The key to overcoming tantrums is understanding what is going on with your child and offering them support and reassurance, while maintaining your authority at the same time.
Handling tantrums effectively now will go a long way to preventing bad behaviour later on. These are eight ways you can help your child to work through their tantrum.
1. Don’t give in to the power struggle
When your child was younger, their tantrums were simply to attract attention or have a basic need met.
Pre-schoolers’ tantrums are more complex; now they understand that throwing a tantrum could potentially get them anything they want. They’re more aware of their desires, and use tantrums to try to defy you when you say no.
Sometimes, just walking away and giving them a few minutes will let them get it out of their system. You don’t have to leave the room; sit in the corner and read a book. Let them think you aren’t listening or paying attention. Obviously, this isn’t an option in a public place, but try to stay as calm as possible and don’t give in to their demands.
2. Never ignore any type of violent behaviour
If your little one lashes out, or kicks or bites you or anyone else, let them know this behaviour is unacceptable. If they’ve hit you, your partner, a sibling, or anyone else, make sure they apologise.
If you ignore these behaviours, your child may lash out at school or at another child. Any kind of physical violence must be nipped in the bud. If they throw toys around, tell them they won’t be replaced if they get broken.
3. Create a diversion
Before it turns into a full-blown tantrum, try producing something they’re interested in - it could be a snack or a toy they haven’t played with in a while. Tell them if they can be calm, they can play with this or do something fun.
If you’re in a public place like a supermarket, try asking a question such as, “Do you want to help me pick an ice-cream flavour?” or “Can you grab me that box?”
Kids have short attention spans, and if you distract them the tantrum may be forgotten.
4.Understand what’s going on
Sometimes, there’s a really simple reason for your child’s behaviour. This could be anything from being tired from too much activity, feeling sick, wanting to do something for themselves but not being able or feeling neglected.
Talk to your child and tell them you want to help. Sometimes a hug or a rest can make all the difference when your pre-schooler is having a tough day.
5. Let them know you’re saying “no” for a good reason
Pre-schoolers don’t have the same reasoning skills as us adults; so when they hear no, they sometimes throw a fit.
Let them know why you are saying no, i.e. fizzy drinks are bad for their teeth, etc. They may not necessarily understand now but eventually they will.
6. Give your child a positive reason to behave
Let your child know you have clear expectations of their behaviour in advance. Be positive and specific in your instructions: “I expect you to be good while Granny is minding you. I’ll be home later, and we can read your new book together then.”
This makes more sense to a child than “be good for Granny and don’t throw a tantrum.” These messages can sometimes prevent tantrums before they occur.
7. Don’t let them see a reaction
If you're ever tempted to scream back at your child after they've gotten on your last nerve, resist. Say something along the lines of, "You must be very angry; when you calm down, you can tell me why."
Then give your child a few minutes to collect themselves. This will reinforce the idea that screaming and shouting won't work if they want to communicate.
8. Trick them with a hug
If your child is throwing a fit, try getting down to their level and throw your arms around them. They'll be caught off guard and won't be expecting this.
If they're receptive to your hug, try tickling them and making them laugh. They may calm down and open up to you then. If they aren't receptive and lash out, step back and give them space.