Temper tantrums. Even just writing those two words makes us cringe. Whether you're a parent or a babysitter, you've
undoubtedly experienced the kicking, screaming, crying meltdowns that children tend to have a little too often.
Temper tantrums may be unavoidable, but they ARE manageable.
Let's take an in-depth look at tantrums, how to prevent them, how to react to them and what tips/tactics can really help.
Why Temper Tantrums Occur
First things first: Why do children even throw temper tantrums in the first place?
The obvious reasons include hunger, tiredness and not feeling well, but these aren't the
only tantrum triggers.
Temper tantrums are most common in children between the ages of 1
and 3. Most likely, this is because children at this age have limited
vocabulary and get frustrated when they can't express themselves
Children may also get overwhelmed -- emotionally (they don't get
their way), mentally (they can't figure out what you're trying to say)
or physically (exhaustion kicks in after a long shopping trip) -- and
they may act out as a way to release that energy.
Or, children may throw tantrums as a way to exert their independence, to show you that they can think for themselves.
- Don't react. Stay calm and don't yell.
- Stay put. Unless you're about to lose your cool, don't storm out of the room -- it can make the child feel abandoned and more frustrated.
- Be firm. Don't simply give the
child whatever he wants just to end the tantrum. This will teach him
that his bad behavior is acceptable and effective.
- Use positive reinforcement. Praise
the child when he calms down and make a big deal about how proud you
are that he is now expressing himself like a big boy.
- Be consistent. Whatever tantrum
method is used, you must be consistent. This can include using the
exact same words or tone each and every time a tantrum erupts.
Temper Tantrum Tips
- Keep you expectations reasonable. Since tantrums
can occur when children are frustrated, don't ask/expect them to do
something they're not yet capable of. For example, if little Anna isn't
coordinated enough to brush her hair yet, don't expect her to be able
to handle the task on her own.
- Try not to say "no" all the time.
Constantly telling a child "no" makes him feel helpless and may cause
him to get frustrated and/or overcompensate by acting out.
- Look for patterns. Do the tantrums
always occur around dinner time? Perhaps an afternoon nap would help.
Do they seem to occur at the end of outings? Try making the outing
shorter so it's less overwhelming/tiresome.
Two Tantrum Tactics
1. Encourage calmness. When a child whines, cries
or screams, some parents and babysitters pretend that the child is speaking a
completely different language. They tell him that they want to help,
but that first the child has to speak in a language the babysitter
understands. These babysitters will then help the child relax and
express what he wants calmly.
(Note: This is why it's important to understand why a child
throws a tantrum -- if it could be because he's frustrated that he can't
express himself, this method could do more harm than good.)
2. Distraction. If a child won't calm down even
after you've tried to address the problem, you may want to start
another fun activity in another room/area; this can distract him and he
may forget his temper as quickly as it started.
Tantrum Tactics From Sittercity Sitters
Since our babysitters and nannies are always in the tantrum trenches, we turned to them to get some more expert advice on how to handle these moments.
- "What I do is say, 'Sorry, I don't speak feet pounding, but let me try to guess what you're saying.' Then, I just guess lots of silly things!"
- "If the child is pretty enthralled in their temper
tantrum, in a calm voice I say, 'Well, I'm going to go play with these cars, so whenever you are ready, I would love to have you come play
with me.' Then once they come over, I ask them to voice their opinions
while playing so they still feel like they get their point across."
- "I tend to look at the child and say, 'Are those crocodile tears? How can
I help? Show me what I can do. Hmmm, I suggest we look at this
toy over here it looks lonely and needs somebody to play with it.'"
- "I utilize basic sign language with the children such as milk, eat,
change me, and 'all finished' (if they grow impatient on the changing
table). Sign language enables a 6-month-old to be talking by the time
he is 12 months of age!"