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5 ways to manage a tantrum
Avoid making a scene with these simple tricks
If you've ever tried to wrangle a screaming toddler into a buggy while they’re as rigid as a plank, or carried one, purple-faced and scissor-kicking, out of a café, or witnessed one pummelling the supermarket floor because of some unforgivable act (you wouldn’t let them eat a raw onion), you’ll be all too familiar with the joys of toddler tantrums.
When it comes to the tough challenges of early parenthood, the ‘terrible twos’ is up there with sleep deprivation. And it can’t be much fun for our frustrated toddlers either, who don’t yet have the skills to manage and express their feelings like we do.
But while you can’t bypass this inevitable phase, there are a number of steps you can take to help you and your little one weather the storms.
1. Prevention tactics
Avoiding those classic toddler-tantrum triggers is one way to reduce the number of potentially explosive situations. For instance, if your child is enjoying an activity, give them a five-minute warning before asking them to do something else. After all, how would you like it if someone demanded you go and brush your teeth in the middle of an episode from your latest box set?
Toddlers are learning to make their own decisions, so offering a choice of two outfits, two snacks or two activities can be a useful way to get them to cooperate when they’re being stubborn, while still giving them an element of control and freedom.
Pent-up energy is another common catalyst for erratic behaviour so give your little one plenty of opportunity to run around throughout the day. And if it’s lashing down outside, you can always crank up the music and have an indoor disco. Conversely, if they’re tired after a long day at nursery, avoid too much stimulation and give them a chance to wind down and relax.
2. Distraction techniques
If your child’s outbursts are happening with alarming regularity, don’t despair: the more tantrums your toddler has, the more opportunities you have to learn their early warning signals. These are the clues that suggest a storm could be brewing, and once you’ve learned to spot them, you can start to nip these outbursts in the bud before they gain momentum.
This is where the trusty distraction technique comes in. When you can sense irritability rising, steer them off course with something new to grab their attention, like a new activity or toy – or, even better, a little bit of physical play. As we all know, it’s very hard to stay in a grump when you’re laughing, so tickling can work wonders.
A complete change of scenery can also be useful – whether it’s whisking them upstairs for a quick game of hide-and-seek or out into the fresh air for a walk or bike ride around the block.
3. Tantrum? What tantrum?
Unfortunately, no amount of preparation can prevent you from being occasionally blind-sided by one of those full-force tantrums that come like a tornado out of the blue.
Counteractive as it might seem, the most powerful thing you can do in this situation is absolutely nothing. Depriving your child of the attention they’re craving will send them a clear message that you won’t buy into this kind of behaviour, without actually punishing them for what is essentially a normal phase. This also gives them the space to calm down in their own time.
Remain in the same room to make sure they’re safe from harm, channel your inner Zen master, and simply carry on with whatever it was you were doing as calmly as you can until the storm is over.
4. Lead by example
When your child is in the throes of an angry outburst, it can be hard not to take things personally: Is your parenting to blame? Are they doing it to upset you? Where did it all go wrong? And these unsettling feelings can lead to a more emotionally charged response.
Rest assured, erratic behaviour is an inevitable phase. Letting go of self-blame and seeing things through your child’s eyes will take the heat out of your own emotions. And the calmer you are, the less likely you are to exacerbate their anger.
Likewise, dealing with your own frustrations with equanimity and calm will help teach your little one to manage their own feelings in the same way. In other words, actions speak louder than words so spend less time worrying about your toddler’s behaviour and more time focusing on your own.
5. Post-tantrum love
Ignoring a rampaging toddler is no mean feat – particularly if you’re caught in the toy-hurling crossfire. But don’t worry, as soon as they’ve released some of that pent-up energy and cottoned onto the fact they’re not getting the desired result – you can move onto the altogether more rewarding phase of reinforcing good behaviour.
As soon as normal behaviour is resumed, dole out plenty of praise and affection. This kiss-and-make-up stage acts as a reminder of your unconditional love while also reinforcing the link between positive behaviour and positive attention.
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Source: The Huffington Post UK