How to Deal with Toddler Meltdowns?
If you are a parent of a child around the age of two, by now you probably've seen a fair share of drama for such grave reasons like:
"I won't let her wash her face with the sponge that I use to clean the dishes" or
"I wanted to put his used nappy in the bin."
At that loud moments of havoc we often ask ourselves, what's going on?
Read our article to know what triggers toddler tantrums and how to cope with them.
What are toddler tantrums and what do they mean?
A temper tantrum is a strong wave of emotions normally stirred by feelings of anger, frustration, loss, and disappointment. When experiencing temper tantrums, toddlers tend to express themselves by crying, screaming, throwing things, stomping, kicking, thrashing, biting, hitting their parents, banging their heads against the wall or any hard surface, or falling to the ground.
Children throw tantrums as a way to express their emotions and get your attention. Ever seen your child having a meltdown and you just can’t understand why? Well, it could be they are just frustrated that you don’t understand what they are trying to tell you. Other times they could be mad because you won’t allow them to have their way. Regardless, it is important that your child learns to manage their emotions as sometimes it could get out of hand. It's your role to help them realize that there are better ways to handle their frustrations.
Types of Toddler Tantrums
There are two types of toddler meltdowns: emotional tantrums and non-emotional tantrums. Emotional tantrums are most common in 2-3 year olds. At this age, when your child gets upset the emotional part of their brain becomes over-stimulated causing it to take over control from the pre-frontal cortex, which is the thinking part of the brain.
Non-emotional tantrums happen to older children, normally those over 3.5 years. Most times, however, it is a mixture of both forms of tantrums. Children this age, are yet to become experts in emotional management, so they may experience emotional meltdowns every once in a while. Often, if parents have given in to their children’s demands previously, the child may learn to relate throwing tantrums to getting what they want. As such, non-emotional tantrums, also known as Little Nero tantrums, result from associated learning.
It is important to note that sometimes non-emotional tantrums can develop into emotional ones if the situation blows up.
When do toddler meltdowns peak?
Most children start throwing tantrums at the age of two. No wonder this age is commonly referred to as the “Terrible Twos.” Emotional toddler tantrums arise from unmet needs and desires.
Toddler tantrums are more likely to peak from age two because that’s when children start to realize that they are separate from their parents. As such, they desire to gain independence and when they cannot, the frustration develops into tantrums.
Most children have meltdowns only a few times a day. Some, however, experience them more frequently. If you feel like all your child does is throw tantrums, don’t worry it’s just a phase. It will pass as they grow older. Most parents can relate to frequent meltdowns. It may be upsetting for you, especially when your child has a meltdown in public, but avoid stressing about it.
How can you effectively manage your child’s temper tantrum?
As your child grows, you will realize that they will want more independence. It is important that you teach them how to manage their emotions. The best way to do that would be to set an example for them. As such, you will need to keep your cool while dealing with your children. Although frustrations and stress are normal during parenting, avoid giving into them. If you feel stressed, it is okay to take a break. If you shout at them when they do something you don’t approve, they may not listen to you when you tell them not to shout. After all, children borrow their behaviors from their enviroment, and parents are at the centre of that enviroment.
Always take a deep breath and calm down. You need to be very calm and understanding while managing a tantrum. Avoid doing anything in a rush. Understand that the meltdowns are part of their growth and development process. Toddlers are incapable of reasoning or manipulating, so they are not throwing tantrums intentionally, just to annoy you or get you to give in to their requests. Keep this in mind. It will help you maintain your cool while dealing with those outbursts.
When training your child to adopt a certain behavior, never get tired of repeating yourself. Your child’s brain is only developing their ability to control behaviour. Besides, you should learn to maintain a firm voice in certain situations. Your child should learn from a very young age that no means no. When saying no, just keep your voice very firm yet very calm. Give them a different option, and encourage to embrace the good side of things.
Remember to practice patience with your child. You can be 100% sure that it will take time. Besides, your child will naturally do some things knowingly to test your limits and boundaries. Avoid giving into them. Help them understand that if they keep at it you will have to take action. Sometimes, involve another adult. Especially when you feel like you are about to lose your cool, let someone else handle the situation.
How should you react to hitting, biting, kicking, and fighting?
If your child hits, bites kicks, or fights a lot, it does not mean that they will grow up to be aggressive. It means they have very strong emotions that they just don’t know how to express in words. The best course of action to correct this behavior would be teaching and encouraging them to use their words. Help them understand that their actions are hurtful and you won’t tolerate them.
Talk to them and figure out what is worrying them. Their tantrum could be a result of some insecurity they have. As such, their outbursts may just be a way for them to get your attention. Show them you love them by hugging and cuddling with them. Praise their good behavior and firmly show them that you don’t appreciate their bad actions.
It is important to acknowledge their feelings. Try saying something like: “I know you are feeling angry, about…” If they realize that you see their frustration and want to help them work through their emotions, they will be more likely to recognize their own emotions.
As a parent, you would love to keep your child happy at all times, unfortunately, that’s not how it works. They are bound to go through emotional stress as they grow up, and it is your task to help them learn to manage their stress effectively from a very young age. To ensure the best results, always be consistent with your child and praise good behavior. Let them know that you love them and always want the best for them.