Don’t worry; you are not the only parent stuck with a tantruming child that bursts when you are about to set a new boundary and say “No.” In fact, a study finds that 84% of preschool kids had thrown a tantrum within a given month.
The usual scenario goes something along these lines:
You had a dream-like morning with your kid. After some “good morning” cuddling in the bed, you enjoy a nutritious breakfast and head to a local market to restock some of your supplies. Your kid’s behavior so far was exemplary. It’s like you are riding with a little angel. You even promise to buy their favorite candy.
However, once you start your shopping run, your kid wants to buy this toy and that toy. The promised candy doesn’t do the trick anymore. The more you insist on staying firm with your “No,” the more agitated your kid seems to become; until that final “No.”
Your kid starts screaming his or her lungs out, starts jumping, and finally lies down on the floor to continue the protest. This phenomenon, ladies and gentlemen, is called tantruming or tantrum.
But the real question here is, “What do I do?”.
We know how hard it can be to deal with a tantruming child, especially in public. To help you understand what is going on and how to calm your kid, we put together a guide. Here is everything you need to know about tantrums and how to calm the nerves.
Why Children Throw Tantrums
Not all tantruming kids are the same. Some only whine or cry, while others can scream, kick, hit, or even hold their breath. A temper tantrum is not gender-related, and it’s equally seen in boys and girls. Most commonly, it happens between the ages of 1 to 3.
Get ready to be surprised. A temper tantrum is a normal part of a child growing up. At their youngest age, kids don’t know how to cope with “negative” emotions. Instead of sharing their feelings with you, chatting with a friend, or listening to music, an upset or frustrated kid will throw a tantrum.
Uncomfortable, Hungry, Or Tired
Tantrums usually happen when children are uncomfortable, hungry, or tired. However, they can happen out of the blue and catch you off guard.
Kids have a powerful imagination. Sometimes they will want you to give them something or do something. When you or the object can’t deliver, they will have a meltdown.
A Way Of Communication
One way to look at it is a way of communication. It is not by chance that first tantrums are seen in the second year of life. This is precisely when a kid learns how to communicate and when its language skills start to sprout.
What happens in the background? Your kid may want or need something. When he or she can’t get it, this becomes frustrating, and frustration can cause a tantrum. Once your kid learns how to communicate and verbalize his or her needs, tantruming will become less frequent until it finally disappears.
When they Discover The Hard Reality
Being a part of your child’s life as he or she develops and grows up is a bumpy journey. Kids are actually entirely unaware of how dependent they are. Besides this, they also like to think that they control the environment.
Can you imagine how they feel when they discover that they can’t do things on their own or can’t have everything their heart desires? It can cause high levels of frustration and cause a child to throw a tantrum.
Remember “Temper” In “Temper Tantrum”
Temperament is also one of the factors we have to take into consideration when talking about tantrums. Temperament is something your little one is born with, and it defines how they respond to the world. Frustrating events are a part of the world we live in, and children who get upset easily will most likely exhibit tantruming behavior.
Finally, small kids don’t know what to do with strong emotions. The strong emotions include fear, shame, worry, and anger. All of these emotions can be overwhelming for an adult, let alone a kid. If children feel threatened by any of these emotions, they can easily throw a tantrum to blow off some steam.
What Does Research Suggest About Tantruming
Temper tantruming was always an interesting topic to explore. There are hundreds of studies and research done in the field. One study finds that the main components of tantruming are anger, distress, whining, crying, comfort-seeking, and coping style. All findings support the claims we made in our previous section.
However, even after finding out the reasons for tantruming, some parents still worry. Some think that tantruming resembles a nervous breakdown, while others believe that a tantruming child is an ungrateful child. Let’s address both of these concerns.
Is A Tantruming Child Having A Nervous Breakdown?
A nervous breakdown or meltdown is not an official medical term. It is often used to describe a reaction to an overwhelmingly stressful situation. When things get emotionally or physically overwhelming, kids can have a meltdown.
It is important to note that tantruming only appears like a nervous breakdown, but fundamentally, they are different.
The first thing that sets them apart is how long they last. Tantruming is significantly shorter than a nervous breakdown, which can last four hours at a time. Many experts bring tantruming and sensory overload into perspective.
Some kids are not equipped to handle too much sensory input. For instance, an afternoon in the amusement park can set them off.
Trying to process all the information and impressions can take the child down the meltdown spiral.
Another main difference is the aspect of control. While children can learn how to take their behavior under control and stop tantruming, with a nervous breakdown, this is not the case. Meltdowns are an automatic response to an emotionally overwhelming event.
During a nervous breakdown, children are often unresponsive and unaware of what is going on. With a tantruming child, it is the opposite. You can see that the child reacts to your calls, but it continues with a tantrum nevertheless.
