Young parents get scared when they hear stories about the “terrible twos”. Take courage, though, you will survive the toddler stage. It’s not easy to understand why your toddler has a tantrum but at such a young age, a child is consumed with thoughts of themselves. Everything is about them and how they feel. Until they are taught how to share, every toy or piece of food they see automatically belongs to them.
Toddler temper tantrums can have a variety of effects. Your first thought might be that everyone is focused on you and your screaming child, but getting embarrassed won’t diffuse the situation. Besides, as a parent, you have many more years of embarrassing situations to look forward to courtesy of your children. So worrying about what others think during this situation is simply going to stress you and make you feel worse.
Here are a few tips to help you cope during tantrums:
1. Don’t get angry.
When you scream and they scream the situation is wildly out of control. You’ll end up crying and your toddler will still be screaming. In any situation, raised voices mean civilized conversation has ended in favor of basic primal instincts. Don’t revert back to the days of early man. Keep using the same calm voice you use when they are behaving to get your child to calm down as well.
2. Do NOT praise your toddler when they behave well!
Many people believe that positive reinforcement is better than negative, but this is not true. Praising desirable behaviour creates a child who only behaves well because they are seeking praise. In the absence of a parent or figure of authority such a child will have no reason to behave well. Instead encourage your child to understand how their behaviour affects others and to try to act with that in mind. It will take time, but eventually you will raise a child who has empathy and self-discipline.
3. Show your child how to deal with emotions
Toddlers need to "cause" us frustration so that they can learn from us how to deal with it. Try to remember this and model how you want your child to behave even when they are tired and emotional.
4. Apologise to your child
If you slip up and your behaviour is not what you'd want your child to emulate, apologise and admit your error. Hitting, swearing, and shouting are often bad habits picked up from parents. Never hit your child as this only teaches them that violence can be used to manipulate someone who is weaker; it is an awful thing to teach a child.
5. Rethink "No"
Toddlers have very little control over their lives; everything is organised for them by their parents. It's little wonder that they begin to feel frustrated and manipulated as they become increasingly aware of these things. It doesn't escape their notice that adults are not always bound by the same rules.
This doesn't mean we should totally abandon rules and restrictions for toddlers and live in anarchy. But often we parent on auto-pilot and say "No" because it is more convenient for us rather than preventing a true danger. When "No", "Don't", "Stop" is all you hear all day it leaves very little space for exploration and by the end of the day you, too, would feel like yelling "Well, what CAN I do then?"
6. Offer alternatives and redirections
"Don't" is also a difficult concept for a toddler to really grasp. It is the absense of an action. Sometimes they genuinely do not understand what you want them to do because you're not telling them.
Try phrasing your instructions in positives. "Stand still", "Come to me", "Lift your hands" might be alternatives for a child about to touch something they shouldn't. Likewise, "Draw on the paper instead of the wall" and "Play with soft toys inside the house; take the ball outside if you want to play ball" can diffuse these common situations.
You will survive the toddler years. Nip temper tantrums in the bud with the above tips.