What Are Temper Tantrums?

If you have a child, you’re probably all too aware of what a temper tantrum looks like. They’re normally accompanied by screaming and crying, and often throwing things or other violent behaviour.

The first temper tantrum can often come as a shock to new parents – how is it possible that your sweet little one is so angry?

Because young children have so little control over their world, including communicating their feelings of frustration and anger, they most often resort to a temper tantrum.

Temper tantrums are perfectly normal, which doesn’t make them any easier to handle.

Once a tantrum has started, it can often be incredibly difficult to calm your upset child. Often our first response is to want to tell our child ‘no’ in response to their bad behaviour, but most likely this ends up making the situation worse.

A temper tantrum is actually a fairly effective way for your child to gain control over a situation – chances are that you will drop what you are doing and come to your child in an effort to comfort them.

Finding ways to manage your child’s emotions and temper will have benefits far beyond the actual tantrum itself.

Through temper tantrums, you can teach your child appropriate mechanisms for channeling, dealing with, and controlling their feelings.

Redirection and Positive Discipline

Whether you’ve just experienced your very first toddlerhood temper tantrum or you’re looking for new ways to cope with this familiar tear-filled explosive behaviour, you may want to consider ‘re-direction’, a method by which you draw your child’s attention to a new thing or activity to diffuse the situation.

Redirection is particularly effective with younger children who are not old enough to be able to listen to reason or logic. By distracting them from the thing or situation which is making them upset, you are diffusing their emotionally charged behaviour.

This method of discipline doesn’t mean that you are ignoring the problem itself or the root of the problem, but gives your child a new opportunity to do something that won’t cause a reaction while teaching them that their behaviour was not acceptable.

An example of re-direction could look as follows:

Your child becomes frustrated while playing with their favourite toy because it breaks. In a calm manner, you can approach your child and say “throwing your toy is never good. Why don’t we play in your room or go outside instead?”

This will effectively diffuse the situation while letting your child know that the behaviour is still unacceptable.

This type of parenting is known as Positive Discipline.

Tips for Redirecting A Temper Tantrum

1. Calm Down

This is sometimes easier said than done, but if you can take a moment to take a deep breath and settle your nerves before trying to calm or redirect your child, you’ll be not only setting a positive example for your child but you will not be giving the tantrum more power by reacting strongly.

2. Speak in a Strong, But Quiet Voice

Particularly for younger children who need other environmental cues as opposed to just language and words themselves, speaking in a strong but calm voice can let them know you mean business while giving them an opportunity to quiet down (and not yell over you).

3. Let Your Child Know It’s Ok To Be Upset

There’s a reason why your child is so upset, and you want to let them know that you understand this. The trick is in validating their feelings while not giving power in the tantrum, and eventually teaching them to express their feelings in other ways.

4. Note What Fuels The Anger

There’s a lot that happens inside a temper tantrum or meltdown and sometimes when we as parents and caretakers try to quell one, we end up making it worse.

Note if there are any triggers that seem to make your child more upset, such as picking them up or picking up the toy that’s made them upset. Find alternatives to your own behaviour (such as opening the door to the other room or moving into a room that doesn’t contain the aforementioned toy) to achieve your desired result.

5. Change The Environment

It’s amazing how quickly a child’s’ anger can dissipate when they are moved to a new space. Move outside, or out of their room, and introduce new energy and elements to redirect your child’s attention.

6. Offer Choices

Often, temper tantrums are about control. Your child is constantly gearing for more control over their own world, and when you take a toy away or their game doesn’t work properly, the feeling of lack of control can send them into a spin.

By offering choices while redirection their attention, such as ‘Do you want to go outside or play with crayons?’, you can ease their anger by making them feel in control of the situation.

7. Prevent Tantrums

You may begin to notice that your child always throws a tantrum at a specific time of day or when playing a particular game.

This might be the clue to some environmental factors that you can predict, and in turn, prevent. If your child normally throws a tantrum at bedtime, for example, you may want to consider making bedtime earlier.

If they always get upset while playing a specific game, maybe hold off on playing it until they are older and better equipped to master it.

8. Practice

Though your methods may not work the first go-around, if you continue to repeat your techniques and coach your child through their strong emotions, effectively dealing with tantrums should improve over time.

In reality, you are showing your child an effective way to deal with strong emotions, and this doesn’t happen overnight for anyone. The ultimate goal is to let your child know that you understand that they are angry and to give them the tools to express that emotion in an appropriate way.