Preschoolers and tantrums
There’s hardly anyone that hasn’t either seen a child whining and screaming at the top of his lungs or experienced it themselves. One minute you’re playing with your little one and he’s all smiles and suddenly he’s hysterical because a cookie fell out of the pack or because he can’t get to open his bottle and you just can’t seem to understand why or know what to do to calm him down!. Whew! This is what is known as a temper tantrum and is most common in children between the ages of 1 and 3, but also occurs in children much older than 3, but usually not with the same intensity or frequency as when they were much younger. Throwing tantrums does not mean your child is being manipulative. It is a phase that they will eventually grow out of.
Most preschoolers are known to throw a tantrum as a response to fatigue, fear, rejection or generally not getting what they want, when they want it. Frustration mounts when they can’t handle what is going on around them and they turn to pounding, screaming, crying and all that. Some preschoolers might just be acting out their frustration based on what happened earlier in the day that they couldn’t handle or understand properly.
This can take a toll on caregivers leading to frustration and an outburst of emotions from all involved(not a pretty sight to behold). To help parents and caregivers with ways to handle toddlers whenever they are having a tantrum, we have listed some tips that’ll help you through this period. Hopefully you’re able to understand your preschooler and help calm him down whenever he’s having a tantrum.
What to do when your preschooler throws a fit.
First advice would be for you not to lose your cool. Yeah, I know that sounds absurd especially when your preschooler is throwing and hitting in addition to screaming, kicking, biting and holding his breath all at the same time. While this may be hard to handle, be rest assured that every breath holding is normal behaviour for a child having a tantrum. During this period, your child is unable to reason and is more likely to respond negatively if you lose your cool or leave the room. According to parents, your best bet is to stay calm, sit with him while he cries. In general, staying with your child during a tantrum is a good idea. Storming out of the room can make him feel abandoned and just aggravate the whole situation. Some experts suggest picking up your child and holding him if he’s not kicking too much while some say that tactic rewards negative behaviour and that it’s better to ignore the tantrum until your child calms down.
If you find yourself getting frustrated, some experts suggest calmly leaving the room for a few minutes and then returning after your child has stopped crying. However you choose to handle the tantrum, consistency is key to making it work.
Another tip would be not to try and negotiate with your preschooler all the time, no matter how long the tantrum continues. Don’t give in to any unreasonable demand or try to offer an incentive to your preschooler. As much as you might feel very uncomfortable especially if this behaviour happens in public, it really doesn’t help in the long run. Try not to worry about what others think at this moment, every parent has gone through it at one point in the life of their preschooler. If you give in, you’ll only be teaching your child that it’s ok to throw a tantrum whenever he wants something.
If you’re in a public place and he starts to throw his fist or hit other people, pick him up and take him someplace else, explain why you’re where you are and let him know you’ll go back only when he calms down.
Some parents swear by “time-outs”. Using time-outs occasionally may also help. When he gets inconsolable and all other methods have failed, take him to a quiet spot in the house and let him sit it out for about a minute. He might become angry and scream and hit, do not pet him. Explain to him that he is not being punished but you’re giving him space to calm down and think about what he’s done and then leave the place. Once he realizes that you’re serious, he just might calm down. Do not give him any form of attention during this time, just make sure he is safe where he is.
Once your child calms down, talk to him about the episode. Hold him close and let him know you understand why he got angry and that next time, he’s angry about anything, you’re available to hear him out .
Let him know you love him and would try to understand him better in future. It helps him to be reassured that you do not hate him but only dislike his tantrums. Also, try to pay attention to which situations triggers these tantrums and plan accordingly. If hunger makes him angry, try and always have a snack with you if you have to go out, if he normally gets cranky because of lack of sleep, try and get your chores and errands done early enough for you to be home for him to nap. If he doesn’t like sudden changes in programmes or games, give him a heads-up before a change, let him expect it. Try distracting him as soon as you notice a tantrum is about to happen, give him a toy, sing a song or change your location. Your preschooler is growing up and wants to be treated as an adult. Give him a sense of control. Do not always say the word “No”. Ease up a bit and give both of you time to chill.
As much as daily tantrums are perfectly normal in toddlers, watch for other signs of problems especially if these tantrums occur frequently and get more intense every day and nothing seems to be working. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.