Monday, 20 August 2012

Surviving toddler tantrums

Dexter is nearly 17-months-old now.  He's a lovely, funny, chatty, relaxed (most of the time) little boy...with the most amazing ability to throw the most dramatic tantrums ever.


The term, "terrible two's" is misleading.  It lulls you into a false sense of security that these toddler tantrums won't begin until your child actually turns two-years-old.  But, as any parent to a child older than this will tell you, that is categorically not true.

Every parent will have a different experience, but from mine, the "terrible two's" started when my children were generally about 14-months-old.  It began gradually, building over time to a crescendo which I'm still to experience with Dexter.  I only know there will be a climax and then things will get better, because I've been there once before with Sophia. 

So there 's my first tip for surviving toddler tantrums - keep the end in sight and take heart in knowing they will grow out of it.  To give you a rough timescale based on my experience (and please remember that every person's experience is bound to be different), I've found that this stage of a child's life can generally start between 14 and 18-months-old and continue for roughly 12 months.

I believe these tantrums are borne of frustration more than anything else.  Toddlers want to be more independent but there will naturally be certain things they won't be able to do yet (and I think this is especially for true for younger children with one or more older siblings - they tend to want to copy them and do the same things).  Toddlers also want to tell you what they want, but their grasp of language still isn't developed enough.  And of course, they're forming opinions and trying to express them, as well as a natural testing of the boundaries you set in place as they try to understand their place in your family.

But, even though we know all this, it's still a frustration for us parents isn't it?!  I know that when Dexter (or when it used to be Sophia) is in the middle of a full-blown meltdown, it's so difficult to know what to do for the best.  You're torn between standing your ground or letting them have what they want to save your sanity, if nothing else!

Here are some tips (based on my experience) on how to survive these toddler tantrum years:

This phase won't last forever

As I've already mentioned, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.  Remembering this can help get you through.

Be firm but fair when it comes to what you will and will not let them do

Are you stopping them from doing something because you believe that's what is best for them or because it's the end of a long day / you're at your wits end / feeling grumpy / wanting to prove a point about who's the boss (delete as appropriate)?  It's important to be firm with children and draw boundaries but they shouldn't be stopped from doing something solely because you're not in the mood (it can be hard and I know I've been guilty of this before).

Stick to your guns

The main reason for the tantrum will be to manipulate you into changing your mind.  Stand firm and don't let the tantrum sway your decision.  If you give in once, they'll know exactly what to do to get you to change your mind again.

Don't lose your temper

Responding to a screaming child by shouting will just escalate the situation and tantrum even further, and prolong the misery for both child and parent.  Stay calm and talk to them in a low, stern voice.  If you need time to calm down, leave the room and count to ten.  It really can help.

Ignore it

It's much easier said than done but as well as trying to get you to change your mind, tantrums are also a useful tool for toddlers to get your attention.  If you ignore it, tantrums are likely to pass much more quickly.  Give them the attention they're after and this will be tactic they may use over and over in the future to get your attention.

Remove them from the situation to calm down

If they're getting themselves increasingly worked up and upset, it can often be useful to take them away from whatever it is that caused the tantrum.  For example, if you're at home and they've kicked off about something in the kitchen, you could take them to their room.  If you're out shopping, take them out of the shop you're in and stand with them while they calm down.

If they'll accept it, give them a cuddle

Sometimes they won't want to know because they'll be in a mood with you, but at other times they could well appreciate a cuddle when they're upset.  You don't have to give in to their demands, but a bit of empathy and a nice big mummy or daddy hug can help soothe them.  This definitely helps if you're out and about, they've seen something they want but can't have and you've had to take them out of the shop to calm down.

Of course, you could always try to play them at their own game.  The next time they throw a paddy, why not do the same?  I've not tried it but would love to see the look on my children's faces!

How do you cope with toddler tantrums?  Do you have any other 'survival' tips?

1 comment:

  1. This is great advice. Thank you so much for sharing. I have been literally at my wits end this week and although I think I try to do all of the above it is helpful for me to see it all spelt out clearly. It reinforces what I thought was right. Thank you x

    *Grits teeth and heads back into the fray*.


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