Oh-oh, it's happening. And right here in the middle of _____ (choose your location). A full blown tantrum. It's on.
Been there before? I have! And if you're a mom of a young child, I'm 99.9% sure you have too. So, let's talk about it. What can we do when your young child is having a tantrum.
"an uncontrolled outburst of anger and frustration, typically in a young child." One of the definitions you'll find when you Google "tantrum". As if you needed a definition, but let's pretend you didn't know.
And this is exactly what it is. It's uncontrolled. In order to parent positively through a tantrum, you need to first fully understand that this burst of emotion is uncontrolled. Your child does not have the developmental ability to control these emotions and to quietly sit with you and express their feelings. They express these feelings of frustration and anger through a tantrum. It's the only way, at this time, that your toddler or preschooler can express these emotions.
How to parent positively through a tantrum
Connect with your child: get down to his level, make eye contact and let know your child know you understand that they are mad/frustrated/disappointed about the situation.
Avoid having your own tantrum: keep your cool. You want to model calm behavior. If you start to get upset, your child will get even more upset and you'll prolong the tantrum. Instead, take some deep breathes and remember that just because your child is upset, does not mean you have to join her as well.
Keep your child safe: even in an tantrum, your child cannot hurt others or damage things. If your child begins to hit you or others, you can gently, but firmly, hold your child's hands from hurting others. If needed, remove your child from the situation to another location where you can both wait for the tantrum to pass.
Don't rationalize during a tantrum: an uncontrolled burst of emotions is not the time to rationalize with your child. Your child is not capable at this time to grasp what you are saying. And it's a guarantee that what you're asking your child to do or not do, your child will do exactly the opposite. This can be frustrating to both of you. Wait until the tantrum has passed to help your child process what happened.
Wait it out: your child needs to express this frustration. Allow your child to have the space to do so. It's similar to when you get upset about a situation. Just like you get have your feelings, let your child have theirs as well. As you stay calm and neutral, your child will experience the burst of uncontrolled emotion and it will soon pass.
Re-connect with your child: once the tantrum has passed, reconnect with your child through loving touch. At this time, you can help your child process tantrum by discussing what happened. You can also help your child learn new ways to express their feelings, by suggesting words to use when those feelings arise again, such as "I'm angry!"
Most young children will experience tantrums. As the parent, you can allow them to have these strong feelings, while also helping them process and learn new ways to express their feelings.