Toddlers are notorious for tantrums. Their hearts are little passion-baskets filled with new, big emotions that they are not yet quite sure how to process. They simply lack the frontal cortex ability to control themselves when they’re faced with a surge of emotions. Tantrums are evidence that your child is stressed, so keep in mind that a cure is much more difficult to solve than practicing prevention.
Many tantrums are avoidable. They can stem from the child feeling powerless and out of control. Giving them something, even something small to have control of, will help curb them from potential tantrums, such as a toy or other object to play with. Sometimes children throw tantrums because they are tired or hungry, so making sure they eat and sleep on schedule can assist with lowering the tantrum rate.
What Tantrums Do NOT Mean
It’s hard as adults to interpret a child’s tantrum as a normal sign of development. We can sometimes beat ourselves up and think, “what am I doing wrong as a mother for my child to act this way?”
Well, the truth is you are doing just FINE! When children throw tantrums, they are not telling you that they hate you or that you are a bad parent. They are not “bad” children for throwing tantrums. They are not necessarily even manipulating you. They may or may not even deserve a punishment for their behavior based on the circumstances. They don’t need for you to run to their rescue and give in to whatever they are screaming or crying for.
"Really all that they need in that moment is for the world to slow down around them, and be held safely and securely."
Really all that they need in that moment is for the world to slow down around them, and be held safely and securely. They need the calm presence of an adult to direct them to calm as well. They need to hear reason if they are able to understand. They need redirecting to some other safe haven of exploration, because… really… at this age the exploration never ends and redirection is a great tool to curb the tantrum toughies.
What Tantrums DO Mean
Simply put, an overwhelming surge of emotion is the trigger for tantrums. The child has some need, whether it be a healthy need (“I’m hungry!”) or unhealthy need (“I want to play with this toy that another child has!”) but to them, it’s all the same. It could be that their need is food, sleep, a calming break from an activity, attention of another person, a streak of anger that needs to be worked though… all of which are very reasonable, but the child has not developed the ability to manage any of these things.
"You are a safe haven for them, and they need your calm and collected self to help soothe them."
The ultimate goal is to teach them HOW to do things properly when they have these needs, and that takes time and practice. These big feelings that have them all riled up are so incredibly new, and they are learning how to function with them. Their brains are on overload from the emotions that are consuming them. You are a safe haven for them, and they need your calm and collectiveness to help soothe them. They do not WANT to act this way, they are just not sure what else to do.
It’s their instinct to explode into a tantrum when faced with any conflict that they are not able to yet figure out. It’s like being dropped into a swimming pool of water and panicking, instead of knowing how to swim to the shallow end… they haven’t learned that skill yet. Help them to learn the skills they need to get to the safe area of their minds. They will watch how you react, and if you don’t react in a calm way they will know it… and the tantrums will not be soothed as efficiently. Your calm helps them to be calm. They love you and you are their guide to the safe area. They feel safe in your arms; you bring them back to their normal, neutralized self.