Is a Tantruming Child an Ungrateful Child?
Many parents are too fast to jump to conclusions and make honest mistakes. One of these mistakes is thinking that a tantruming child is an ungrateful child. These two are not necessarily the same. First of all, tantrums can appear in children that are only one year old. Ungrateful behavior needs time to develop and can show in 3-year-olds.
Anyhow, these two are correlated. “I knew it!” you may scream.
Wait a minute. Let us elaborate and give you the information you can use to minimize the risk of pushing your own kid towards becoming ungrateful.
We said that tantruming children behave this way because they can’t cope with the current situation. Most often, the tantrum will happen when you don’t want to give something to your kids or won’t let them have it their own way. If you give in to tantrums, you are going to reward this behavior. Your kid may become ungrateful and entitled to everything he or she needs or wants to do in the long run.
The most accurate answer to the “Is a tantruming child an ungrateful child?” question is “No. But it is potentially an ungrateful child.” Let’s see what you can do to prevent this from happening and deal with temper tantrums.
How to Deal With a Tantruming Child
Before we jump into what to do with a tantruming child, you need to learn one thing. The most important thing to do is to remain calm. Your anger and frustration can only make things worse. Your primary role as a parent or caregiver is to help the child learn how to calm down.
Kids learn through observing. Remaining calm during a stressful situation is the first lesson you can give by exhibiting it yourself.
Unfortunately, there is not a magical solution for temper tantrums. Your response will depend on the reasons that set your child to a tantrum. The reactions can range from offering comfort and providing food to distracting the kid or completely ignoring the whole thing.
There is only one scenario when you should completely ignore a tantruming kid.
If it is a tantrum your child is purposely throwing to get your attention, the best way to reduce it is to ignore it.
Hold Your Position
Sometimes kids can throw tantrums when they are told to do something they don’t want to do. To reduce this type of tantrum, start by ignoring the kid. Once the kid calms down, follow through with the initial request. Your kid should complete the task that initially caused the tantrum.
Divert and Move On
Children will often throw tantrums if they can’t get what they want. The best way to reduce these tantrums is to move on to a new activity and divert the child’s attention to a new object. Don’t waste your time explaining why your kid can’t get what it wants. It’s ok to give one brief explanation and move on.
Tantruming In Public Places
Tantrums in public places are especially frustrating for parents. You should pick up your tantruming kid and take it to a quiet place to calm down. This action is also advised to parents who think their kids are in danger of hurting themselves during a tantrum.
Time-out is an excellent technique you can use to calm your child and provide it with enough space to come to its senses.
It is a popular strategy for a child’s behavior management. Keep in mind that it provides the best results in kids that are three years old or older.
Time-outs even work if you have given in to a child’s tantrums in the past, and he or she learned that tantruming is a means to an end. How long should the time-outs be? It depends on how long a child needs to regain control. The power lies in providing kids with an opportunity to learn that they can affect the outcome by changing their actions.
When The Tantrum is Over
The time after a tantrum is a valuable teaching moment. You should always use it to praise your kid for being able to regain control. Some tantruming kids think that they are less loved after throwing a tantrum. Your job as a parent is to show affection after the tantrum ends and send a strong message that your child is loved.
What Should You Avoid Doing With a Tantruming Child
We already mentioned a few things you should avoid doing with a tantruming child. Give your best not to give in to tantrums or give in to the anger and frustration you may feel. Now that we have this out of our way, here are a few more forbidden practices.
Don’t tell Them How To Feel
Even if your child is very young, make sure not to tell them how to feel. It sends a message that you are not willing to accept them. This can make the tantrums worse, cause the child to feel shame, or lead to some mental illnesses.
No Lie, No More
Some parents have learned that lying to tantruming kids provides results. This is a short term fix that can potentially lead to problems in the long term. At some point, your kids will see through your lies and figure out that they can use lies as well to achieve some of their goals. Don’t be afraid, set limits, and be honest about it.
Don’t add Fuel To The Fire
One of the worst things that you can do is make your tantruming child feel responsible for making you sad or hurt. Your kid is already dealing with overwhelming emotions. There is no need to add fuel to the fire.
Don’t Take It Personally
Finally, your kid is not throwing a tantrum because of you. Don’t take it personally, even if your preschooler screams, “You are a bad mother/father!” at you. This way, you will not feel frustrated or angry, making it easier to handle your tantruming kid and follow through some of the tips we shared with you.
Temper tantrums are quite a normal thing to experience. Since every kid is unique, don’t follow some advice you read online blindly. After all, you know your child best. Choosing a technique and a parenting style should always reflect that knowledge.
See how your kid reacts and be open to making small adjustments. We are more than confident that you will be able to significantly reduce tantruming and enjoy the preschool period with your kid.