stop, giving in is not the answer. Of course, you need to consider all the other factors that may be the root of the tantrum, too.
Drawing their attention away from what’s upsetting them can easily stop a tantrum in its tracks. Toddlers have short attention spans so try to distract them with other things.
Say no to your toddler and walk away. If you’re not in a public area, walking off and not giving them an audience is highly effective. When they see it’s not producing the desired results, they’ll go another route. Once a toddler can carry out simple instructions, telling your toddler ‘no’ and then offering an alternative will probably do the trick.
You must first relax in order to calm your little child. Though it’s much easier said than done, this is the option that makes the most sense. Your toddler picks up everything from you and will correctly imitate your behaviour. Your kid will eventually be forced to behave similarly if you remain composed even in the face of really agitating tantrums.
When a toddler is removed from a situation and isolated for their behaviour, they will recognise that actions have consequences.
Remember, though, that a toddler’s attention span is short, so a “time out” of more than a couple of minutes only leads to more frustration. R
un back into the car if necessary to complete the task. It’s time to get the time-out chair if you’re at home. To help with accountability, some parents use customised timers so that the toddler can see how long they have left on.
Getting into a fight with your kid over petty rebellion is not always worth it. Sometimes it’s better to ignore the behaviour or check it again later.
Temper tantrums require patience to handle, and maybe you have a lot of other things to accomplish. Don’t be too hard on yourself if that is the case. Just make sure you win them 90% of the time when you choose your battles.
Be consistent as well. He’ll only remember it the next time if you give in after twice warning him to play with his own toys and not his smaller sister’s toys. Consistency is required, but you should choose your battles wisely.
How To Prevent Tantrums in Toddlers
While tantrums are a common occurrence in young children while they are learning to self-regulate, each single day does not have to be a power struggle. You can take the following actions to reduce the likelihood of tantrums happening:
- Assist your kid in comprehending their feelings. From the moment of birth, you may identify your emotions with terms like “happy,” “sad,” “cross,” “tired,” “hungry,” and “comfy.”
- Recognise the factors that can cause a tantrum, such as fatigue, hunger, anxiety, or overstimulation. You might be able to prepare for certain circumstances and stay away from the triggers, such as by going shopping after your child has taken a nap or eaten.
- When your child manages a challenging circumstance without throwing a fit, help them become aware of how this feels. I recently observed you rebuild that tower without being disturbed when it toppled, for instance. What was that like? Did you feel able and at peace? ’
- After a tantrum, when your child is quiet, discuss feelings. ‘Did you chuck that toy because you were upset that it wasn’t working, for instance? What other options did you have? ’
- Set a good example of how to handle stress. For instance, ‘I’m concerned that the traffic will cause us to be late. I’ll be able to maintain my composure if I take a few deep breaths.’
Toddler tantrums may be normal, but they don’t have to — and should not be — acceptable behaviour. Taking them for what they are, finding out what their “roots” are, and dealing with them calmly and effectively will help reduce their frequency and, hopefully, eliminate them altogether.
Updates by Matt Doctor
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