We all know what they are, but that doesn’t help with the embarrassment when our child is having a full-on screaming fit in the middle of aisle 8 in Tesco.
No matter how many times I tell myself not to feel embarrassed and say, ‘It’s okay, everyone understands, all children have them’, I can still feel my anxiety rise and have an urgent desire to leave the shop (all without looking anyone in the eye).
I’ve worked with children for over 15 years now, and it’s true most children have tantrums. But this doesn’t make them any easier to manage once they happen. Through my experience I have learned some helpful tips; they don’t work for every child and every situation but they have definitely helped with the frequency and intensity. You may want to give them a try and let me know how you get on. They may or may not work, but they have definitely been helpful for me.
1. Distraction! I once nannied for a little boy who would have tantrums nearly every day. I found myself anxious to leave the house in case they happened. We were once in the middle of Hyde Park and I told him that: ‘licking the dog wasn’t a good idea’. He then went from 0-100 in about 0.2 seconds. In the distance I saw a little boy playing football. I said to my kid, ‘Look at that little boy playing football. Shall we ask if we can join in?’ This was in a high-pitched, excited voice. I couldn’t believe it: the tantrum didn’t escalate and he was focused on going over to play football. I thought okay… this was probably just a coincidence. But a few days later we were at home and I could sense another tantrum arising, so I suggested that we look out the window for ‘red cars’ and see who could find the first red car. Again, I couldn’t believe it. Alfie was so excited about finding a red car first that he forgot all about the tantrum!
2. Roleplay! Role play is an amazing way for children to express their emotions in a safe and playful way. Dressing up, playing with figurines, etc. One reason for tantrums is toddlers want to express themselves, but find it difficult to do so. They feel frustrated, and the frustration comes out as a tantrum. If we allow children to express their frustrations through play and creativity this could lessen the need for an emotional outburst.
3. Sleep! Children need enough sleep in order to have the energy to get through the day without becoming overtired. We all know what it’s like when we are tired. We become frustrated and impatient. Imagine how this feels for a toddler who is unable to communicate how they feel. An infant is considered overtired when they have been awake for longer than their little bodies can tolerate. This activates a stress response, including the release of hormones like cortisol, that makes it even harder for them to settle. Signs of overtiredness can include:
· Fussiness and crying
· Difficult to calm
· Overactivity – be careful, as this may be interpreted as being ready to play, not ready to sleep!
I can provide your baby with sleep support so get in touch today to find your way to less tantrums.
4. Hunger! Have you ever thought your toddler might be having a tantrum because of their hunger and nutrition? The food we eat and the nutrients we choose to sustain ourselves and our children have a big impact on our emotions. The impact of the sweet stuff is a sugar rush (we’ve all been there). This is when blood sugar levels spike and children experience an energy increase. Following this, is the dreaded comedown – the crash and burn – and this is when the tantrums often kick-in.
Mealtimes and snacks should be both filling and nutritious, packed with a variety of healthy fats, proteins and veggies, so there’s less room for tantrums to sneak their way into your day. But yes, I’ve had days when I’ve fed my child chicken nuggets and chips, and that’s just part of parenting.
5. Giving lots of positive attention during the day. I once looked after 2 siblings very close in age. I noticed that the older child would often have a tantrum if I was spending too much time playing with the baby (it happens). The older brother would often let me know I wasn’t giving him enough attention by throwing things. I learned to involve him when I was playing with the baby and asked him to make choices about the games we played.
Giving children some control over little things can also reduce tantrums. Children just want to feel involved and it can be very difficult when a new sibling arrives. It’s important to include children in as much as possible, so they don’t feel left out. It can be very hard for infants to express themselves and they can find it difficult to communicate their feelings when a new baby arrives into the family.
Get in touch today