Temper tantrums can be a significant cause of stress for both parent and child. In the moment, it can be difficult to know what to do, especially if you’re in a public place like the park or grocery store, and you feel like all eyes are on you. There’s no way to plan for a tantrum, but there are tips you can use to face the situation at hand calmly and confidently. In this quick tip, we’re sharing what not to do during a toddler tantrum so you can feel more equipped to handle the scenario when it arises.
It’s important to remember that you’re not a bad parent because your child is crying and throwing a tantrum. That outburst of anger and frustration is a normal part of children’s development as they learn to process and express big emotions. It’s typically never a reason to panic or a cause of concern. Your job as a parent is to help them develop the skill of emotional processing, communication, and healthy or acceptable expression.
While tantrum experiences can be challenging to navigate, in this quick tip episode, we share things you should avoid to prevent the situation from spiraling out of hand.
Table of contents
Common Causes Of An Outburst
There are some main culprits that result in little fits of fury. Toddlers that are handling fatigue or hunger and need a mental break can often be grumpy. A nap or offering food or a snack can cheer them up and keep the infamous temper tantrum at bay. Other causes of outbursts include not getting what they want, such as leaving the park or mall sooner than they’d like, frustration, avoiding doing something they don’t want to, and wanting attention.
What Not To Do During A Temper Tantrum
Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind during a toddler tantrum:
- It’s important to stay calm during your child’s meltdown. If you lose your temper or start yelling, it’ll only exasperate the problem and become the model for your child on how to react to uncomfortable situations. As the grown-up, the best course of action is to lead by example through calmness and composure.
- Depending on the reason for the tantrum, it may be best to ignore the bad behavior to avoid children learning it’s an effective strategy to get attention or their way. You should try not to go back on your word or cave to your child’s demands, helping them understand throwing themselves on the floor or screaming won’t make you bend to their will. Otherwise, it’ll become harder to get their disruptive behavior under control. In particular, preschool-age children tend to throw tantrums when they’re not getting their way, making standing your ground or ignoring unhealthy expressions important.
- It’s also important not to invalidate the feelings your toddler is experiencing. While they don’t quite have the logical reasoning we do, they’re at an age where they’re learning how to process and verbalize emotions. Often, empathic conversations with them and asking them how they feel can diffuse a tense situation. Children like to feel understood. It’s also a parenting opportunity that teaches them about emotions, giving them words and ways to communicate what they’re experiencing. Have a conversation with them about what they’re feeling and why.
- While you shouldn’t reward their bad behavior, it is important to give them a treat to reinforce their good choices, like calming down and managing their reactions in an acceptable way.
If you notice a tantrum coming on, but it hasn’t turned into a full outburst yet, try offering a distraction like a toy, going on a walk, or offering some kind of entertainment. This could get ahead of the problem before it becomes a full-blown traumatic experience.
Normal Tantrum Behavior
Again, temper tantrums aren’t a sign of bad parenting. There isn’t some magic skill or secret only you don’t know about when it comes to preventing those anxiety-inducing outbursts. The most important thing is to remain calm and collected. Most tantrums are done and over with within 2 to 15 minutes. During that time, your child’s behavior could include:
- Crying and screaming
- Kicking, hitting, or biting
- Making their body go limp or stiff and refusing to move
- Flair their arms and legs
- Even breath-holding.
More serious signs of a potential concern or disorder include violent outbursts or distress that last longer than 15 minutes, and behavior that’s a danger to the toddler themselves or people around them, such as excessive force or holding their breath for several minutes until they pass out.
Behavior that you can’t control or change after an extended period or is dangerous to your child and toward your family, it would be wise to speak to your pediatrician or a psychologist who can do testing and diagnose any underlying conditions or mental disorders that could be impacting how your child is behaving.
Safety is paramount for your child, and those you love, and therapy may be an excellent option to help them in managing or processing negative emotions. Medical care may be available that can treat conditions like anxiety that may be causing your child’s excessive reactions to their circumstances.
Coping with an angry toddler can sometimes feel overwhelming, leading to feelings of embarrassment, frustration, and really impacting your mental health. It’s important to take care of yourself, too. Seek out a community that can support you and have a support system in place, like being able to call a friend to talk about what you’re experiencing. Practice mindfulness to ease anxiety or stress. Your mental health matters, and if you’re healthy, you’ll better be able to take care of your child.
And, of course, you don’t have to handle temper tantrums alone. Your primary care provider is there to support you and can offer in-depth answers about child development that could explain the adverse reactions you’re dealing with.