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Managing a Temper Tantrum Effectively!

Posted by Karen Faulkner on
Managing a Temper Tantrum Effectively!

I've been doing a few visits to toddlers and their families recently and the topic of tantrums and how to manage them has cropped up a lot!

Toddler tantrums as the name suggests are age specific. A tantrum at the toddler age is normal whereas a tantrum in an older child/adult is not!

Tantrums are extremely common among children aged 18-36 months.

They come in all shapes and sizes. They can involve spectacular explosions of anger, frustration and disorganised behaviour (when your child ‘loses it’). You might see crying, screaming, stiffening limbs, an arched back, kicking, falling down, flailing about or running away. In some cases, children will hold their breath, vomit, break things or get aggressive as part of a tantrum.

Tantrums occur most often when children are tired and hungry so keeping to regular mealtimes and sleep times are really important. You might find that a healthy mid-afternoon snack can reduce the evening tantrum.

It is important to ensure that your child is getting enough sleep. If tantrums and meltdowns are occurring many times a day that is an indicator of too little sleep. A one year old to three year old will need an afternoon sleep of 1-2 hours but go by mood. If they wake up from the day sleep still cranky then maybe a little longer sleep is indicated.

Look at their diet as well. Low glycaemic foods will reduce energy dips that can exacerbate tantrums. Examples of low GI foods are basmati rice, pumpkin, sweet potato, quinoa, porridge oats, pulses, beans and lentils. Adding a sprinkle of cinnamon to cereals can help regulate sugar levels in the blood. Colourings and additives in food and cordials can increase the risk of tantrums. A lot of parents report that red smarties create issues with hyperactivity and tantrums in children.

Temperament can increase the incidence of tantrums. Type A/strong personalities and shy children can have more tantrums than a more placid natured, easy going child. I see a lot of strong-willed children and whilst parenting them can be challenging at times I find them very interesting. Try and turn it around and think of their temperament as a positive thing. These children will most probably become the leaders of society and business!

Sharing toys can create issues if an older child takes a toy away from a younger child who developmentally cannot understand the concept of sharing. And remember there are some adults that have issues sharing! BLOG: Learning to share

How you manage a tantrum is important.

There are different approaches and you will know by your childs' temperament which is the best approach for dealing with them.
  • Make sure they have regular meals and good quality sleep to reduce the incidence
  • Monitor triggers for tantrums and try and distract the child if you see one developing
  • Try and ignore the tantrum if it has blown up. The more you pay attention to it the more it will escalate. Ignoring is an excellent Psychological concept for minimising behaviours Read my here:.BLOG: How to get rid of irritating behaviours
  • Stay calm whilst your child is having a tantrum. The more angry and upset you become, the more it will escalate.
  • Another method of dealing with tantrums in younger children looks at holding your child in a firm embrace. You will know if this is the way you want to go or whether you prefer the ignoring concept. The Australian Psychologist, Dr Louise Porter uses this concept and calls it 'Bringing the child in close'.
It is useful to monitor tantrums and situations when and where they are occurring. By identifying triggers you can reduce the tantrums. Also look at your behaviour as a parent/caregiver, you may be feeding the tantrum by how you interact with your child.

It is useful to give less instructions to your child - choose your battles wisely. By giving too many instructions we are bombarding them with too much stimulation which can cause them to tantrum more. Remember less is more. Here's my blog on how to give instructions in a way that works BLOG: How to get your child to comply with your instructions

Praise good behaviour, however try and use labelled praise e.g. 'good job, Amelie for putting your toys away in the box' rather than empty praise 'good girl or clever boy', empty praise doesn't achieve very much. I covering this in another blog linked to here: BLOG: The mistake you're making when using praise with your kids

The 5 minute rule can reduce tantrums as it prepares the child for a change in activity.

In older children you may want to use quiet time or time out as a way of managing tantrums especially if they are linked to dangerous behaviour/safety issues. Here's my guide to using this effectively: BLOG: How to manage naughty behaviour using time out

And after all that its really important as a parent to keep your sense of humour. Laughter will get you through your day and the toddler years

Many of the blogs mentioned in this article are linked to below

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