When you come home after a long day at work, the last thing you would want to deal with is your toddler throwing a fit just because he or she does not want to go to bed.
Tantrums come in all shapes and sizes. They can include spectacular explosions of frustration, anger and disorganised behaviour. However, it is important to bear in mind that your little one’s tantrum is not a reflection of your parenting skills. Your child is simply too young to be able to rationalise and think as adults do when they’re upset. That is also the reason why raising your voice and telling them to behave, will not work out well.
Temper tantrums are actually some of the most crucial life experiences when it comes to brain development. Being able to regulate emotions during tantrums allows proper brain cell connections to form. These connections will guide children on how to manage stress and be assertive as they grow older. Not only will young children slowly learn to manage their emotions but as parents, we learn how to cope with these storm of emotions when they appear.
When your toddler starts bawling in the middle of a supermarket, the first thought that may cross your mind is that everyone’s eyes are on you as they silently gauge your parenting skills. Your response may be one with gritted teeth and a firm voice, or feeling frustrated, and giving in to your toddler. But here is the catch – it is not about how many or how big the tantrum is, it’s about how you respond to the tantrum at hand.
It would help to first understand that your once-dependent baby is now growing into a curious toddler, who is no longer a passive spectator of daily life. Toddlers see and want to experience new things every day. So when they see colourful packaging of toys and candies but are refused the opportunity to satiate their curiosity to hold and touch the item, it may bring on the waterworks. This is only because they have not yet developed the necessary self-control, nor the vocabulary to express their emotions.
Unpleasant as they may be, tantrums are excellent opportunities for your child to learn – about rules and limits, feelings and self-regulation – which are essential life skills.
Whether it is defiance, bedtime blues or a public meltdown, here are some ways to diffuse the storm:
- Watch, learn and diffuse.
Events leading up to a tantrum are important to whether the tantrums actually take place. Pay attention to these situations where your toddler tends to lose her cool. Be it when they see the colourful toys at the checkout aisle or if they refuse to leave the playground when it is time to go home. When you see the trend, consider ways to manage or even avoid the meltdown.
- Take a step back.
So what if your toddler wants to put on a red sock and a blue sock? It is okay if your toddlers do not want to wave goodbye to their friends. It is fine if all of a sudden they don’t want to eat their carrots. Save your energy for the things that do matter, and don’t sweat the small stuff because it will tide over.
- Preventing the ‘hangry’.
Ever realise that even as adults, we’re not exactly even-tempered when we’re tired and hungry? What more for toddlers, whose communication skills are not developed enough to politely ask for a snack or a nap. When possible, bring a snack for your toddler wherever you go and be mindful of nap times.
- Help them to understand why they feel a certain way.
By showing our children that we care, we will not only soothe their emotions but also help to build connections between their logical and emotional brains. Holding or hugging your toddler actually activates the calming system in his body and triggers oxytocin which helps to regulate his emotions. When the dust has settled, you can help your child understand what he was feeling, and how his actions affect others around him. It is important for children to know that it is alright to have feelings, even angry ones, but we will also need to teach them the words and ways to communicate their feelings more effectively the next time.
Sometimes you just cannot stop a tantrum from taking place. But when it does, remember to take a step back and breathe. Your toddler is starting to be aware of himself as an individual and this includes the discovery of emotions. As long as you can keep your cool, you can control the situation.
There is no perfect formula to raising children. Tantrums are the most common behavioural challenges when a child is growing up. Your toddler is not a bad kid. You are not a bad parent. These tantrums are just small bumps in a lifelong journey but with patience and persistence, you can nurture young children into individuals who are confident in managing their feelings and behaviour, and who have the courage to self-reflect and communicate their needs effectively.
To enter school at the tender age of 18 months, is no easy feat for any young child. They will need courage to be away from their parents for the first time, to meet new teachers and friends. Having courage is key to unlocking their willingness to learn and to grow. GUG Preschool’s award-winning curriculum nurtures children into courageous learners, equipped with the right life skills for a successful future. Young children learn best through play and GUG Preschool’s 5-Point Intelligence approach allows for plenty of hands-on discovery and play, which develops the key areas of a child’s brain. For more information, visit https://gugifted.com/gug-preschool/.