What to do about tantrums


From experience, I advise that ignoring a tantrum is the most productive long term. I know this sounds harsh and difficult, but engaging in tantrums shows the toddler/child them that they will get attention and a response through negative behaviour. This is called negative reinforcement.

Tantrums will be far more frequent if your child knows that their tantrum will cause you to give them more attention, change your mind or eventually give into their needs. My best advice is to ensure your child is safe and then continue as if the tantrum is not happening. 

You may choose to put the situation creatively into words first and then sit it out. For example, you are feeling very cross. So, I’m going to wait until you calm down until we talk about it. Sometimes it may be appropriate to use humour to lighten the situation or dilute the intensity of the anger or deflect the anger into something else. For example, those little legs are kicking so hard they must be very strong, but they are still so very cute and I love them very much! Some children can handle this, others may find it more offensive – you know your child best.

Teach your child in between tantrums how they can help the tantrum to ‘go away’ by counting to ten slowly and to breathe deeply. You can do this too out loud when you are feeling stressed so that you are mentoring behaviour that can be reproduced in a healthy way.

A tantrum or an outburst is another way of using the word ‘create.’ We create a fuss when feeling very angry, which then disrupts the flow of things. Toddlers and children do not have the emotional vocabulary to express their anger. Tantrums are caused by a child's inability to express and manage their very big and sometimes explosive, emotions and frustrations.

Expressing oneself is a fundamental human need. That is what your toddler is doing – expressing themselves with increased intensity! This indicates how very important it is to allow your child to find ways of self-expression through using their imagination. It’s a advantageous to help your child develop emotional maturity in order to enjoy a creative and imaginative childhood. If they don’t get what they want when they want, you are enabling your child to develop inner resourcefulness. Sometimes we have to find other ways to resolve needs and wants and by reinforcing this you encourage your child to use their imagination and problem-solving skills to think up new solutions.

Encourage an art break! Use art to help your child calm down or when generally to process their feelings. Using simple art materials and ask your child to make pictures. Here are some ideas to get you started, feel free to improvise: Ask your child if they would like to draw a picture of their favourite thing that happened during the day. Or to make pictures of what they liked the least or a picture of what they are feeling, and what that looks like. 

Mysmartkidis South Africa's leading programme for Early Childhood Development (ECD). Click hereto join the programme.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24