Why understanding your child’s tantrums can help prevent them
This is a two-part article. Next week we will discuss methods on preventing tantrums and how to correct poor behavior in young children.
You’re at the grocery store during your child’s scheduled naptime. You’re at the checkout lane when your child starts grabbing the candy bars as you place your groceries on the conveyor belt. While the cashier scans your items, you’re scrambling to put away the candy bars your child snatched. Next thing you know, your child flails onto the floor and starts screaming while clutching onto a Snickers bar. You feel everybody’s gaze on you as you try to soothe your child and pay for your groceries. After you finish, you silently vow to never set foot in that grocery store again.
If you try to Google how to handle a toddler meltdown, you’ll get mixed results from millions of parents with differing opinions. While you may find some solid advice, there are also some tips that are flat out wrong. Tantrums are a beast for any parent to tackle, but when you understand why children have tantrums in the first place and you consistently work on fixing their behavior, then your children will learn how to better manage their emotions with better behavior.
Part of managing a tantrum is understanding that a child’s brain is not fully developed. Amanda with Messy Motherhood explains how the brain doesn’t fully develop until your reach your mid 20’s. “Kids have temper tantrums because the parts of their brain that allows them to think logically isn’t developed yet… and the last part that develops is the frontal lobe, which is the abstract thinking part. It’s the part that helps us think before we act and it’s where we problem solve.”
Small elements that might not affect us tend to affect children tenfold. If you’re hungry, you’re able to wait until it’s the right time to eat, whereas your child will need to eat the moment they feel hungry. Remember that your child is still exploring their emotions and cannot control emotions as well as older kids and adults. Understanding this will help you teach your child how to better control their emotions.
Most importantly, you need to have control over your own emotions during these tantrums too.
One thing to note is how you are reacting during the whole situation. Your child will feed off of your response and emotions to their tantrums. Being aware of your own feelings will help you assess the situation better. If your acting upon your own emotions, take a step back and calm down before things get out of hand. Your child will also need to let their emotions out so giving some “time out” time for both you and your child will be necessary.
Once you feel calm enough to talk to your child, try to have empathy on the situation, no matter how silly or small it is. Instead of simply telling them, “it’s ok, stop crying” or “you’re fine”, acknowledge their feelings. “Are you tired? Hungry? Angry?” If they can manage a response, you now have the upper hand at alleviating the situation. Once you have their attention, acknowledge their feelings by saying, “Wow, you sure are angry” or “I see you’re really sad about this” or “This hurt your feelings”.
Amanda with Messy Motherhood said, “Statements like these let your child know that you are paying attention and that you see that they are upset. You’re talking to them in a way that they can hear you.”
It’s important to let your child open up to you about the situation so that you can solve it. By doing this, you are essentially showing your child that their feelings matter to you and that you are doing your best to help them. This will help them open up about what frustrated them and what triggered their behavior. When we understand what is making our child agitated, the next thing we need to do is to prevent future incidents from happening.