The Best Way to Handle Tantrums
Your beloved angel has just turned two. Welcome to the time of tantrums. As terrible as two’s can be, 3-year-olds are even worse. Here are some tips to help you get them – and yourself – through these hard times.
Time Out For Them
Ignore it – Experts, like my mom, have said that your kid is just trying to get a reaction out of you when they throw a fit. Sometimes, this is true. There are many times when my youngest is on the floor wailing, kicking and screaming and the rest of the family is just stepping over her to carry on living our lives. We’ve tried coddling her through a fit, and it only prolongs the misery for all. But when we all move on with our lives, so does she.
Talk to them about their feelings – This strategy is something I like to call “Compassion with Authority.” At the risk of sounding a little too hippy-dippy for my parents’ taste, it’s important to validate your child’s feelings. In the toddler years, kids have a hard time identifying and understanding their emotions.
Help them – Say things like, “It’s okay to be mad that you can’t have candy. It’s not okay to kick your monkey across the room.” I recently had a personal victory with this when I said, “It’s okay to be sad that you can’t eat brownies for breakfast. You can be sad while you eat your scrambled eggs.” And she ate the eggs!
A safe space to have their feelings – Sometimes, it’s all a little much. Just like when you get stressed out and need a minute to calm down, kids often just need a private, quiet space to work through their feelings. When it seems reasonable, take your child to a reading nook or playspace to sit. Chances are the tantrum won’t stop right away. But when time out seems less like a punishment, feelings seem a lot easier to work through.
Time Out For You
Deep breaths – This is a really tough phase. With a 3 ½-year old and a 2-year-old at home, it seems like tantrums are a constant for me. I can often feel the tension rising and before I know it, I’m screaming along with the both of them. More screaming is not the answer. It takes every bit of my motherly instinct, but it really seems to calm things down when I manage to force myself into a few deep breaths.
Keep in mind how their minds work – Studies have shown that once a child enters a tantrum, there’s no turning back. As they reach the peak of anger, asking questions and trying to reason with them will lengthen the fit. Try to remember, as they enter yet another 5 minutes of screaming and generally destroying your home and day, that your child is simply trying to process their emotions.
Laugh privately – You have to admit, tantrums can be funny. There’s been countless moments when one of my kids has lost it because I wouldn’t let them harm themselves by eating a thumbtack or licking the bottom of a shoe or even because I got chips out of the bag instead of letting them get the chips themselves. Really, all you can do is laugh.
Raising a child isn’t easy. Tantrums aren’t going to be easy. And there’s going to be a lot of them. When it gets really tough, that’s the time to truly savor the moments in between.