Find out why toddlers usually throw tantrums and learn how to deal with them when they do.
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:
Tantrums are normal
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?
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, he/she enters 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 mom, 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 attention you can give them.
Is your toddler Tired?
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.”
See next page for more possible reasons behind your toddler’s tantrum…