Any toddler parent will have experienced the horrors of a full-blown temper tantrum. Counselling psychotherapist and parenting expert Dr Karen Phillip offers advice on how to avoid meltdowns and deal with toddler temper tantrums by employing these successful strategies and solutions.
Tantrum solution: Ignore them
It can take a lot of self-control and can go against every natural parenting urge in your body, but ignoring your toddler when he’s having a meltdown or temper tantrum can shift the power back to you and help him calm down. Karen says that allowing them time to settle by ignoring their behaviour can work in your favour.
“The child wants attention. They want you to fold and give them what they want,” she explains. “Standing firm and not reacting sends the message that you will not tolerate the behaviour and they won’t benefit from a tantrum.”
Tantrum solution: A space saviour
Distancing yourself from your little one or giving him some time on his own to settle when they throw a tantrum will allow him to let off any steam. After the storm has passed, take the opportunity to talk to your tot and help them understand their irrational behaviour.
Karen advises, “Discuss the behaviour and ask the child how they could respond differently next time. Help the child develop ideas of how they can choose a different response and support them in this choice.”
Tantrum solution: The art of distraction
Giving a screaming toddler a distraction can curtail any tantrum. If you have learnt the tell-tale signs and can spot an imminent meltdown, don’t be afraid to whip out their favourite toy or ask them about the world around them to give them a new focus.
Karen suggests, “Saying something totally outside what they expect draws their attention away from what they are escalating over. In a reasonably loud voice, ask a question such as, ‘Did you see the dolphin swim?'”
Tantrum solution: Be empathetic
As toddlers have a limited vocabulary, sometimes we can misinterpret what they’re upset about, which can cause tantrums to escalate. You may clearly see that your little one is distressed, but they might be at a loss for words to explain their troubles.
“Showing empathy and understanding can validate a child’s feelings,” says Karen. She suggests using a soft voice and asking your child to tell you or show you how you can help, or the reason for their tantrum.
Tantrum solution: A change of scenery
If your tot decides that the middle of aisle four at the supermarket is prime real estate for a tantrum, try not to fret. Aside from saving you some embarrassment, moving your toddler to another area can help him to regain composure faster and deflect his attention more effectively. “Going outside or to another room to engage them with sights, sounds, items and smells can quickly curb their escalation or tantrum,” says Karen.
Tantrum solution: Snack or sleep?
Have you ever been hangry? If so, you can understand exactly how your toddler can get irate when he’s lacking food. Sleep deprivation can also cause him to become upset, so ask him if he’d like a nap or a small, healthy snack. Karen advises, “Never offer sugary or junk foods as this may escalate the child’s behaviour. Foods can also send a message that snacks and sweets are a comfort or bribe food and we never want this.”
Tantrum solution: Cuddle therapy
Sometimes a big hug from mom or dad can help your toddler to feel reassured and calm again, without any strong words or questions needed. Karen says, “Providing a child with hugs of affection help them to feel loved, appreciated and recognised as important to you.
Sometimes a hug or cuddle can send a stronger message than any words can.” Connecting with your little one on this level makes him feel safe and can quash any upset feelings.