Updated: Mar 19, 2021
The first thing to say is that I am incredibly passionate about Early Years. I have dedicated the majority of my working life to the enrichment of children and young people. Through my practice I have helped countless children unlock their full potential and after 14 years, my passion hasn’t lost its sparkle. I adore working with children and find it especially rewarding when I support them to achieve.
Challenging behaviour can come in various forms such as tantrums, conflict, defiance, hitting or biting. These behaviours can create stressful moments for children and dealing with these situations as an adult can be challenging to say the least.
I can clearly remember the time my eldest, Akira had his first major tantrum. He was around 18 months and he was playing in his bedroom. I was in the room next door, tackling the never-ending pile of washing that comes with parenting.
Today, I will be offering a few tips on how to deal with that challenging behaviour with the focus on temper tantrums. There will also be advice on how to inspire good behaviour in children. The following strategies combined with love, patience and consistency will help your children grow into happy and healthy individuals and not only that, it will also give you personal satisfaction beyond belief.
Tips For Tantrums
Temper tantrums are emotional outbursts that take place when a child is feeling like things are not going right for them, such as their needs or requests are not being met. Tantrums often occur in younger children due to frustration because they are unable to express themselves. As they grow older, tantrums will often become lesser as they learn the skill of communication.
As a mum of two boys, as well as working in Early Education for so long, I can honestly say I've had my fair share of ups and downs. An example of those downs can be things such as dealing with challenging behaviour. s with parenting.
I heard the sound of a toy being thrown, together with the sounds of Akira shouting and crying, I immediately ran into his room. I found him on the floor rolling around with tears streaking down his face and he was whining uncontrollably. He was throwing his body in all directions and I remember the sheer panic I felt. This was a first for me, I was witnessing my baby boy going through a real temper tantrum for the first time and it was unpleasant for both of us.
My heart was racing and I could feel the sensation of stress building up, and my knee jerk reaction was to raise my voice and tell him to stop and calm down, and it occurred to me very quickly that that wasn’t working. He was inconsolable and my panicked attempts to bring him out of it were not helping him. As he continued his tantrum, all I could do was sit next to him and wait for it to be over. And eventually it did stop.
When he came out of the other side, he walked across the room and picked up a toy. The toy he chose was a play money box, he approached me with the box in one hand and a large coin in the other. I watched him attempt to push the coin into the slot and he was struggling to do so. He started to cry a little bit again and it occurred to me what the problem was. He wanted to slot the coins into the box but he couldn’t do it because the action was far too advanced for him. The fine motor skills of his little hands were still developing. He was having a tantrum because he wanted to achieve something and he wasn’t able to meet his goal.
We sat together and I helped him put all the coins into the box and he was smiling. My heart melted to see him happy again.
I remember thinking to myself that I had to learn from this. The journey of parenthood is often full of trial and error and from this experience, I knew that next time I needed to remain calm and establish what the problem was, so in future I can help him more efficiently.
So let's proceed to our tips...
Use A Calm Approach
If your child is experiencing a tantrum, the first thing to do is to get down to their level, this will let them know you are there for them. Stay calm and use a gentle approach. Children often watch adult’s behaviour as a guide. If you are displaying stress and you are losing your cool in front of them, this can potentially make them mirror your behaviour. Shouting at children will not terminate their tantrum, trust me, I know!
Use Positive Language And Address Feelings
Speak to your child with positive language to reassure them. You could say sentences such as, “It’s going to be alright”, “I’m going to help you get through this” and “I’m right here for you”. And then it’s vital to address their feelings and you can do this by saying words such as, “I can see you’re feeling angry” or, “I understand it’s really sad when you can’t have another biscuit”. When you acknowledge your child’s feelings it can stop the tantrum spiralling out of control and it can help your child monitor their emotions.
Problem- solve And Show Patience
If your child is having a mild tantrum then try to work out what the problem is. They might be hungry, thirsty or tired. Perhaps they are bored or they simply need some attention. Or maybe they just want you to play with them. If you establish the problem then you will most likely be able to offer a solution.
If the tantrum is a big one, then wait it out. When a child is losing their temper, there is no point in trying to reason with them. Stay close to them and let them know you are there. If you are in a public place, do your best to keep your composure and concentrate on staying calm. People in the public witness tantrums all the time, don’t waste your energy agonizing about what people think. Disregard the looks that you might get. All that matters in that moment is the well-being of your child and yourself. Use your energy and resilience to help you and your child get back onto the right track.
Distraction is a good tactic if you choose your moment precisely. If your child is in the early stages of a tantrum, you can use distraction to divert their attention onto something else. If you choose to use this method, it helps by being really animated and energetic to enhance the distraction.
For example, if you are at home, try using a enthusiastic voice and say, “I’m going to build the biggest train track in the world? Can you help me?” or, “Shall we take some toys into your bath later? Which ones would you like to choose?”
If you are in a public place, you could say things such as, “Wow, I can see a red bus. Shall we see if we can find some more?” or, “When we get to the shop, shall we buy some juice? Which juices can you think of?”
The idea of using language such as this combined with distraction will aid your child in forgetting the tantrum.
Being In Control
If a tantrum is taking place because your child has a desire for something and you have said no. Then don’t give in and give them what they want. Many parents change their mind in a panic to help end a tantrum and this can create more unwanted behavior later on. Decisions such as this can teach children to throw tantrums to get what they want. Stay in control and use your judgement on when to take the lead.
This is a very important tip that helps children feel valued and it gives them an opportunity to feel a sense of control. Keep away from saying no to everything. Instead offer choices such as, “Would you like milk or juice today?”, “Which book shall we read now?” or, “Shall we play in the garden or build a tower?”. When you offer choices to children, it makes them feel part of the team and it can help avoid tantrums.
Always be on the ball with complimenting your child and giving them positive praise when you see good behavior. Children adore the attention of positive praise, it gives them confidence and inspires good behavior. It can also prevent tantrums. You can offer positive praise by saying things such as, “You’re a superstar”, when they have followed a direction, or, “Good job”, when they have shared something. Giving them positive praise shows how much you appreciate them.
Promote Positive Culture
This tip is for overall parenting and it's by far the most important one. Be a good role model to your child by displaying positive behaviours, attitudes and kindness. When interacting or playing with your child, behave in a way that you would like to see them behave. As mentioned earlier, children watch adults as a guide. It’s essential that adults behave in a positive way around children so they are able to learn from us. For example, show your child how to share things or model language such as “Please” or, “Thank you”.
A little kindness goes a long way!
Jojo - Early Years Professional and Unit Co-ordinator for Snapdragons Nursery