What is a tantrum?
A tantrum is the expression of a young child’s frustration with the challenges of the moment. Perhaps your toddler is having trouble figuring something out or completing a specific task.
Maybe your toddler can’t find the words to express his or her thoughts or feelings. Whatever the challenge, frustration with the situation might trigger anger — resulting in a temper tantrum.
Consider this: Most toddlers have a limited vocabulary. Parents might understand what a toddler says only some of the time. Strangers understand even less. When your child wants to tell you something and you don’t understand — or you don’t comply with your child’s wishes — no doubt you will have a tantrum on your hands. If your child is thirsty, hungry or tired, his or her threshold for frustration is likely to be even lower — and a tantrum more likely.
Strategies to reduce tantrums
There might be no fool-proof way to prevent tantrums, but there’s plenty you can do to encourage good behaviour in even the youngest children.
- Be consistent. Establish a daily routine so that your child knows what to expect. Stick to the routine as much as possible, including nap time and bedtime. It’s also important to set reasonable limits and follow them consistently.
- Plan ahead. If you need to run errands, go when your child isn’t likely to be hungry or tired. If you’re expecting to wait in line, pack a small toy or snack to occupy your child.
- Encourage your child to use words. Young children understand many more words than they’re able to express. If you’re child isn’t speaking clearly yet, look out for cues. The more easily your child can communicate with you, the less likely you are to struggle with tantrums. As your child gets older, help him or her put feelings into words.
- Let your child make choices. To give your toddler a sense of control, let him or her make appropriate choices. “Tell me, would you like to wear your red shirt or your blue shirt?” “,Today, would you like to eat strawberries or bananas?” “Would you like to read a book or build a tower with your blocks?” Then compliment your child on his or her choices. Remember to keep the choices limited, otherwise it’s just information overload.
- Praise good behaviour. Offer extra attention when your child behaves well. Give your child a hug or tell your child how proud you are when he or she shares toys, follows directions, and so on. Let your child catch you role modelling this type of behaviour.
- Use distraction to change your child’s focus. If you sense frustration brewing, try to distract your child. Suggest a new activity or change location. Say something funny or start singing a favourite song.
- Avoid situations likely to trigger tantrums. If your child begs for toys or treats when you shop, steer clear of “temptation island” full of eye-level goodies. If your toddler acts up in restaurants, make reservations so that you won’t have to wait — or choose restaurants that offer quick service.