Articles Parenting Through My Eyes

19th January – Taming the Tantrum


“When our little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos.” LR Knost

Tantrums seem to have become commonplace in our household recently. It’s very easy to get all agitated and react with anger, frustration and sadness. However, doing so does not really create a positive end result. 

I find myself feeling as though I’ve failed as a parent when one of my daughters struggles to regulate their emotions and I have been unsuccessful in negotiating with them. In reality, when I’m mulling the situation over at a later date, I know that tantrums are absolutely commonplace in most children’s lives. The frequency and severity differ for each child and are as a result of a combination of factors. 

What causes a child’s tantrums?

There are countless reasons that a child’s behaviour may end in a tantrum. Here are just a few of the main ones that I have observed being the case in my daughters’ lives. 

Things not going their way

In a child’s mind, they see their way and their wants as being far more important and correct than other people’s. As a result, when what they expect to happen doesn’t, they can tantrum as a result. Stamping feet and screaming are regular signs that your child is highly frustrated. 

Unexpected change

If a child has been expecting to go to the zoo on Saturday with their Aunt and Uncle, but plans change at the last minute to the Sunday, this may be enough to trigger a tantrum. Likewise, a regular football training session being cancelled or postponed, while sometimes can be a relief, may result in a serious strop. Looking forward to an event means that sudden change can be incredibly disappointing.

Feeling misunderstood

It can be difficult to convey our feelings when we are young. Having our words taken out of context or people making assumptions about our children can cause them to act up. If it were to happen to an adult, we may be able to translate the way we feel into words, but this is not always the case. 

What can we do to help?

As I hinted earlier, I am certainly no expert when it comes to this, but I thought I would share the things I find that work the best.

I can see you’re feeling frustrated

Telling your child that you can see that they are feeling a certain way can help to validate their emotions. It’s perfectly reasonable that they are feeling frustrated when someone unexpectedly cancelled their plans or someone ruined their picture.

I love you, but I don’t love this behaviour

Reminding your child that just because you are not pleased with the way in which they are behaving does not equate to you not loving them. Being told that you are loved is important for everyone. 

Speaking calmly

I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles with this, but speaking calmly and in a composed manner really helps. There is no need shouting back at them as it will end up making you feel worse than you undoubtedly already do. 

Avoid telling them to calm down

How many people have actually calmed down as a result of being ordered to? I can’t think of a single instance when it has worked for me. In fact, why would it? Being told that you cannot feel a certain way is unhelpful. See my first point and use that technique instead. 

Words of wisdom from other bloggers:

Northumberland Family Diaries: Keep calm yourself, give them space to vent their tantrum and then talk through how they are feeling and explain boundaries if that is something that caused the tantrum. For the two/three age, tantrums are usually a result of them wanting to be independent and exploring/pushing boundaries and learning that they have to share etc with other children.

A Rose Tinted World: Listen and empathise. My little girl’s tantrums are usually borne out of frustration. So even acknowledging that you are listening and understand why they are angry can help.

Life with Lianne: I tell my little ones to breathe, look at me and calmly tell me what’s wrong – and I always get down to their level – the calmness really helps to diffuse the situation.

The Family Ticket: When my child’s having a tantrum I just sit myself next to him and whisper. He wants to hear me but he can’t so he goes quiet so I can whisper in his ear. I offer him a hug and then when he’s totally calm we talk about the tantrum. That doesn’t work all the time though. I don’t think there is one way that works every time.

A Beautiful Space: Sometimes when children tantrum they feel out of control a warm hug may be just what they need to feel safe enough to relax. when a child acts the most unlovable they often need the most love.

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