Pediatricians reveal the right ways react to a tantrum.
Crying, kicking, punching, biting—they’re not called the “terrible twos” for nothing. Toddler temper tantrums can be maddening for parents and caregivers, especially if they happen multiple times a day, or without seemingly any rhyme or reason.
You can start by taking comfort in the fact that tantrums are basically a developmental milestone. They’re common during the second or third year of life, when toddlers start to feel a sense of individuality and independence combined with when their language skills start to develop. At this time they don’t really understand how to control their emotions, says Preeti Parikh, MD, HealthiNation’s chief medical editor and a pediatrician at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “They could be happy one second and have a complete meltdown the next.”
That said, there are definitely things you can do to minimize tantrums in the first place and nip them in the bud when they do happen.
Constructive Ways to React to Your Child’s Emotions
If you’re at home or in a safe place, just ignore the tantrum. It may be hard to do at first, but you have to let them know that if they kick and scream, they are not going to get their way, says pediatrician Dyan Hes, MD, medical director of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York City.
If you’re in public, distract, distract, distract. If your kid throws a tantrum at the grocery store or in line at the bank, try to divert their attention to anything other than what they were tantruming about. Place them in a new environment, or replace the “forbidden” item that they wanted with a different one.
If they’re doing something good, praise them. Who doesn’t love some positive reinforcement? Get in the habit of rewarding your child with attention or praise when they’re being good. “They see that as, ‘Oh wow, I get attention for that?!’” says Dr. Parikh.
The Biggest Tantrum Mistake Parents Make
Don’t try to reason with them—it won’t work. “They’re toddlers, you can’t really rationalize with them,” says Dr. Hes. Also, as challenging as it may be, it’s important to have control over your own emotions as well. “If you start yelling at them, it’s going to escalate it. If you start being loud, it’s going to escalate it,” says Dr. Hes. Just remind yourself that it’s your job to keep your child calm, so you need to remain calm too. Your actions set the example.
“The toddler years can be challenging,” says Dr. Parikh. “Use distractions, use empathy, and know that it’s going to get better.”
00:00:00,000 --> 00:00:03,191
00:00:03,191 --> 00:00:05,730
There are a lot of reasons
that toddlers have tantrums.
00:00:05,730 --> 00:00:09,520
One, is they’re trying to
exert their individuality now.
00:00:09,520 --> 00:00:16,797
They are ready to make their own
decisions, they wanna be independent
00:00:16,797 --> 00:00:19,490
00:00:19,490 --> 00:00:22,790
Second, they may have language
00:00:22,790 --> 00:00:27,600
So they can't really express why
they're upset, and what's going on.
00:00:27,600 --> 00:00:28,830
Third, their emotions.
00:00:28,830 --> 00:00:30,590
They're just unable, at this time,
00:00:30,590 --> 00:00:34,180
to really understand how
to control their emotions.
00:00:34,180 --> 00:00:35,380
They could be happy one second and
00:00:35,380 --> 00:00:39,200
have a complete meltdown the next.
Some kids have great twos and
00:00:39,200 --> 00:00:41,010
they start having tantrums
when they're three.
00:00:41,010 --> 00:00:43,940
Some kids have one tantrum and
they never tantrum again.
00:00:43,940 --> 00:00:48,577
And some kids tantrum three times a day.
When your toddler's having a tantrum,
00:00:48,577 --> 00:00:52,273
the ways to stop it is, one,
if you're at home and a safe space,
00:00:52,273 --> 00:00:54,220
try to ignore it and walk away.
00:00:54,220 --> 00:00:57,240
If you're in a public space,
try to distract them.
00:00:57,240 --> 00:01:01,450
Divert their attention to get away from
what they're having a tantrum about.
00:01:01,450 --> 00:01:05,590
The biggest mistake parents make when
a toddler is having a tantrum is trying to
00:01:05,590 --> 00:01:07,240
reason with them.
00:01:07,240 --> 00:01:08,675
you can't really rationalize with them.
00:01:08,675 --> 00:01:10,260
Sometimes you can't stop it.
00:01:10,260 --> 00:01:12,570
That's why they're so
difficult to control.
00:01:12,570 --> 00:01:15,005
If you start yelling at them,
it's gonna escalate it.
00:01:15,005 --> 00:01:17,950
If you start being loud,
it's gonna escalate it.
00:01:17,950 --> 00:01:19,605
Kids do much better when things are calm.
00:01:19,605 --> 00:01:22,133
You have to let them know that
the more they kick and scream,
00:01:22,133 --> 00:01:25,000
they are not gonna get their way.
So when they are doing good things,
00:01:25,000 --> 00:01:28,490
like they're actually sitting and
playing, and doing stuff, to praise them.
00:01:28,490 --> 00:01:30,200
And they see that as wow,
00:01:30,200 --> 00:01:33,090
I get attention for that.
Make sure they have a consistent
00:01:33,090 --> 00:01:34,200
routine, that is so
00:01:34,200 --> 00:01:38,200
critical for toddlers, because their
world just seems overwhelming.
00:01:38,200 --> 00:01:42,650
So, the more structure and organization,
in terms consistent schedule, the less
00:01:42,650 --> 00:01:45,220
likely they're likely to have tantrums.
Children tend to
00:01:45,220 --> 00:01:47,730
outgrow their tantrums
around four years old.
00:01:47,730 --> 00:01:52,259
They become more aware of their
actions affecting other people.
00:01:52,259 --> 00:01:57,900
So they understand that if I tantrum,
maybe my mom will be really sad.
00:01:57,900 --> 00:02:02,110
And if I tantrum, maybe my grandmother
might not want visit me again.
00:02:02,110 --> 00:02:05,640
So they understand
the consequences of their actions.
00:02:05,640 --> 00:02:07,460
The toddler years can be challenging,
00:02:07,460 --> 00:02:11,360
there are a lot of tantrums, there is
a lot of developmental change going on.
00:02:11,360 --> 00:02:16,293
And so, what I tell my parents that this
phase will pass, and ways to really help,
00:02:16,293 --> 00:02:21,227
is just really making sure you stay
consistent with routines, use distraction,
00:02:21,227 --> 00:02:24,392
use empathy and
know that it's going to get better.
00:02:24,392 --> 00:02:28,991
Top Tips for Surviving Temper Tantrums. New Hyde Park, NY: American Academy of Pediatrics, 2015. (Accessed on December 18, 2017 athttps://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/communication-discipline/Pages/Temper-Tantrums.aspx)
Disciplining Your Child. New Hyde Park, NY: American Academy of Pediatrics, 2015. (Accessed on December 18, 2017 at https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/communication-discipline/Pages/Disciplining-Your-Child.aspx)