Temper tantrums are the worst, and they tend to happen at the most inopportune moments. If you are the parent, or the grandparent, of a young child, knowing how to diffuse (or even prevent) a tantrum is an essential skill to have.
One way to prevent temper tantrums is to help improve your child’s ability to express how what he or she is feeling, or thinking. It is often that inability to express themselves that leads to anger. If your child knows how to express himself, you might be able to get past the tantrum stage quickly.
The best way to do this is to teach and discuss the language of feelings. When we are first teaching children to read, or to understand, we tend to teach them nouns, and we spend a lot of time doing it.
Nouns are really only a small part of the vocabulary, though, and when your children are trying to get a point across to you, nouns do them very little good. So, try to start labeling feelings when you teach your child words. When you are tired, tell your son or daughter, “Mommy is tired!” Tell them what would make you feel better, for example taking a nap, or just sitting down to rest.
Or, when you are happy, tell them that, too. “Mommy is so happy! I love ice cream!” Use this especially with words that will help them get over their frustrations, such as hungry, tired, thirsty, angry, sad, etc.
If you know how your child feels, you can help to alleviate those feelings and nip that temper tantrum in the bud. As an added bonus, you get some quality teaching time with her.
Teaching moments can be as fun as asking your child how a cartoon character on television is feeling, or how a character in a book is feeling, or how her stuffed animal is feeling. Once they can express these emotions successfully they will no longer feel frustrated.
Keep a tantrum diary detailing what ignites your child. This will help you to pick up on the about-to-flare-up signals and quickly distract her/him into a more calming activity.
If your toddler usually has an afternoon melt down, do shopping and errands in the morning. Is he or she getting enough sleep? You may need to adjust bed or nap time.
You need to let children know early on that tantrums don’t work. Once your toddler realizes that manipulative tantrums will not get them any where, this behavior will self-destruct This may mean waiting out a tantrum by ignoring it. Make sure the child is in a safe place and let him/her scream. You may have to leave the store or restaurant. You may have to pull over. But if you react with benign indifference a few times the behavior will fade. If tantrums have become a habit, they may get worse before they get better. Hang in there and hang tough.
Tantrums will happen, no matter what you do, but you can use that ‘post tantrum cooling off period’ to talk about what went wrong, and figure out how to avoid this problem in the future. You can ask your child how he or she was feeling, what made him feel this way, etc. Smaller children will not have the words to really express these things, but if they can voice those emotions that we mentioned before, you are well on your way to understanding what happened, and how to avoid this problem in the future. After everyone is calm, it’s fun and effective for kids as young as 2.5 or 3 to role play how to act in situations. They get a kick out of watching you mimicking a tantrum then acting out, with them, a more acceptable way to get what they want.
If you are out shopping, it may simply be that your child is tired, and needs a break. However, if he does not tell you, and goes right into meltdown mode, no one wins. If you can get your child to say, “I am tired” or “I need a rest” before you head out the door you might be able to save yourself a headache.
Usually a tantrum is the last straw, for your child! It simply means that he has had it! He is tired, he is cranky, he is hungry, he is frustrated–something, and whatever happens next will set him off. So be cognizant of your child’s emotions, and have him express those emotions in the best way that he can (aside from a tantrum).
Parents and grandparents are really the best teachers for children because your children identity with you more than they do with anyone else. What you say means more.
So, simply work on language every chance you get and see if those temper tantrums subside. In a nut shell, providing your child the tools to express him/herself, is a key to enjoying the terrific twos.