Probably one of the most feared experiences of a parent with young kids is the temper tantrum. Sometimes we can sense one is coming on, other times it's just a matter of riding out the bad mood.
Preventing the inevitable meltdown
Although there is no denying that we will all go through the public meltdown and fiery tantrums with our toddlers, sometimes a few helpful tips can help us avoid them.
Largely the responsibility lies with us — the parent — to ensure we are organised enough in advance to create an environment that won't lead to a spectacular toddler performance.
The toddler's environment
Nicole Pierotti is a psychologist who works with babies, children and parents through her business, Baby Smiles. She says there are a number of things parents can try.
The first thing you can ask yourself is if your toddler is getting enough sleep. "All toddlers need 12 hours solid sleep at night — no exceptions — plus a daytime sleep of at least 1.5 hours," Pierotti recommends.
And, when it's their bedtime or they're tired, put them to sleep and forget about any chores or errands that you were going to do.
Pierotti says healthy, nutritious foods eaten regularly can help keep your kid in good form.
"Make every bite your toddler eats count! There is no room in their development for daily 'treats' or 'junk' food and their growing brain and body need the best nutrition that you can provide," Pierotti says.
If you are going to be out all day it's also helpful to have a pre-packed lunch and healthy snacks.
Although it's hard to do, having a routine can really help your child understand what is coming up in their day. Being consistent with the structure of your day allows you to be organised and helps toddlers feel more emotionally secure.
Many toddlers are explorers and they want to do things by themselves. Pierotti says, "When they want to do something by themselves, let them. You may need to demonstrate it first, but give them their independence." This might help you avoid the tussle for power.
Rules for parents
It's not just toddlers who should follow rules. Some simple parental guidelines can help us avoid a toddler tantrum all together.
- Consider doing chores, shopping or attending appointments at a time when you don't have to take your toddler with you or can be accompanied by another adult.
- Try not to take your toddler out in the afternoon when they are at their most tired and lethargic.
- Try to avoid doing activities with your toddler that take more than 15 minutes, e.g. instead of sipping coffee in a cafe, take it to a park.
- Make sure you are also well rested and fed so that your patience is at its prime.
When the tantrum strikes
Sometimes there is nothing you can do to avoid a tantrum and if that's the case, try to remember these helpful tips from Pierotti:
- Consider your priorities. If you're out shopping, does it have to be done now or can you just go home?
- Try to wait out the tantrum and don't pay attention to your toddler (as best as you can).
- If you are going out, say to get groceries, speak to your toddler about where you are going and what positive behaviours you want from them. You can also suggest ways they can help you, such as putting items in the trolley when asked.
- Find ways for your toddler to be involved in what you are doing for the day rather than just taking them along for the ride.