Tantrums are common between ages two and three - just as children are starting to understand the world around them. They know what they want, but they aren't always able to clearly express themselves, so it's easier for them to cry, kick and shout.
But tantrums don't have to be a part of your child's everyday life. Once parents start to know their child better, they can more easily set limits, discipline and communicate with their child.
Here are some things you can start doing now to limit your child's tantrums in the first place:
Know what caused their tantrum
What triggered their tantrum? You can help avoid a long and confusing screaming session if you know why your child is upset.
Don't give in to the tantrum
Your child learns from your reactions, so if you let them have the candy bar at the grocery store when they cry, they know that all they have to do is cry to get what they want next time.
Don't make it a show
If you're in a public place, try to find somewhere where you can calmly talk to your child without an audience. Sometimes, this isn't an option and that's OK. Other parents will understand; they've experienced public tantrums, too.
Talk when your child is calm
When a child is already in the middle of a tantrum, it's important for you to remain calm and not try to reason with your child. Once their emotions are under control, teach, educate and set limits.
The distraction technique
This technique helps you avoid two things: your child's tantrum and you having to switch your attention back and forth between what you're trying to do and your child's screams.
When your child starts to cry, turns their usually happy face into a dirty scowl and does those things that make your hair stand on end, you can do these 12 things:
1. Invite your child to go to another room
Take your child away from the situation that's making them angry. Even stepping into their bedroom for some privacy can help.
2. Go outside
Let your child play on the playground or run around the backyard to get some of their energy out. It might not solve the problem, but it can help them come back with peace and a clear mind.
3. Sing together
Sing a fun, cheerful, mood-changing song. Dance and sing along to "If You're Happy and You Know It" for a fun way to lighten the mood.
4. If possible, say that you're going to do something and leave
You can invite your child to come along or let them calm down while you are gone. A child who knows this tactic will likely break their tantrum and want to come with you.
5. Tell a story
Tell a story about your child's tantrum, but use something else as the subject, such as a bird or fox. Hearing the situation from another perspective in a fun way can help the child understand what they are doing.
6. Tell a joke
It will improve you and your child's mood before jumping in and solving the problem that's upsetting your child.
7. Call the pet
Let your child pet the cat or dog as you talk through the problem together. Having something else to do can calm your child as you teach them important lessons about managing their emotions.
8. Stand your ground before the tantrum
Before leaving the house, calmly explain where you're going, what you're going to do and what you expect from your child. (I'm going to the store, we are only buying milk and we will not be buying candy or toys, do you understand?) Don't give threats but speak with love and care.
9. Ask your child to express their needs and wants with words
Many times, a child throws tantrums because he or she doesn't have enough words to express themselves. Give your child your full attention so you can help them find the words to share how they feel.
10. Know your child
Nobody knows your child like you do, so think about the things that might cause them stress. When you know what your child wants, you can help prepare them to react the right way.
11. Create a keyword
Come up with a secret word your child can use when they need to tell you something important. This way you can find a private place to talk even when you're around other people. Your child can just say this one word instead of screaming to get your attention.
12. Use your imagination
Once you know why your child is throwing a tantrum, use that knowledge in your favor! Think of creative and silly explanations or distractions to help calm your child. Remember, the important thing about this technique is not to lie or frighten your child, but is to distract them from the "storm" and keep tantrums from becoming a habit.
Work on discipline, limits and love and the nightmare of a tantrum will be just that: a nightmare.