Sometimes you just don’t see a toddler tantrum coming. Sometimes, something they do every day becomes something worth throwing themselves on the floor over and no one really knows why!
Sometimes however, they are preventable and all it takes is being a little proactive and having some foresight. Often it is similar situations that occur that cause the tantrum, now I am no advocate of changing your entire life to suit your toddlers latest whim… but there are often very small adaptations you can make.
- Give your child choice. I don’t mean free reign to choose anything, but if the latest tantrum is about shoes, then offer two pairs and ask them to choose which they prefer. If you are already at the brink of a tantrum then you can still offer children a choice, ‘are you going to go on your scooter or hold mummys hand?’ (because sitting on the pavement isn’t really a viable option) or ‘are you going to help mummy choose the cheese in the supermarket? Shall we choose the red packet or the blue packet?’ Choice works as both a distraction technique and also prevents children from feeling trapped and dictated to. Children like to be able to exercise some control and this allows them to within the confines of what both fits in with your life and is safe. Always follow up with ‘good choice!’ Seb regularly congratulates me on my good choice so clearly I use those words a lot!
- Pick your battles. This is a tough one, you have to choose the things that matter most to you and work on those and then work backwards to the others; remembering that lots of experiences for toddlers are new ones.
- Be consistent. This is where picking your battles is tricky and why you have to plan a little in advance what matters most (this is the foresight we talked about earlier!) If you really want them to sit on their bottom through the whole meal then that needs to happen and there needs to be warnings and consequences when it doesn’t. (See my time out article here)
- Communicate. If you've read many of my articles, you may be noticing a theme here. Communicate to your child what it is you are asking them to do. Or ask them to use their words so that you can help them. Lots of toddler tantrums leave us completely bewildered as to where they came from. I often find myself saying 'I want to help you, but I can't if you don't tell me what the problem is.' This is really empowering for children, sometimes they are confused by the world they are in and they just need acknowledging that it is OK to do what they are doing. Of course if what they are doing is not ok, then refer back to the previous points!
- Stay calm. Admittedly, this is easier said than done. Tantrums often happen on days where you feel least equipped to manage them (this possibly is because we as mothers are tired from whatever sort of night we've had, so maybe haven't dealt with the moments leading up to this in the best possible way... but turns out, we are human too!) I find tantrums are most quickly resolved when I stay calm, using a stern voice without shouting, they are over much more quickly than when everything escalates to shouting. If you start shouting, you've got no where to go, so try and reserve it if you can.
Do you have any questions about toddler tantrums? Maybe there is an area you feel I haven't covered. Do let me know in the comments box below!