Welcome to the Terrible Tantrums

Tantrums are no fun for kids or their parents

It happens to the best of us

We’ve all been there… the TANTRUM to beat all tantrums. Moments earlier, you were thanking the universe for your good-natured toddler.  Now you are looking at your tiny terror completely bewildered and trying to figure out what went wrong.  Yep, that’s right, you’ve been Tantrum-ed 🙂

Congratulations! You’ve officially made it to the tantrum years! (I’m sorry to break it to you, but calling it the terrible twos is a gross underestimation for many of us)…  Whether you were one of the unlucky folks who stumbled into this dreaded stage by the 9 month well checkup or a parent who thought they were in the clear only to be thrown into the mix at 4, you are in good company.

Why do tantrums happen?

Tantrums happen with one goal in mind… Get What You Want.  That first tantrum may have started because knowing what you want and being able to express that desire is sometimes tricky when you’re little. While Jr. is shrieking, we parents are running around trying to figure out whatever we can to stop the high-pitched screams.   It doesn’t take long for a pattern to develop.  While we are still floundering around wondering where our angel child went, a lightbulb moment happens in that beautiful developing brain of your sweet baby.  And so the fun begins. It happens so gradually we aren’t usually aware that any subtle manipulation is going on.  And by the time we’re wise to it, it’s usually harder to break.

Tantrums tend to progress as our littles get bigger.  They may start due to struggles in communication, but then progress as they become more skilled in the art of negotiation.

There is good news though.  Learning to handle a tantrum is fantastic practice for the more sophisticated “negotiations” that will happen during the teen years.  And I promise you can do this.  So take a deep breath and set up some ground rules for yourself.  You may have caved in the checkout line last shopping trip, but that doesn’t mean you have to cave in the future.

Top Five Rules for Handling a Tantrum

  1.  Keep your cool.  Tantrums are completely normal.  You getting upset only makes it worse.  So find your happy place and know that it can’t possibly last forever.
  2. Don’t give in.  Maybe your kiddo is screaming because they want that candy in the checkout line.  Once you’ve given an answer, don’t give in.  Consider a house rule for no purchases in the checkout line.
  3. Make sure you’re in a safe place.  A tantruming child will often throw themselves back in anger without regard for their surroundings.  If you are in an area where they could hurt themselves, transport them to a safer area and make your exit.
  4. Prepare if possible.  If you know that you’re heading into tantrum territory, lay down the ground rules before you go.  Give that 5 minute warning at the park.  Tell them in advance that no treats will be bought.
  5. Let the judgement go.  No matter what we do as parents, there will be someone ready to criticize.  And sometimes the looks from other moms might make you second guess yourself.   Try not to let it get to you.  Stay the course.  Setting some clear boundaries does not make you a bad mom, it makes you a GREAT one!

What are some tricks that you use to deal with tantrums?

Author: Dr. Jenny Seawell

Dr. Jennifer Seawell is a board certified pediatrician currently practicing in Tennessee. She is married with 2 daughters aged 7 and 13.

2 thoughts on “Welcome to the Terrible Tantrums”

  1. To your point in #4 I like giving choices within boundaries. For example, you can choose from one of these 3 shirts but you will get dressed. Remember that the independence factor is at play. Kids want to prove they can do it. How many times do you hear “I do it!” So offering a limited option, rather than a forced single option or an unlimited/overwhelming choice, is easier for little brains to navigate. Basically, moms can be manipulators, teaching their kiddos to be express independence in a controlled environment.

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