Conquering Toddler Tantrums

Tantrums come with the territory when raising a toddler. It can be difficult to take your little one out without someone (you or them) having a meltdown. Tantrums are normal and even expected during the early stages of development, but they don’t have to become a regular part of your routine.

It’s important to remember that children often have tantrums to communicate a want or need. They are very effective tools of communication, and are often more easily reinforced than extinguished. To minimize tantrums, you’ll need to teach your child the skills to appropriately communicate their wants and needs. This may be verbally or with the help of an assistive communication device—like a picture card or even a gesture. Be sure you respond to your child’s attempts at appropriate communication immediately; this lets them know what gets your attention, and potentially gets them what they are asking for.

Conversely, it is important to communicate with your child that whining and tantrums are not going to get them what they want. The most effective ways to do this are to 1.) pre-teach appropriate attention-seeking behavior when they are calm and attentive and 2.) completely ignore all inappropriate attempts at communication. This is difficult to do in the freezer section of the grocery store while fellow patrons stare at you and your child, but it is important to remember that consistency is key. The more regular you can be with attending to desired behaviors, the clearer it will be that tantrums will not get your child what they want.

Another way to prevent tantrums in public settings is to give your child a small job to do to help make the outing more enjoyable. This could be something as small as pointing out all the items with labels of their favorite color. It is also helpful to bring along a small bag of toys and activities to engage the child during situations that may be exceptionally boring. Remember, children have not learned to manage their emotions when faced with mundane tasks and they will create entertainment any way possible.

It is also important to know when to seek additional help. Some signs that you may need additional help are:

· A child who is often inconsolable

· Several tantrums a day, making it difficult to complete even simple tasks

· Violent tantrums

· A child who is unable to communicate their wants or needs due to speech and language delay

Talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns, or call LifeScape for help from our one of our clinical psychologists.