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Tantrums – What are they and how do I stop them?

Updated: Sep 22, 2022

Tantrums can be quite tough to deal with as a parent. When your child erupts in a mall or "loses it" while you're at the grocery store, leaving you with lots of stares from everybody. It can be not easy to keep your wits in situations like these.

Well, we hope we can give you some tips and tricks for managing these outbursts from your toddler in this blog. Let's start with why tantrums happen in the first place.

Tantrums are commonplace for children aged 1-3 years of age. This is because they're at a very early stage of their general development, including social, emotional, and language abilities. They can't always communicate what they need or how they feel. They may even get frustrated at their own abilities or lack of. They are also understanding cause and effect, where they begin to understand that their behaviour influences other people.

So now that we understand that tantrums are just one of the ways very young children express their feelings, understand or change what is happening around them. But what about older children? We know they throw tantrums too! Research suggests that when an older child is throwing a tantrum it may be because they haven't yet learned how to safely express or manage their feelings.

Here are some of the things that can make your child more likely to throw a tantrum:

  • Your child's general temperament – is a strong influence on how quickly and strongly your child may react to things.

  • Stress, hunger, tiredness, and overstimulation – can make it harder for your child to express and manage their feelings to stay calm.

  • Situations that your child can’t cope with – for example, your child might have trouble coping if another child takes their toy away.

  • Your child's strong emotions – for example, worry, fear, shame, and anger are very big emotions that are overwhelming for children to deal with.

Research suggests that children begin developing the skills to self-regulate at around one-year-old. Self-regulation is your child's ability to understand and manage feelings and reactions. Read our blog here to learn how to teach your child to self-regulate. As your child grows older, they will continue to develop these skills and be able to regulate reactions and calm down when something upsetting happens to them.

How to Reduce Tantrums.

Here are some things you can do to reduce tantrums in your child:

  • Understanding emotions - Start by helping your child understand their emotions and feelings. You can do this by using words to label feelings such as ‘happy’, ‘sad’, ‘angry’, ‘tired’, and ‘hungry’.

  • Triggers - a great way to reduce the likely hood of a tantrum happening is to avoid things and situations that might trigger a tantrum. For example, knowing when your child is tired, hungry, worried, or overstimulated will greatly reduce the likely hood of a tantrum. For example, by going shopping after your child has had a nap or something to eat.

  • Label emotions - When your child handles a tough situation without a tantrum, be sure to acknowledge this. For example, "I just saw you build that tower all over again after it fell. How did that feel? Did you feel happy?" If your child has a tantrum, it can also be helpful to talk about the emotions your child experienced after they have calmed down. For example, "Did you throw that toy because you were angry that it wasn’t working?"

  • Model - Children learn the most from their environment. When you handle stress in a positive way, you make a great example for your child to copy. For example, if you are running late you can say "I am angry my shoe broke! If I take some deep breaths, it will help me stay calm while I look for another pair".

Positive discipline for Tantrums

Sometimes tantrums happen, no matter what you can do to avoid them. When a tantrum happens, the way you respond really depends on your child’s age:

  • For toddlers – stay close, offer comfort, and reassure your child that you understand their feelings. You can also talk to them about what has happened and label their emotions and feelings. This will become useful as they get older and aid their ability to self-regulate.

  • For older children – identify the emotion, name it, pause, support your child while they calm down, and address the situation using positive language.

If you would like to speak to a qualified Play therapist to learn how your child could benefit from play therapy, click here to get in touch today or want to know if Play Therapy could be right for your child take our quiz!

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