One thing people who aren’t parents have in common is their confidence in their abilities to handle toddler tantrums. Before you’re in the presence of a real,I’ve meltdown, it’s easy to imagine that you’ll be able to calmly diffuse any challenge a toddler throws at you. Parents know better: taming that monster is far from easy – but these tips may help.
The tantrum: The Greek tragedy
Wailing worthy of a professional mourner. Screaming that could put the keenest banshee to shame. Usually in a public place and often in protest of your refusal to buy her something like, you know, sanitary pads or that doll she really wants.
Get the basics right: plenty of sleep and snacks (not of the sugary variety) make for a more even-tempered child. If the worst happens and all out havoc ensues, psychologist Candice Cowen says it’s best to work with your child to help her realise that tantrumming is not, contrary to her beliefs, an effective form of communication. Instead, help her get a grip on emotions by teaching her about feelings like happy, sad, and angry. It’s impossible to do this in the heat of the moment, though, when she certainly won’t be open to reason. So, at the time, do what you can to calm her and wait until the time is right to have the chat.
The tantrum: The Flash Gordon
So called because, really, who knew something so unsteady on its feet could move so quickly. The Flash Gordon usually arises because you are suggesting something that is complete anathema to your toddler: sunscrean, broccoli, a cuddle with teddy bear she couldn’t live without just yesterday..
This is a form of testing boundaries, but it’s vital you stand your ground, because the firmer a child’s boundaries, the safer they feel (and the easier your job is in the long term). Try to put practical preventative measures in place (holding her tight while trying to put on that sunscreen makes it difficult to run, for example), but above all, remove the power from her tantrum by remaining calm and refusing to let it rattle you.
The tantrum: Hide and seek
It’s pretty self-explanatory, really: you’re asking something of her, and she responds by placing herself somewhere out of your immediate line of sight, like the shower or under the dining room table.
Again, even if you’re screaming on the inside, don’t let her how that you’re riled. Keep persevering, and return to the building blocks of tantrum removal: maintain your boundaries and speak to her about more effective means of communication.
The tantrum: Stony silence
As a parent, this is no doubt the best type of tantrum there can be: instead of screaming, she lies on the ground (usually facedown), in her own form of Ghandi’s passive resistance.
It may not be the trauma of a usual tantrum, but make no mistake: this is just as strong a statement as any other. Don’t, under any circumstances, give in. One way to avoid these stand-offs in future is to pick your battles. If it’s not worth fighting over, save your energy and discipline reserves for when the demands really are not something you can deal with. And, in the meantime, remember to praise good behaviour – hopefully, this will elicit more of it.
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.