What are temper tantrums?

Temper tantrums are ways little toddlers express their feelings. These feelings range from anger, abuse, frustration, fear, hunger, lack of sleep, or being unwell. Tantrums happen because toddlers are unable to express themselves by way of speech just yet.

It may be embarrassing for parents or family members to have a toddler throwing a tantrum in a public place, e.g., a restaurant or shopping mall. There will definitely be disapproving looks from onlookers and whispers of “bad parenting”!

Temper tantrums are a normal part of how young children develop and express themselves. Tantrums do not happen because a parent or a child is bad. A parent should try to read the toddler and understand why a tantrum happens.

When do temper tantrums begin?

Tantrums normally start in toddlers aged 12 to 18 months. They reach their peak during the “terrible twos”, after which they tend to taper down.

There is a scientific explanation for this. From 12 to 24 months, toddlers develop and gain a certain level of independence, although their speech has not developed at the same pace.

Toddlers need to assert their independence but lack the ability to speak to make their needs known. They get easily frustrated when their message cannot be relayed, hence start their temper tantrums.

On the bright side, temper tantrums normally stop by the time the child reaches 4 years.

Common signs of a temper tantrum

Parents or caregivers should look out for some behaviours a toddler displays during a temper tantrum, like:

  • Crying
  • Extremely clingy to parent or caregiver
  • Holding his or her breath
  • Kicking or hitting
  • Pinching or biting
  • Screaming or yelling
  • Tensing up or thrashing the body
  • Whining

Tips to respond to a tantrum

All children are different and express themselves in different ways. Therefore, their tantrums are outward expressions of different feelings.

Here are some tips to manage temper tantrums:

Stay calm

This is a crucial step for the parents or child caregiver. If the toddler throws a tantrum, and the adult responds by throwing a bigger tantrum, the situation won’t resolve itself.

Do not ever hit or attempt to hit a toddler – this is never a solution to end a tantrum. Such an act is against the law, and may cause irreversible damage. Your toddler may act up even more, become rebellious or reclusive.

Ignore the tantrum

If the toddler is in a safe place, try to ignore the tantrum. If difficult to ignore, then leave the room if possible. It is surprising how quickly a temper tantrum stops once the toddler realises there is no audience to appreciate his or her tantrum.

If the tantrum involves bodily actions that could cause harm, e.g., kicking, hitting, or throwing objects, the parent or caregiver has to be around to ensure the toddler comes to no danger. Quickly remove all nearby objects within the toddler’s reach.

The adult should firmly remind the toddler that such behaviours are not acceptable.

Time out or distraction

A “time out” period may work with a slightly older toddler. The adult may have to remove the toddler to another room to sit out the tantrum. The time out room should be safe with no objects the toddler can use to hurt himself or herself.

Showing a silly face may distract and make a young toddler come out of the tantrum.

Tantrums while out of the house

Trips to the supermarket or family restaurant can be harassing if the little one decides to throw a tantrum. Plan alternatives in case you have to abandon your shopping (go online) or meal (ask to tapau instead). Your toddler will quickly know trips out will be cut short if tantrums happen.

Tantrums when left with certain people

When a toddler refuses to go to a certain person and become super clingy to the parents or caregiver, the toddler could be trying to express feelings of fear of that person. DO NOT force the toddler to go to the person. Parents may need to do some investigation on the toddler’s refusal. A hidden camera or a home CCTV system will reveal some truth.

Give praise for good behaviour

If an outing or occasion goes well with no tantrum, praise your toddler. Your toddler will learn that good things happen in the absence of temper tantrums.

Establish a routine

Young children and toddlers do well with a fixed routine. This gives them a sense of security and confidence as well. If you plan a routine, do your best to stick to the timings.

In conclusion: There is no one best or magical method to respond to a temper tantrum. A method that may work with one toddler may not have any success with another toddler. Parents or caregivers will learn how best to deal with temper tantrums, if they pay careful attention to the situation.

This article is to give an overall insight into temper tantrums and some tips on how they may be overcome. Parent should always consult a toddler’s paediatrician or family doctor for expert advice, as there could be an underlying health issue leading to toddlers having frequent temper tantrums.

By Aaron

26th October 2020 22:30

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