Tantrums: Outwit, Outlast

Temper tantrums can be sudden and fierce. One minute your little treasure is playing nicely and the next minute they're whimpering and whining until it's a full-blown wail. It’s perfectly natural and most little ones are likely to behave this way at times or some even quite frequently. As hard as it may be at times, with a few tips you can handle these situations gently and successfully.

Toddlers under the age of 3 are especially prone to tantrums but even older pre-schoolers can experience these emotional outbursts. When your child can't express how she feels or what she wants, frustration mounts. You’ve probably already worked out various strategies to counter your little one’s temper tantrums – after all you know them best – but if you are looking for additional methods that may be effective, why not try some of these?


Stay cool

Kicking, screaming, throwing things and hitting is not a pretty sight. It may be hard to handle, but stay calm - if you scream back at him; the chances are you'll just add fuel to the fire. Try to find a toy or book he hasn't seen for a while as a distraction. It will take the wind out of his sails and make him forget his tantrum very quickly. If you're in public and distraction doesn’t work, be prepared to take him to a quiet spot until he calms down.

“Young children just want to test boundaries and independence. This is completely normal. However it is a parent’s job to lay firm, reasonable and consistent boundaries.” – Simona Maraschin, an educational psychologist based in Cape Town

Don't negotiate

No matter how ugly the tantrum, do not give in to unreasonable demands. Instead, help her to feel understood while reinforcing the boundary. Tell her you understand what she wants (this takes away the frustration of not knowing if she is understood) then follow through on your stand. Try to be consistent. You’re doing what’s right for you and your child. If you concede, your kid will think throwing a fit is a good way to get what she wants. 


Depending on the child, using a time-out occasionally, beginning at about the age of 18 months, may help him manage his feelings better when he has a tantrum. A time-out can be helpful when your child's tantrum is especially intense and other techniques aren't working. Giving your child a puzzle to do can also help to calm him down.

“The key to a good boundary is consistency. The same rule should always be enforced - as soon as you give in once, your child will know that all they need to do is push harder for you to eventually give in. As difficult as it might be, don't give in - this might mean leaving your trolley of groceries and going home and sorting out the shopping another time.” – Simona Maraschin, an educational psychologist based in Cape Town

Let's pretend

Once the storm has subsided, hold your child close and talk about what happened. Use role-playing to help her put her feelings into words. She will see that once she expresses herself in words, she'll get better results.  

Tantrum ahead

Try to avoid tantrum-inducing situations. If he falls apart when he's hungry, carry snacks with you. If he gets cranky in the late afternoon, take care of errands earlier in the day. Your child is becoming more independent, so let him choose his activities whenever possible. Ease up and pick battles carefully.




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