Preventing Temper Tantrums

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Let’s face it, it’s easier to prevent your child from throwing temper tantrums than it is to calm a child already throwing a temper tantrum. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” was probably coined by someone with toddlers. When talking about tantrums, truer words have not been spoken!

Prevention is key if you want to minimize toddler tantrums. Unfortunately, you probably won’t avoid tantrums all together. Toddlers are learning and growing at such a rapid rate that there will be some rough patches. Luckily, parents can work to reduce the frequency of tantrums. Here are a few tips to help:

1.Have a routine: Your child will feel more secure when they know what to expect. A routine doesn’t have to be complicated or monotonous! You don’t need everything planned perfectly but make it somewhat predictable. This helps prevent temper tantrums that come because your child is surprised! If your child knows they always take a nap after lunch time, they won’t be shocked when you start laying them down. If they always clean up toys before bathtime, they won’t feel as frustrated when it’s time to put a favorite toy away. Just add a simple routine (especially a routine around areas your toddler is having difficulty with) to help prepare them for what’s expected.

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2. Make sure your child’s needs are met: It’s obvious, but still incredibly important. If your child is tired or hungry or has been sitting in a dirty diaper for a while, they are just more likely to have a meltdown. It is hard sometimes to keep a toddler from being hungry (they often snack more than adults) or tired, especially if you are running errands. Remember to bring healthy, toddler-appropriate snacks with you, so they can eat something while you’re away from home. Also, try not to cut into nap time too much, or your toddler may have temper tantrums. And of course, if they are in a diaper, keep it fresh!

3. Tell them what is coming next: You’ve got a general routine, but this day won’t be an exact replica of the one before. The best way to keep your child calm is to explain what is coming next. Surprise and confusion can often bring on tantrums. A toddler may not understand everything you say, but if you say it simply and repeat it, they should grasp some of it. For example, if your toddler is going to the doctor after lunch you could say, “We’re going to eat lunch and then Mommy (or Daddy) and _____(toddler’s name) are going to go to the doctor. The doctor is going to check ____(toddler’s name)’s eyes, and nose, and tummy…” etc. Repeat this a few times throughout the day. Same thing applies for any situation your child might need a warning about. What toddler likes to leave the park? So before it’s time to leave, give them a warning! For example, “I will push you in the swing 10 more times and then it’s time to go bye-bye. Okay, so when I say 10 it’s time to go. Ready, I..2.. 3…etc.. okay it’s 10. Now it’s time to go!” Use a calm voice, a very reassuring voice. You’ve got to let them know what’s happening in a way that also shows them you have confidence in them that they can handle it! If you don’t want to baby-talk your explanation that’s fine, it does help with some children.

4. Give attention and affection daily: Most people give their cars tune-ups, this tip is like giving your child a tantrum-preventing tune up. Children seem to be able to handle life better when they’ve had that quality time with mom or dad. Play blocks with your toddler, read with your toddler, eat dinner with your toddler, clean up toys with your toddler. Give them positive praise. When you help them feel good about themselves and show them they will get your attention without a meltdown they won’t feel the need to throw temper tantrums as often to get it.

5. Praise every step in the right direction: If yesterday your child threw a huge fit when it was time to put his/her shoes on and this morning went great, say “I’m so proud of you for putting your shoes on without throwing a fit today. Good job!”. Anytime you see improvements, focus on the good and show them how happy you are with them! This seems to work so much better than focusing on the bad and showing them how upset you are with them. Your happiness helps calm them down (anger does not have the same effect). Also, you are showing them they are capable of doing things right! And what toddler doesn’t love feeling like they can do something right?!? Double up on the praise at this age and you will see them enjoy making the right choices.

6. Set Expectations: You are already letting your child know what’s coming up next, now just remember to also set expectations. It’s easy really, just say something like this: “Tonight we are going to eat at a restaurant. Mommy needs you to stay in your seat when we eat. So you have to sit down at dinner, no standing up, no walking around, no screaming. Gotta sit down. Gotta talk soft.” You can say it without the baby-talk if you prefer, but let them know what you want from them in a calm voice and every few minutes repeat yourself again. You can’t expect a toddler to understand social rules. You have to tell them, calmly and patiently, and in a way they can understand. Let them know you believe they can do it, and after the event talk to them again. Tell them something like this, “_____(child’s name) did so good at the restaurant. You ate your food, you sat in your seat, you were quiet! Good Job!” Let them know that you notice when they meet your expectations. With expectations, your child understands what s/he should do in a situation and this can definitely help prevent temper tantrums!

Remember, you can help prevent temper tantrums. When you stick with a routine, keep your toddler’s needs met, let them know what’s coming, give plenty of good attention and praise, and set expectations you are setting your child up for success. And that success should mean fewer temper tantrums!

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