Taming Tantrums

011Your child’s first birthday has just passed, and you just love all of the smiles and giggles you get from them. All of a sudden, your child starts showing that they have an opinion, in this a voice–a very loud voice. Tantrums begin.

I can remember the moment when my daughter had her first tantrum. Walmart. August ’13. Checkout lane 14. I was so confused. I thought tantrums started at the “terrible twos.” No one told me that a 1-year-old was capable of such drama.

What to Expect at This Age

Little ones 12-18 months old mostly just want to please mommy and daddy. However, they are starting to realize that sometimes you are pleased with their behavior and choices, and other times you are not. Cue meltdowns. Little ones at this age have a wide range of emotions, and they are still too small to understand to express them. Ever been hit, bit, or publicly shamed by your little one? It’s normal. This was not easy for me to accept. I viewed my daughter as an angel. She couldn’t possibly hit her mommy. Then, one day, when mommy didn’t give into what she wanted, she hit me.

The good news is that this too shall pass. As children grow older, they gain the interpersonal skills they need to deal with the little challenges of everyday life—delay of gratification, negotiating, impulse control, communication, and the ability to self-soothe. Tantrums are not done on purpose. They are the only way your child can express themselves when they lack the skills necessary to say what’s wrong.

Practical Tips on Taming Tantrums:

  • Remember your child is trying to tell you something. When little ones can’t express themselves verbally, they act out. Sometimes just acknowledging out loud that they are angry or sad or ready to go can be helpful.
  • Sometimes you just have to ignore the behavior. Crying in Target because mommy won’t buy a certain toy? Ignore. Don’t give into the need for attention. Let your little one know that this is not how you get rewarded.
  • Distract, distract, distract! It’s amazing how easily you can change their focus. Find a new toy. Pick a safer place to play. Cry with them. Make them laugh!
  • Give them a say. Give them some choices and include them in your activity.
  • Reward good behavior. When your child is acting appropriately, praise them. Let them see how much fun it is to make good choices.
  • Keep them safe. Grab their hand while walking. Stop physical behaviors like hitting and biting and have zero tolerance for dangerous behavior towards others. Show them how to touch gently.

And now, the real stuff…

Remember….

  • Don’t make eye contact with strangers during a tantrum—just focus on your child. Retreat if necessary. Chances are you won’t bump into that lady in Walmart ever again, so who cares if she disapproves of your child’s behavior or how you are handling it?
  • It’s okay to just leave if you want. Take your child to the car and leave that shopping cart full of groceries. Moms do it all the time. Kroger will understand.
  • Don’t laugh at your child’s behavior. Just remember that you are supermom. Your cape may have a few snags and wrinkles in it today, but tomorrow is a fresh start.
  • Stop at Starbucks on the way home or your favorite drive-thru for a treat if you need it. It’s okay to take a mommy break. Baristas understand.

Remember moms, you can tame those tantrums! They’re a normal part of growing up, and our kiddos need us to guide them in the right direction.

What’s worked for you?

Karyn Meyerhoff is a mom of a 23 month old and a brand-new baby boy. She is still figuring it all out and often eats a cookie or two during naptime.

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