We’ve all been there. Standing in line at a store when suddenly your child begins to bubble. Similar to a teapot building steam, you know it’s only a short matter of time before the “I’m done” screaming begins. You do your best to keep a happy face. Calm and collective, you’ve mentally prepared as soon as you saw the warning signs. Then it happens. Your child throws a tantrum. Not just a regular one, but a FULL BLOWN, ear-shattering, earthmoving tantrum.
If you’ve experienced anything like the above, this post is for you. I plan to discuss child temper tantrums on a step by step basis. Not only will this post provide some insight; more importantly, I hope it provides a little encouragement. Keep reading to learn more.
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The tantrum explained.
Let’s face it. There’s only so much that can happen before my child throws a tantrum. It’s a part of life that is relatively unavoidable. However, I have found 3 simple ways to make tantrums a lot less intense. As a parent, I manage several behavioral meltdowns every single day. It’s enough to fuel some serious parenting burnout. Nevertheless, each time my child throws a tantrum there seems to be one common factor. Making a few key adjustments lessens the duration of a tantrum, as well as its affect.
So, to define a tantrum we start by identifying the behavior. A child temper tantrum is an uncontrollable outburst of emotion. They are more common in younger children, however, tantrums can still occur from older kids as well. When a child throws a tantrum, it can include crying, screaming, throwing objects, or kicking.
What is the one common factor?
Every time a child throws a tantrum, there is one common factor. Regardless of the severity, one element remains the same. Understanding more about this pivotal point in your child’s temper tantrums will alter the course of your child’s actions. Are you ready for it? The common thing with every episode of a child meltdown is your child’s focus. To lessen a tantrum, you’ve got to do one of three things: redirect their focus, understand their fixation, or let your child explore their focus in full.
3 Things to do When Your Child Throws a Tantrum
Step One: Redirect their focus
The most common method I use when my child throws a tantrum is to redirect their focus. A simple distraction from their thoughts eases the amount of crying. Furthermore, it also makes my child aware that there is something better they can do. Distracting your child’s mind from an unwanted focal point usually has good results. Creating awesome future adults takes a little gumption, but you can totally do it.
How is this done?
Let’s pretend that the tantrum started as soon as you got in the car. The child does not want their car seat belt and begins to cry. To provide some relief, redirect their focus. Mention a bird or interesting tree outside of the window. Say, “Wow! Look how cool, a bird! He’s flying!” Try getting your child to think about something other than their seat belt. The trick is to stay as calm as possible and to be inventive.
Don’t let it backfire tip: Make sure the thing your child is complaining about is not actually hurting or harming them. Reference back to the seat belt example. If redirecting your child does not work, and they still seem adamant about their complaint, it’s time to investigate more about the problem. Perhaps the seat belt is too tight. Perhaps it lays in an uncomfortable position. Make sure your child is not adversely affected by the thing he/she is complaining about.
Step Two: Understand their fixation
The second method I use when my child throws a tantrum is to try to understand my child’s fixation. Remember, toddler tantrums happen because the child is fixated on something. For example, there was one time when my two girls were having a mega spasm of sibling rivalry. They were arguing about a box of crayons and the older sister did not want to share. The older sister started crying and yelling hysterically because of the arguing. After a few minutes, I sat down next to the older sister and asked, “Why are you yelling? Why won’t you share?”
How I fixed the situation
I soon learned that she was frustrated because her younger sister was using the crayons to scribble on the wall. Something the older sister knew was wrong. The only thing my older girl wanted to do was prevent her younger sibling from doing more scribbles. Her fixation was to guard the box, and as her attempts failed, she began to throw a tantrum. As we have a better understanding of our children’s fixations, we can work more to stop their tantrums.
Don’t let it backfire tip: It’s okay to be firm. Sometimes, even after we understand their fixation, our answer remains the same. Think of a child begging for candy before dinner. This can frustrate the child because we know their feelings, yet our actions remain unchanged. It’s at this point that we have to be firm, while also administering grace.
Step Three: Let your child explore their focus in full
The third and last method is to let your child explore their focus in full. You’ve gone through the motions of step one and step two, and they still continue to challenge. Maybe your child just needs to process their own feelings and explore their focus in full. Some call it cry it out, some say suck it up. Step three allows a child to go through a tantrum for an allotted period of time. After that, the child must move on.
How this helps
While some may consider this method the most endearing, sometimes it’s the most helpful. The child gets it out of their system and usually learns afterward that their original focus was not reasonable. Thus, they grow and mature and resonate different methods to handle that particular issue. Teach your child assertion in positive ways and they will use it more often.
Don’t let it backfire tip: Be wary of repetition without improvement in behavior. If a tantrum seems to repeat itself, there could be a larger issue. Take a moment to think about the root causes and what actions would help the situation in the future.
How do you approach things?
Being a parent is a challenge, however, we have the power to stand together and share our solutions. I’m curious to know, what works for your household? Drop me a comment below.
Lastly, remember to build your home intentionally and to guide your family with love. Until next time, take care.