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Temper tantrums are bound to occur. But if you're aware of the warning signs, you can prevent them, or at least stop them before they get out of hand
Don’t let your tormented tot take you along for a tantrum ride
You may be dreading your first temper tantrum, or perhaps you’re a battle-hardened veteran, but there’s no denying that as your child arches backwards, screaming “No!” and every eye in the room turns to you, you’ll wish the earth could swallow both you and your screeching offspring.
Tantrums come when kids can’t cope with frustrating circumstances. All parents know kids can be pushed to the brink when they’re tired, hungry, or both.
Your child may be too young to express herself verbally, or perhaps she’s continually stymied by trying to copy older siblings. Another tantrum trigger is lack of exercise. How long has she spent in the car? How many chances has she had to run free today? If you were strapped in for hours at a time, you’d cry too.
Check yourself. Most tantrums arrive when parents are just as tired and hungry as their offspring. You could be trying to push an adult schedule onto someone who can’t even tie her shoes yet.
When the screaming starts, all parents want to do is make it stop. Sugar, bribes, and threats generally backfire, though. A tantrum that gets results is a tantrum you’re just asking to revisit tomorrow. Instead, try these strategies:
1. Ignore the tantrum. This is easiest at home, but if you can stand the stares of strangers, go right ahead and do it out in public. The less you respond, the sooner she’ll stop.
2. Remove yourself. Tantrums wither without an audience. Step outside the car, go around the corner, close a door between you, and watch your still-screaming offscreen scamper after you so you can continue to experience the full range of her vocalization.
3. Remove her. Again, best done at home, where you can say the words “time-out” and briefly put her in another room, her crib, or a playpen. (Experts caution that time-outs should last no more than one minute per year of age.) But time-outs can also be done in a stroller or carseat; strap the child in and turn her or yourself so there’s no eye contact. The more consistent you can be (easier said than done with a heavy load of groceries or schedule to keep) the quicker you can expect the tantrums to stop.
Every adult now eyeballing you with disfavour was once a potentially tantrum-prone tot himself. Your child’s tantrum is irritating, obstructionist or downright mortifying right now, but next year or next week you’ll hardly remember how she screamed so loud you thought she’d shatter the store fixtures.
By the time your child can think, talk, and act on her worst impulses, in fact, you may wish a down-on-the-floor, kicking-and-screaming exhibition was the worst of your worries.