4 Tips to Minimize My Child’s Tantrums
Was your first thought reading the title of this article that “this article is way too good to be true?” You may be right! However, a tantrum is a NORMAL and EXPECTED part of toddlerhood. Let’s focus on minimizing them.
Your toddler’s tantrums are a sign of healthy brain development. A toddler’s brain is exploding with activity and striving to understand everything they are experiencing. That includes putting their shorts on as a shirt in the morning and choosing the specific song to listen to. They have a lot of decisions to make to assert their independence.
To make the process even more exciting, the part of their brain responsible for naming emotions, impulse control, thinking, reasoning, and logic is not close to being fully developed. It is called the prefrontal cortex and it is not fully developed until we are 25!
Our toddlers are expressing all of their feelings through whines, screams, and bodily movements. Even though this is normal and means our child is developing well, why does it make us as parents feel like we are doing something wrong?
The most important thing we can do as a parent is to ensure our child feels safe, both physically and emotionally. Here are a few tips to convey that:
Get on Their Level
Bending down and looking our children in the eye at their level changes the dynamics: we are now their equal. We are no longer seen as threatening, unlike when we stand high above them.
Rather than looking up to be reprimanded, meeting our children where they are can de-escalate their tantrums immediately. Research shows that when children feel overwhelmed their brains make a shift into survival mode and anything that may be received as powerful may be seen as a threat. As the parent, you hold all the power (even though we may not feel like it). By lowering our body to their eye level, we allow our children to feel safe and improve their ability to regulate their emotions.
Too Much Talk
When children are melting down, this is not the time to teach them or attempt to negotiate with them. Their brain is in survival mode. They are not able to manage their emotions and are unlikely to learn something new at that moment.
During this time, validate your child's feelings and focus on empathizing with them and what they are experiencing. When your child is having a tantrum, using reasoning and logic is not reasonable or logical!
Instead of using this time to attempt to diagnose or solve the problem, use this time to connect with them and allow them to feel understood. Ways to do this include: identifying and validating their feelings, and staying present.
Whatever you do, stay calm. Do not bring your own emotions into the situation. This can be tough, as we are dealing with our own problems in the day to day whether we just got home from work or missed our morning coffee. When we meet our toddlers' chaos with our own emotions, an escalation between us and our child begins. Engaging makes our toddlers' tantrums bigger and last longer.
The strongest tool you can give your child is meeting their big feelings with a calm and confident disposition. At the moment, it may be helpful to scan our own bodies during a meltdown. We need to notice our own feelings and how the tantrum is making us feel.
By identifying our own feelings, we can acknowledge and breathe through them or utilize another coping skill that works for us. In these challenging moments, we must remember we cannot control our child, we can only control ourselves and our reaction.
Remember: Self-care is so important and serves as a preventative factor when we need to stay calm during a challenging toddler tantrum. Taking care of ourselves and having “me” time allows us to better respond at the moment to these tricky situations. Taking a yoga class, going for a walk, or a nighttime bubble bath can go a long way.
Give A Choice
Toddlers want more than anything to be independent and in control. They are just beginning to experience so many new and interesting things about the world and nothing is going to stop them! Providing opportunities for toddlers to make decisions and use their voice is not only something they will love but a way to connect and build your relationship with them as well. Giving choices can also help them develop problem-solving skills and learn to work collaboratively.
When giving choices, stay within these two guidelines: age-appropriate and closed-ended. Age-appropriate means they do not decide when bedtime is or what is for dinner. But they can have a choice of what pajamas to wear or which cup they prefer. Closed-ended means not allowing the choice to be open-ended. Make sure to pick two choices that you are comfortable with.
Once a choice is made, make sure to follow through. Your child must see that their choice and their voice have meaning and power.
Parenting a toddler is tough. By using these 4 tips, you are guaranteed to get through the tough times a little easier. Thankfully, we are all in this together. Let me help guide you through this process. After we work together, you will truly feel like you got this!
I invite you to call me for a complimentary consultation at 954-391-5305. I offer counseling for children and coaching for parents at our beautiful Coral Springs office and via telehealth for teenagers and their families. If you want to learn more about my approach, click here.