If you are the parent of a toddler, I am sure you are terrified of tantrums. Tantrums can be overwhelming, but as the parent of a child with a rapidly growing brain, you cannot afford to be terrified. You must understand tantrums and learn how to manage them, because the right approach can grow your toddler’s brain, whereas the wrong approach can damage it.
What is a tantrum?
A tantrum is a state of dysregulation due to distress. Several things could cause this distress. Some of them are –
- Physiological challenges like hunger or lack of sleep.
- Difficulty managing negative emotions like anger or unhappiness because of not getting something they expected or wanted.
- Frustration at not being able to communicate what they need because of their limited vocabulary.
- Mismatch between ambition and ability, where they want to do something but still do not have the physical or mental ability to accomplish it.
What to do when your baby throws a tantrum
- Stay calm and compassionate. Your toddler is not trying to embarrass you or rebel against you. They are asking for your understanding.
- If your child is open to a hug – give them a hug. If they are not, stay near them.
- Resonate with their emotions using your expressions and body language.
- Listen to them. You may not be able to understand what they are saying but try to understand.
- Validate their experience by putting it into a simple sentence. “I know you must have felt very angry when he snatched your toy.”
- When they have calmed down explain in very simple words why they can’t have what they want.
- Suggest some things they can do to feel better. Like “Shall we go on the slide since we can’t have the swing right now?”
What not to do when your baby throws a tantrum
Remember your toddler is already distressed and scared. Do not make it worse by shouting, threatening, or punishing them. Silent treatment or “Time-out” is not okay either. Do not distract your child with a device or try to calm them with junk food. Also don’t give in to their demands. Doing these things will only lead to more tantrums.
How to prevent tantrums
- Ensure that your child is physically comfortable. Focus on healthy meals and sufficient sleep.
- Stay connected with your child. Make eye contact and smile.
- Let them make some decisions.
- Allow enough time for free play and physical play.
- Teach them new skills and build their vocabulary so that they can navigate social situations more easily.
- Prepare them for what may happen so that they are not very disappointed.
- Listen to them.
Tantrums arise when your child pushes boundaries, explores the world and discovers that not everything will always be the way they expected. Helping them to cope with this disappointment empowers them to explore further and grow. Support your toddler through their tantrums and grow their brain so that they stop throwing tantrums.
Dr. Debmita Dutta MBBS, MD
Dr. Debmita Dutta MBBS, MD is a doctor, a parenting consultant, and the founder of WPA whatparentsask.com She conducts online and offline workshops on parenting for schools and corporate organisations. She also conducts online and offline prenatal and infant care classes. She is a well-known thought-leader in parenting and an expert on play, learning and eating habits. She is the author of 7 books on parenting published by Juggernaut Books and her books are among their most read books. She is frequently quoted in national and international publications of repute for her empathetic and compassionate approach and her application of physiology and neuroscience to parenting.