Positive Parenting Strategies for Responding to Tantrums

positive parenting Jan 30, 2023

A tantrum is a sudden, intense expression of frustration, anger, or disappointment in young children, usually toddlers. Tantrums typically involve crying, screaming, stamping of feet, and sometimes physical aggression. They can happen when a child is overwhelmed by their emotions and unable to communicate their needs effectively or have them met. Tantrums usually last a few minutes but can seem much longer to caregivers. They are a normal part of child development and often decrease as a child grows and develops better language and coping skills.

Tantrums in toddlers are a normal part of child development and can be caused by several factors, including:

  1. Frustration: Toddlers have limited language and problem-solving skills, which can lead to frustration when they cannot communicate their needs or have them met. This can result in a tantrum.
  2. Overstimulation: Toddlers can become overwhelmed when they are exposed to too much noise, activity, or sensory input. This can trigger a tantrum as their nervous system becomes overwhelmed, and they cannot regulate their emotions.
  3. Fatigue: Being tired can lower a toddler's threshold for frustration and make them more prone to tantrums. Fatigue can also affect their ability to regulate their emotions and lead to mood swings and outbursts.
  4. Hunger: Hunger can also trigger tantrums in toddlers, making them irritable and unable to focus on anything else until their needs are met.
  5. Lack of control: As toddlers assert their independence and develop their own preferences, they may become upset when they are not in control of a situation. This can result in a tantrum as they struggle to cope with their emotions.
  6. Unmet needs: If a child's basic needs for food, sleep, affection, and security are not met, they may act out with a tantrum. This can happen if they are hungry, tired, or feel neglected or unsupported.
  7. Change: Change can be challenging for toddlers, who thrive on routine and structure. A sudden change in their routine, such as a new caregiver or a move to a new house, can trigger a tantrum.
  8. Transitions: Transitions can also be difficult for toddlers, such as moving from playtime to mealtime or from being awake to going to bed. These transitions can trigger a tantrum if the child feels that their preferred activities are being interrupted.

As a parent, dealing with tantrums can be challenging and exhausting. However, responding positively and effectively to help your child learn appropriate behaviors and coping skills is important. Here are eight positive parenting strategies for responding to tantrums:

1. Remain calm: It is essential to stay calm when your child is throwing a tantrum. Yelling or getting angry will only escalate the situation. Instead, take a deep breath and try to respond in a calm, assertive manner. This will help your child feel safe and secure, and they will be more likely to calm down faster.

Example: Child is crying and throwing tantrums because they can't have candy before dinner. The parent says, "I understand you're upset, but candy is for after dinner. So let's find something else to do together until dinner is ready."

2. Acknowledge your child's feelings: Letting your child know that you understand that they are upset and that their feelings are valid can help them feel heard and understood. This can also help to reduce their frustration and make them feel more in control of the situation.

Example: Child is upset because they can't play with their favorite toy. Parent says, "I know you're upset that you can't play with the toy right now. I would be upset too. Let's talk about when we can play with it next."

3. Offer comfort: A hug, a cuddle, or simply holding your child can be comforting and help them feel safe. This can help them feel more relaxed and reduce their stress levels.

Example: Child is crying because they can no longer use their Ipad. Parent says, "I know it sucks that your Ipad time is up. I'm here to give you a hug." while holding the child.

4. Use distraction: When your child throws a tantrum, try to distract or redirect them to a new activity or object. This can help them forget what upset them and refocus their attention on something else.

Example: The child is upset because they can't have ice cream before bed. Parent says, "Let's play a game instead. Do you want to play hide and seek?"

5. Teach problem-solving skills: By helping your child identify the cause of their frustration, you can help them learn important problem-solving skills. Work with your child to find a solution to help them feel better. This can also empower your child and help them feel more in control of the situation.

Example: The child is upset because they can't play outside because it's raining. The parent says, "What can we do instead of playing outside?" The child says they want to draw. The parent says, "Great, let's get some paper and markers and draw together."

6. Set clear limits and offer choices: Clearly communicate your expectations, be firm, follow through with your decision, and, where possible, offer choices. This can help your child understand what is expected of them, reduce frustration, and allow making choices.

Example: Child is throwing a tantrum because they can't have a cookie for breakfast. Parent says, "I know you want the cookie and it is breakfast time. You can get it with your lunch. Do you want an apple or a banana instead?"

7. Reinforce positive behavior: Reward and praise your child when they exhibit positive behavior, such as calmness and self-control. This can encourage your child to continue to exhibit positive behavior and help them feel more in control of the situation.

Example: The child is upset but can calm down without throwing a tantrum. Parent says, "I'm proud of you for using your words instead of throwing a tantrum. That shows great self-control."

8. Stay consistent: Consistently applying the same response to tantrums can help your child learn what is expected of them. This can also help reduce frustration levels and promote positive behavior. It is important to be consistent and apply the same response each time your child throws a tantrum.

Example: The parent consistently offers comfort whenever the child throws a tantrum. Over time, the child learns that throwing a tantrum will not lead to getting what they want, but using their words and problem-solving skills will.

In conclusion, using positive parenting strategies when responding to tantrums can help children develop important coping skills, reduce frustration, and promote positive behavior. Remember to remain calm, acknowledge your child's feelings, offer comfort, use distraction, teach problem-solving skills, set clear limits, reinforce positive behavior, and stay consistent. These strategies and patience, and consistency can help you navigate tantrums and build a strong, positive relationship.