It’s tough being a toddler. You are bombarded with new experiences, overwhelming emotions, a desire for independence and as yet none of the necessary logic to cope with this strange and confusing time. Really, it is no surprise that that your child is prone to the odd tantrum.
While is it a rare parent who manages to raise a toddler without the odd mid-supermarket meltdown, there are a few simple techniques you can use to defuse outbursts of temper and encourage less-than disorderly conduct in the future.
When your toddler is drumming her little fists on the ground and screaming loud enough for the dog to start whimpering it can be excruciatingly tempting to give in and hand over that forbidden tub of ice cream. But by doing so, you will be teaching her a very good way to get what she wants – creating an almighty scene. When you say no, make sure it stays no. Relenting to a wailing child may seem like the path of least resistance, but you will be opening the floodgate for more deliberate tantrums in the future.
Turn the other cheek
We all know toddlers love to be the centre of attention, which can often be the reason at the root of their outbursts. Mid–tantrum your child is likely to do whatever it takes to get your (and others’) undivided attention. The next time your child lashes out at you in public, try simply ignoring her. If you are in a shop scoop her up calmly and continue what you were doing. If she refuses to eat her breakfast and throws it on the floor, casually shrug and say ‘oh well, you mustn’t be hungry’ then carry on eating. There is no excitement to be found in arguing with someone who is keeping their cool; if you refuse to become involved in the fracas then you may well find she will tire of it herself.
Create a diversion
Sometimes the key to cutting short a tantrum can be as simple as changing the subject. Your toddler has a very short attention span (which is part of the reason she gets so frustrated in the first place). Use this to your advantage by carrying toys, snacks and drinks with you, producing them when you need to create a distraction. If she is flailing around in the toy department of John Lewis, ask her if she would like to help you test some pretty perfumes or ask her what she wants from Santa Claus this year (even if it is only March). This technique is more likely to work in the earlier stages of an outburst so keep a keen eye for oncoming stroppiness.
Accentuate the positive
Although giving extra attention to badly behaved children is certainly not encouraged, don’t forget to make a big fuss when your child is behaving well. It can be easy to forget to praise little ones for being good and playing nicely so make sure you point out to her how happy you are with her behaviour. By offering that much craved attention to her in these instances she will be encouraged to seek more of your approval through good deeds and general all–round loveliness.
Recognise her triggers
For some children it’s junk food, for some it’s not taking their afternoon nap, for some it is taking their afternoon nap… for every tantrum there is a trigger. Observe your little one and look out for patterns in her behaviour, does a busy supermarket on a Saturday make her anxious? Does she get jittery if she eats sweets? If you find that tantrums are frequent and seemingly unexplained try keeping a diary to see if you can spot the cause. Once you have pinpointed her trigger, you can minimise the likelihood of further eruptions by avoiding whatever it is that prompts her to throw a tantrum. Pre-empting bad behaviour can be an extremely effective long-term solution throughout childhood, with prevention in most cases being, as they say, far superior to cure.