Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Trying Toddlers

I was at a playgroup yesterday and was talking to another mum whose daughter is a few months older than my son. She was telling me how difficult it is anytime she leaves somewhere to go home. Her daughter will lie on the floor, kicking and screaming and not wanting to go. Her mother had advised bribing her with chocolate biscuits so that was what she planned to try when it came to the end of the playgroup. I watched as she carried out her screaming daughter, telling her she could have a chocolate biscuit. She put her in the pushchair and gave her the promised biscuit and her daughter calmed right down and nibbled happily on it. The mum was relieved and impressed that her mother's tip had worked. She had started to dread going anywhere because of her daughter's tantrum when it was time to leave but now it seemed, she had a successful way to deal with it.

I had to wonder to myself whether rewarding her daughter's screaming with a chocolate biscuit was really a successful solution. I am yet to experience a tantrum with my son but I can appreciate how stressful they can be for a parent and that every mum wants something that will fix the situation fast.

We all know tantrums are a toddler's expression of frustration, growing independence and sometimes a demand for attention. They are a challenging side of parenting and an exercise in our own self-control and patience. From what I've read, the overriding pieces of advice for dealing with tantrums seem to be as follows:

  • Ignore the child's outburst as much as possible.

  • Avoid yelling or making a scene and try to stay calm.

  • Distract the child with something else.

Once over, the tantrum should be forgotten and a hug given to the child. Praising good behaviour and allowing your child to have choices when possible are thought to help towards minimising the number of tantrums.

Sometimes it will be simply tiredness or hunger that cause a tantrum. Hunger should be easily dealt with if you carry snacks and a drink with you when you are out and ensure your child's been fed before a supermarket trip or other visit where you want to avoid a melt-down. Tiredness can be harder to control if you're doing something out of their usual routine, like travelling or attending a wedding for example. We all have those days when our children refuse to take a nap and sometimes there's just nothing you can do!

There are no easy answers for dealing with trying toddlers. The best thing we can do as parents is to try to be calm around them, identify what might have caused a tantrum so we can address it if it's related to food, tiredness or them needing help with a task and remember that it is after all a stage in their development and won't last!

How do you deal with toddler tantrums? Do you have any advice to share to other mums?


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  1. Well firstly, I totally agree, bribing a child with chocolate biscuits isn't going to stop the tantrum, it might make your life easier but in the long term the child will become a)fat, and b)very spoilt.

    I had to learn how to stay calm a long time ago. Amy's tantrums were horrendous at one point and she still has them now at 10 years old. She is autistic but I have to differentiate the age from the autism, and that sometimes isn't easy.

    CJ xx

  2. umm, nope, biscuits and chocolate work for me too. sometimes it's whatever works to keep you from lying on the floor next to them and having your own tantrum

  3. ahhhh!
    I did this yesturday!
    We were out for lunch with a friend and toddler was having a whale of a time and did not want to leave for her socatots session so kicked up a huge tantrum.
    I needed her to calm down for her class so stopped off at a petrol station and bought her a milky bar!
    Any tips on how not to do this every time?

  4. You really just have to take each situation as it comes.

    There are times that maybe bribery is appropriate (ie. being at a wedding and you would really like them to be settled down no matter what), or if you are out shopping you just ignore them and get your chore done.

    The hardest part I think is feeling like others are judging your decision without knowing what your day has been like. Some days as moms we have peace/patience to deal "correctly" with a situation and other days maybe there is stress or not feeling well yourself and you do what you can just to (as said above) "keep yourself from lying on the floor right next to them" :)

  5. I think different things work on different children. I know that my daughter is relentless and nothing will break her out of that tantrum until you send her to the naughty corner, remove toys. etc. And yes ignoring her drives her batty and she comes to find you. She's nearly 4

    My son who is 20 monthsI use distraction. And food that boy has worms for sure. If he starts acting up I show him a raisin lol

  6. Thanks for all the comments and some great points raised.

    As Tiffany and Nat say, it depends to an extent on the situation and also the age of the toddler. You can reason to an extent with an older toddler and the naughty corner can work, whereas different tactics are needed for younger ones.

    I agree that sometimes food bribery can help if you're feeling a bit desperate but I guess the point I was making was that I don't think that should be a regular response to a tantrum and that it's better saved for times when you need a quick fix and you feel pushed to the brink!

    Thanks again for everyone's input - really interesting and helpful to know what works for people.

  7. A really good tip is to give your child warnings of what will happen soon (eg leaving a playgroup) before you actually do it. Also talking through events before they happen is a good idea. The child then has an idea of what to expect.
    Briefly talking through the event after a tuntrum mentioning your displeasure and a better way of responding can also be useful.

  8. Distraction by whatever means are available in the given situation is definitely my primary tactic. I also try to speak calmly and cleary to clever preschooler and tell him that he has until I count to 5 or 10 to calm down or else he's going to his bed.

    Typically, as soon as I begin counting he realizes that he can either stop his tantrum and have/do whatever I'm offering or not have anything, so calm is quickly restored.

  9. Hi, great post and I absolutely agree with your 3 ways to deal with tantrums. I thought we'd got off lightly with toddler tantrums, however in the past month (my daughter is nearly 2 and a half) they are coming more and more frequently - apparently she is the calmest child at nursery - until she gets home that is.

    If she's having a tantrum she throws herself on the floor and cries a very fake cry with a high pitched scream. Sometimes I find it funny (it's hard not to laugh) other times it drives me mad.

    I think after it's over, it's good to give them a cuddle and tell them you love them.

  10. Marcus - thanks for leaving a comment and for your tip of talking through an event with your child before it happens.

    Erin - the counting technique is a good one and seems to be effective with older toddlers.

    21st Century Mummy - thanks for sharing your experiences with your daughter. Interesting and impressive that she's the calmest child at nursery!

  11. Good advice. Although I too use bribery when stuck in the moment and need to get out of it. My toddler goes crazy when ignored and distraction is very definately the best means. But I do try never to judge my fellow mummys, god knows what sort of day they've had!

  12. I think I'd agree - it's not a great idea to resort to a bribe every time - although sometimes it's a totally understandable reaction!

    I think the main thing is to stay calm yourself - often easier said than done though :)


Thank you for reading. I'd love to have your comments and thoughts!