Stay Calm (That Means You!)
"Think of a tantrum as a safety valve that lets off steam when the pressure is too high," says Deb Kratz, family educator and coauthor of The Field Guide to Parenting. Seems simple enough, but find yourself in the midst of that steam and it's an entirely different story that often ends with both you and your child at the ends of your respective ropes.
Children between the ages of one and three are typically learning about themselves—especially their feelings. The emotions that complicate life for us are even harder to handle for toddlers whose vocabulary and self-control haven't yet caught up with their capacity for feeling those emotions. The end result is frustration—often taking the form of everything from crying and throwing things to kicking and breath holding.
Sometimes, knowing the specific causes of your child's tantrums can help to prevent them. In other words, figure out what factors bring on tantrums, then work to reduce those conditions in your child's day. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) suggests that many temper tantrums stem from valid issues facing your child. Here are some things to consider when your child suddenly falls to the floor kicking and screaming. You child may be feeling:
- frustrated at not being able to understand or be understood
- anxious or uncomfortable
- stressed (are there any changes at home?)
- jealous of friends or siblings
- discouraged from failed problem-solving
Having a tantrum is one of many ways each child is distinctly different. Keep track of what's causing tantrums for your child, then expect to work hard at arming yourself with all kinds of ways to handle them.
Leave the room, or count to 10. Leave the room and then count to 10, if necessary. Whatever it takes, the key to handling a tantrum lies in how calm you remain. Basically, the child in tantrum mode needs to feel that you're the rock while it's going on. Lisa Hess, mother of a toddler, agrees. "Lots of times, we try to speak softly, even when Ariel is getting more upset. I think it helps her to know that one of us is in control."