Dealing with Toddler Temper Tantrums

Some parents may be tearing their hairs apart and fretting not knowing what to do when their toddler screams “NO” to everything you say or refuse to do as they told.

Many wonder if this phase will stay and if their previous angels have flown away. The good news is that there is an end in sight, but this phase can continue to around the toddler’s third birthday. The bad news is, it doesn’t start at two, but it can happen around your toddler’s first birthday.Did you know? Temper tantrums and refusal to obey is actually children’s way of trying to find their autonomy and personality as an individual.

Here are six things parents should know about temper tantrums.

1. Pre-empting Tantrums and Sidestep Power Struggle

Know that tantrums are normal for our toddlers at this age, so that we learn not to react but respond in times of tantrums.

Secondly, since tantrums often happen with a reason, either when they are hungry or tired (that is not caused by sickness or a developmental growth like teething pains), we can think and plan ahead to prevent the chances of these tantrums. We can try to pre-empt feeding and napping times, and to ensure that our toddlers are not overtired or over hungry. Don’t squeeze in the last errand or extend a dinner appointment or drag a hungry or tired kid to a store. We can do it tomorrow.

Also, sometimes during a tantrum dispute, we have to bear in mind that we do not need to prove to be right. Our child may be trying to assert that he has a mind of his own and that he wants to have some power. That is totally normal! Let him say no when you can, selectively, without compromising his safety or health, or the rights of others. Like if he chooses to watch another choice of DVD than the one you selected, or chooses to play alittle longer in the bathtub.

You will be glad to know that when they do feel a little more control over their lives, there may be fewer tantrums. However, I do have to emphasize that there should still be a balance in allowing the mentioned and overtly giving in to tantrums. Reacting and not responding appropriately to their tantrums may give our toddlers the mindset that these will get them what they want and they will use it repeatedly. “I will be able to get what I want if I throw another tantrum or fuss for an extended time” or “when mom cannot manage, she will give me what I want.”

2. Don’t Just Tell Them “No”

Telling them what not to do doesn’t mean that they will know what is the right thing to do. Sometimes telling them to do the right thing may be better than telling them “No!” all the time. Most parents may think that our toddlers are too young to grasp what mummy is saying, so they wouldn’t try to explain the reasons behind their actions. I do find that when I take time to explain to Samuel why I needed to remove him from his playtime such as to feed him his meal, will help him to fuss lesser and respond better to my decisions and actions at home.

3. Don’t Take It Personally

There will surely be times when your toddler will reject you or do something that would hurt you in some way. Don’t take it personally. Your toddler did not intentionally planned to make you feel lousy about yourself. In fact, he or she may be taking the opportunity to observe how mummy modulates her anger, and how mummy reacts or responds from it. This is a perfect opportunity to help your toddler grow and learn from the experience at the same time.

4. Help Them Make Decisions on Their Own

As Erik Erikson mentioned, this is a phase where our toddlers are seeking to find autonomy and are developing their sense of personal control over the things around them. This could also be an opportunity for us as parents to provide our toddlers with choices to assist them in making decisions for themselves. These opportunities, when coupled with much assurances and affirmation, will help them to become a more confident person in future!

We can offer our toddlers limited choices such as a choice between two books to read or two pairs of shoes to wear. Don’t just ask them what they want to do, as the question may be too broad for their brains to process. We can give them a couple of alternatives and let them decide. By doing so we can help keep them safe within the limits too! Don’t be surprised when they push these limits! Oh, and be supportive of the choices they make even if its not your first choice!

5. Keep Your Expectations within your Child’s Developmental Abilities

During this period of time as our toddlers are meddling and testing their boundaries and autonomy, it will be absolutely wise for us as parents to keep our expectations within our child’s developmental abilities. Don’t get mad when your 2 year old toddler spills his cup of water that is offered in without the sippy lid or when they slip their food off their spoons during feeding time. Know that they are still learning, and that they will eventually learn to drink without the lid or feed themselves without having a mess at meal times when their fine motor skills are ready.

6. Consistent Age-appropriate Discipline

For toddlers, discipline could mean distraction, reasonable limits, redirection, time-out sessions or spanking on the palms of their hands when they disobey or are unable to control their emotions. A wise parent whom had experience with three children shared with me that his wife uses the time-out method consistently according to their age and only if it’s a temper issue. I.e. giving A 2-minute time-out for a 2-year-old toddler, and given only when the child is unable to control his temper or emotions after two repeated warnings.

They also use a ruler-like spanking tool made of rubber to spank the palms of their hands should they disobey them deliberately, lie or when they are rude to their parents, again also after more than two repeated warnings. They call the tool, ‘The reminder’ so that the child will know that the tool is used to remind them to behave, rather than to scare or threaten them with the spanking pain.

Though disciplining our children varies from parent to parent, we know that there is no one right parenting disciplines.

The key is to be consistent and to provide age-appropriate disciplines that you are comfortable with in your parenting journey.

Related Post: The Many Faces of Discipline

By Yvonne Chee