Heading off Tantrums


Prevention is the best defense against tantrums. I know you must be thinking tantrums are not planned so how can we prevent them. But my dear friend, there is a cause for every tantrum and if we can identify, then we can wave off almost 70-80% of tantrums, yes that’s true. So if you have started observing a sudden surge of tantrums in your toddler, you need to find out the reason.


For this, start keeping record of your toddler’s tantrums for a week or two, noting when they occur (time of day, before or after naps, meals and so on; following a particular event), why (hunger, fatigue, restrictions, frustrations). After two week’s of time, examine the record if you find any pattern and try to uncover toddler’s most common tantrum triggers, the set out to modify or eliminate them using the following principles.

  • Make sure you give your child enough opportunity to let off steam. Encourage your child to express anger or frustration verbally or to release them in more acceptable ways. If his or her language skills are not up to it yet, help out “Are you angry because you are not able to build that tower or fit that puzzle?” When your toddler replies is affirmation, explain him that “It happens and no one is perfect and with practice he will be able to do it perfectly and with ease.”
  • As we have discussed many times, setting a routine for your kid is must, but few kids like to follow it religiously while other like to have changes, so your task is to understand what your child like and then tailor his routine accordingly. If a kid gets regular routine of nap, bath and meals, I can say that half of the problem is solved.
  • This is one is true for 90% of kids, don’t let your toddler go for long stretches without food. Carry nutritious snacks whenever you go out and don’t wait until behaviour gets out of hand. The same applies for nap time, don’t go out near nap time, most of the kids get cranky near their nap time and particularly for those bundle of energies, who don’t sleep during day time.
  • Reduce the need to say ‘no’. A parent’s negativity is often the trigger for a child’s tantrums. Childproof your home and setting clear and consistent limits to reduce your need to say ‘no’. To achieve compliance, use more games and challenges and fewer absolute directives, which risk being refused.
  • When possible say ‘yes’. Instead of issuing an automatic ‘no’ to your toddler every time you your toddler asks for something, consider whether there’s really any good reason not to say ‘yes’. Giving an okay is initially better than giving in under duress after a tantrum begins. When you cannot give an unconditional okay, try negotiating.
  • Provide choices when possible. Kids feel independent when they have opportunity to make decisions of their own, ‘Do you want to play with blocks or cars?’ or ‘Do you want to read this book or that one?’ This helps toddler feel more in control, reducing the chance for tantrum.
  • Keep your toddler from going over the edge. When you see your child tottering on the brink of frustration, exhaustion, over stimulation or boredom, divert attention towards something calming, soothing or interesting like your toddler’s special toy or song, a hug, a special book or special place in house. Diverting attention is the most effective technique, you need to know your kid’s preferences to do it successfully.
  • Stick to your principles when a tantrum occurs. If you give into a tantrum – you relent and buy that toy or chocolate just to avoid your kid’s screaming in public – you’re only reinforcing your toddler’s trick and setting stage for next tantrum.
  • Commend good behaviour and even neutral behvaiour. When your child doesn’t show tantrums and have been good, let him know that how much you appreciate his co-operation. This will re-enforce him to repeat that behaviour to be appreciated and accepted by you.
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