10 Ways to Cope and Manage Tantrums By Age

 

Also read our previous blog here to know more about tantrums.

 

Picture this scene. You are in the middle of your monthly shopping when the child latches on to a particular item at the shop that they want NOW. Let us assume that the item in question is expensive and that you just do not have the budget for it. You refuse to buy it and the child starts crying. As you continue refusing, the child goes into a full blown meltdown right in the middle of the shop. That is the stuff of bad dreams for any parent, right?!

 

Why do tantrums happen?

 

Tantrums and meltdowns come in all shapes and sizes. Older and younger children, both can have tantrums.

 

For younger children aged 1-3 years, tantrums are about testing limits, an inability to express their frustrations, and a way to assert their independence while also undergoing separation anxieties.

 

Older children, on the other hand, are yet to learn more effective ways to express or calm themselves and may be having trouble self regulating their emotions, resulting in meltdowns.

 

Tantrums also happen when children, both younger and older, are stressed, tired, hungry, sleepy, going through upheavals in their lives or due to certain triggers that vary from child to child.

 

Ideas to Manage Tantrums in younger and older children:

 

  • Ensure that child is rested, and well fed. Try and set a bedtime that is much before overtiredness sets in and plan a nap before a late evening outing.
  • Talking helps! Speak to your children about their feelings and acknowledge them, while also helping to manage their feelings by giving them a solution. For example, if your child is upset because he wanted something sweet and you refused, talk to him saying, “I understand you are upset because I refused to give you the sweet. But you know what; we are all going to have the sweets on Sunday like we always do during lunch with family. So, let us wait for Sunday!” If the tantrums are food related, it also helps to set down a meal of junk food consistently during the week like Ellyn Satter suggests for older children.
  • If there are certain circumstances that trigger the tantrums, avoid those triggering circumstances or prepare them for it ahead of time. For example, if you know that shopping triggers a tantrum to buy something frivolous, either avoid going shopping with the child, or if that is not possible, ensure child is well rested and not hungry, and talk to the child before about what you are going to buy and that you cannot buy anything else. For older children, you might want to give them the freedom to select any one small item that they want to buy to keep them excited about their trip. What also helps is planning a snack stop immediately after the shopping expedition so that the kids have something to look forward to after shopping.
  • Stay calm when the tantrum starts. We know it is easier said than done, but shouting at or pleading with your child only makes the tantrum escalate. Move to a safe place and ride the tantrum out, while also letting the child know that you are there to support them emotionally when required.
  • Do not give in to the demands of the child during a tantrum. This would reward the tantrum and result in more tantrums when they need something. Be empathetic without giving in.
  • Along with your partner, develop a clear strategy for tantrums. Be consistent, do not reward and give in to the demands during a tantrum and focus on putting your plan into action during the tantrum.
  • Do not react to the tantrum by laughing because an already upset child will be even more upset if he thinks you are laughing at him.
  • Your child is not throwing a tantrum or having a meltdown on purpose. Accept that your child just does not have the skills or the self regulation for coping with his emotions and the situation and help him through it.
  • Don’t judge yourself or feel embarrassed when your child has a tantrum. Keep your emotions aside and focus on dealing with the tantrum calmly. Ignore the judgemental looks, and if you are badass enough, a frown at the judgemental onlookers should do!
  • Strong emotions like fear, worry, anger, shame can be overwhelming for children, both young and old. Deal with the root cause of the emotions first to decelerate the tantrum.

 

In short, when your child has a meltdown or throws a tantrum, they are not giving you a hard time, but they are having a hard time themselves. Help them through it.