Supernanny Jo Frost used to make it look easy, and nannies usually know that the ‘naughty step’ and ‘time out’ techniques can be sanity savers in dealing with the most frustrated or badly behaved of toddlers, but nobody wants to actually let it get to that stage. So, how do we go about avoiding tantrum situations altogether?
If a child is prone to tantrums, making sure that frustration is kept within the limits of a child’s tolerance can be tough, but it is possible. Of course avoiding tantrums depends on each individual child, so there are no quick fixes that work for all.
Some of the the best ways to avoid toddler tantrums:
- Give Leeway. Don’t back the child into a corner when you see them getting upset or angry about something. Instead of insisting on absolute “do’s” or “dont’s”, leave a bit of an escape route for them, and coax them to meet you half way if they really don’t want to do something.
- Explain. Understand that tantrums often occur when a child simply doesn’t understand something, and their frustration grows as they try to get it. Try to explain things thoroughly before a situation is entered into which you think might cause this to happen. The child will feel calmer and more prepared, and less anxious about not fully understanding a situation or task.
- Expression. One of the reasons toddlers have tantrums is because they are beginning to learn how to grasp speech and language. They often understand much more than they can express, which is fuel to the fire of a tantrum. Calmly listening and picking up on what you feel the child is trying to express will help the toddler feel less frustrated.
- Enough food and sleep! It may sound like a no-brainier, but think about how you feel if you had a poor nights sleep and are hungry. It isn’t pleasant for anyone, let alone a toddler who doesn’t understand that this is the case. Make sure the child has had enough of both, and they will be far less likely to get frustrated over the small things with a clear head and a full belly.
- Avoid negative attention. When a toddler has a tantrum and gets a reaction, this may actually be satisfying their need for attention in general, and in turn make them more likely to have tantrums. To avoid this behaviour, try to pick up on the good things that the toddler does and reward them with positive attention, even if it seems small, it will make a difference. This will make them less likely to need the negative kind, and less likely to demand it with tantrums.
- Choose the right tasks – make sure you’re not trying to push the child to advance before they are able to. Offer age-appropriate tasks and games, so that you are more likely to have a situation where you praise them for doing something right. Once a more simple task has been completed and the child feels good, only then move on to slightly trickier things.
- Set the stage – make sure you set boundaries to try toavoid tantrum situations. If you know you don’t want the child to have a certain item, make sure it’s hidden and out of sight to avoid the battle even starting. Of course this is not always possible when a child decides they want something that they can see when you’re out of the house!
- Give control – work out what little things you think the child can handle being in control of. If they feel in control of some things, they are less likely to throw a tantrum about something they are not in control of. If a tantrum does arise, give them a subtle reminder of what they can control, to distract them from what they can’t.