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The Best Secrets On How to Reduce Temper Tantrums in Children

If your little one is like most young children, you’ve probably experienced – or will soon experience – alongside them at least one emotionally flooded, highly charged temper tantrum. They can be as intense for parents or family members to witness as they are for kids, leaving everyone feeling frustrated, angry … and sometimes helpless.

 

Christle Seal, Director of Educational Programming at The Malvern School

To learn more about why tantrums happen – and how caregivers can help turn them around – we sat down with Christle Seal, early childhood development expert, The Malvern School’s Director of Educational Programming and mother of three.

 

Do all children have temper tantrums?

Christle: Most, but not all, children have temper tantrums during early childhood, and some may have them more often than others. Just like adults, children are all “programmed” a little differently. Some learn self-regulation skills sooner than others, some are stronger willed and seek control eagerly, and some are more relaxed and go with the flow. One personality style isn’t better than another and it’s important to note that having tantrums isn’t a terrible thing – but it is important to know how to handle them.

 

What are common triggers for tantrums?

Christle: Beyond the usual suspects – being overly tired, hungry or thirsty – one of the biggest triggers for tantrums is a child feeling a lack of control. Adults regulate every aspect of young children’s lives – when they wake up, when they go to sleep, what they eat, when they eat, what they play with, when they play – and they have very little say in the matter. Between the ages of one and three, starting with babies realizing they are in control of their own bodies, kids start thinking about what they want to do, not necessarily what others want them to do. Once those ideas are in their heads, if they’re told they can’t do something or touch something, for example, even if it’s for a good reason like safety, it can build up time after time and lead to an overwhelming sense of frustration. That’s when tantrums happen.

 

How can parents help children avoid having tantrums?

Christle: Set yourself up for success by trying to anticipate and plan around these triggers. Taking a hangry toddler down the bakery aisle at the grocery store and telling them they can’t have a cookie? Probably not the best idea. Skipping the stroll around the sweets or giving your child a healthy snack to curb their hunger if the bakery is a must? You’ll both be much happier.

Boundaries are absolutely necessary and there’s a lot to be said for providing your child opportunities to practice self-regulation skills, but avoiding overt temptation within reason when you know your child is irritable will help you steer clear of explosive behavior.

Parents can also address the frustration around lack of control by sticking to a regular daily routine – so kids know what to expect – and allowing children to make small choices throughout the day, providing them a sense of control in some aspects of their lives. While you determine when it’s time to get dressed, they can pick if they want to wear the blue shirt or the green shirt. You decide it’s bath time after dinner, but they can choose if they want to go immediately following the meal or five minutes later. Giving them praise for their choices (“You were right. That was a great choice!”) takes this concept even further.

 

What should parents do when their child has a tantrum?

Christle: The most important thing parents can do is to model positive behavior. If you join them at their level of frustration, you’ll only reinforce the behavior you’re trying to steer them away from and escalate the situation further. But if you counterbalance their strong emotions with a sense of calm, it will be easier for them to join you where you are.

Modeling positive behavior also includes verbalization. “I know you’re frustrated. I’m frustrated, too. Sometimes it makes me feel better when I sit down with a book or get a cool drink of water to calm down. Would you like to do that with me?” This could even be something as simple as acknowledging your child’s feelings and asking if they need a hug. That may do the trick in the moment, or not. Either way, it provides them with a productive example they can learn from.

When all else fails, provide your child a safe space where they can go through their emotions, cool off and calm down.

 

What are other good resources that can help parents learning to manage tantrums?

Christle: The early childhood educators at The Malvern School are experts in childhood development and they are resources parents should absolutely be tapping in to. Having a team of these experts who teach and guide your child on a daily basis at your disposal is part of the value The Malvern School offers. Our teachers are always happy to share observations and recommendations specific to your child and from our many years of experience with other children in similar situations.

Pediatricians are also great resources who are underutilized for behavioral challenges like these. They can offer strategies to help and advise on the best course of action if very frequent, extreme tantrums may be a sign of something that requires extra attention.

 

Is there a parenting topic you would like to learn more about? We’re all ears!

 

Share your ideas by emailing info@malvernschool.com and we will consider your submission for a future blog post. Thanks for your input!

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