Understanding and managing temper tantrums

Whether your child has lots of them, or thankfully not many, temper tantrums are an almost inevitable part of children’s development. Mostly caused by frustration (either with you or with the way the world works), tantrums are a normal part of your child developing growing independence. Which all sounds well and good, but it doesn’t feel that way when you’re standing over a screaming child in the middle of the supermarket! What (if anything) can you do about tantrums?

We’ve teamed up with Children’s Panadol to provide you with lots of quick and helpful information covering many aspects of children’s health and development. We hope you’ll find them a great resource as you take care of your family every day.

What is a temper tantrum?

Your toddler may scream, kick, throw themselves on the floor, bang their head, or even hold their breath.

What causes a temper tantrum?

A tantrum usually results from the child’s frustration at not getting what they want, or not being understood because they can’t express themselves well enough yet. It’s easier to accept if you understand that it’s purely a display of frustration. They’re trying to learn how to do it themselves; they’re not deliberately being naughty. Tantrums are a normal part of being a toddler. Toddlers are developing their independence and trying to gain control over what they do. “No – me do!” is a common statement.

Avoiding tantrums

Some tantrums (not all!) can be avoided if you head them off early enough. If you can see your child’s frustration building, try to distract them with another activity.

Take the time to teach them how to do something (but do not do it for them). For instance, if you decide to take their spoon away because they’re making a mess, and they throw a tantrum, try a different tactic. You could give them food they can pick up easily with a spoon, together with some finger food, rather than feeding them yourself.

Managing tantrums

Here’s a checklist for getting through those times when you don’t manage to avoid a tantrum:

  • Make sure your child is safe.
  • Stay calm – don’t hit or shout at them.
  • Ignore their behaviour – walk away. (But stay close enough to ensure their safety.)
  • If the tantrum is over in a few minutes, give them a cuddle and go on with what you were doing. Don’t talk about it.
  • If the tantrum doesn’t stop, then say you want them to stop by the time you’ve counted to three. Count slowly, out aloud. If the tantrum continues, try to pick them up gently, and take them to their room. Tell them quietly that when they’ve finished the tantrum – they can come out. There may be times you need to close the door.
  • If your child is too distressed to control themselves, or you feel they are not safe, then sit on the floor and hold them gently against you so their back is against your chest. This helps them to contain their emotions. Hold them gently until they can start to calm themselves.

The good news is that this stage will end as your child learns about their boundaries and becomes confident in their abilities.

This is an excerpt from The First Five Years, which is a handy and easy to navigate book, specifically developed to help parents. It contains a comprehensive collection of practical parenting information and useful tips for your child’s first five years. If you’ve ever wanted a quick guide to refer to in the middle of the night, or to help you decide when it’s time to see a doctor, this is a resource which will help you on your way. You can view it online or download it for free at The First Five Years.

(This is a sponsored post for Children’s Panadol)

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