We all go through a range of emotions on any given day and so do our children. While you must accept your child’s emotions and hold space for him to let them out, it is crucial to show him how to regulate his feelings too. Tantrums are common to children and are in fact, one of the many ways in which kids communicate their needs to their parents. But frequent tantrums can embarrass parents and teach kids the wrong way of making their needs met. So, it is essential that caregivers teach kids self awareness and self regulation for their emotional well-being and social development. Read further to know how to handle kids tantrums:
What are kids tantrums or meltdowns?
Children do not have the mental bandwidth or the regulation capacity of adults to control their emotions. Often, they are also learning to communicate their needs, because of which when they fail to effectively communicate, they break down and have emotional outbursts like incessant crying, kicking, shouting, falling on the floor or even hurting their own selves or others around them. These emotional fall outs are called tantrums or meltdowns. Any parent who wants to stop kids tantrums must first understand what causes kids to throw these tantrums.
What are the causes of tantrums & aggressive behaviour in kids?
While tantrums are most common in one to three years’ old children, they can make a presence in older kids too, especially if they haven’t learnt the skills of regulation at a younger age. There are several reasons why tantrums can take place, making kids aggressive and sometimes, even violent.
1. Hungry kids are angry kids!
All parents know this to be true. Toddlers cry for milk, while young children get cranky and moody when they are hungry and ask for junk food or make other demands and resort to meltdowns if refused.
2. Tired or sleepy
When a child is tired after play or is getting sleepy, chances are he will get irritable. If the caregiver doesn’t put him to sleep, the child may throw a tantrum because of his inability to express his need for sleep in that moment.
When young kids stay up past their bedtime because they are exposed to too many toys and lights – they may get over stimulated and become hyper. A change in routine along with the overstimulation may cause them to throw tantrums and refuse to calm down.
4. Flow of strong and new emotions
Emotions like shame, fear, worry and anger may overwhelm a child. The child wouldn’t know how to cope with them and may have a meltdown in his uncertainty.
5. Inability to communicate
Young children are developing their communication skills and often lack the vocabulary required to express their needs, emotions and opinions. This makes them frustrated and causes them to get aggressive or have a disorganised behaviour.
6. Lack of attention by parents
When children feel that they can get their parents’ attention and have their demands met by them only by shouting and creating a scene, then they frequently stage tantrums and keep behaving worse to get what they want.
6 Ways / Tips on dealing with kids tantrums?
1. Hold boundaries and don’t give in to the tantrum
The thing about kids’ tantrums is that if you give in to them, they will occur more frequently. If you give into the tantrum once, your child may assume that that’s the route to having their demand met and will do it every time. So, hold your boundary and don’t give in to the tantrum.
2. Give kids space to let their emotions out
As caregivers, we have unrealistic expectations from our kids to behave pleasantly all the time. We don’t let them feel their emotions, fearing that that may increase them. But in fact, when parents give children the space to let their emotions out, kids find it easier to manage their emotions and understand themselves better.
3. Explain only after the feeling has passed
When a child is having a meltdown, logic and reasoning doesn’t work. What works is empathy and connection. You can explain what went wrong and how your child can react the next time, when the storm has passed and your child is back in the position to listen and understand.
4. Model good behaviour and regulate yourself
Children may not follow our instructions but they will always follow our actions and copy them. A calm, self-regulated adult can raise a calm, self regulated child because of the model behaviour he is setting for the child.
5. Give undivided attention to your child
Children have a strong need to belong, to feel safe and loved. Make sure,that at least once in the day, you give them your undivided attention and spend quality time with them. This will help them feel connected to you and they won’t feel the need to throw tantrums to get your attention.
6. Help your child to name his emotions
It is important to teach your child about the many emotions we all feel as human beings. Help your child name the emotion he feels at various points in the day so that he doesn’t feel overwhelmed with the inflow of big emotions like fear, worry.
Precautionary measures parents can take to avoid developing aggressive behaviour in kids
Prevention is better than cure and even though no parent can completely avoid tantrums in their children, there are several things that they can do while dealing with kids tantrums.
1. Read books that model behaviour you want to develop in your children
Reading books is not just a great way of connecting with your child and building his vocabulary – but it can also help you teach your kids how to regulate themselves in the future through stories where characters faced similar situations as your child.
2. Give them age appropriate toys to build focus and skills
Keep your child occupied with age appropriate toys that pique his curiosity, build his focus, keep him engaged and make him feel satisfied after play. Rotate your kids’ toy shelf instead of buying more toys as that may over stimulate them and he may stop valuing them.
3. Prepare them for what’s coming
Mentally prepare your child for the situation they’re going to find themselves in – for example, prepare them for school by telling them you’ll be there to pick them up, or prepare them for a long flight by telling them about the toys you’ll be getting along. When kids know what’s happening, they don’t feel uncertain and have a meltdown.
4. Limit screen time
Screens make use of harsh colours, sounds and characters that over stimulate a child’s senses and make him hyper, restless and cranky.
5. Don’t expose them to violence
Children copy the adults around them. So, kids who grow up around violence, tend to be more aggressive and violent, while others who are raised by calm parents take after their parents and exhibit those qualities.
1. How to handle kids' tantrums with ease?
Know that tantrums come and go and do not judge your child for them. Next, calm down and try to understand your child’s unmet need and make an effort to connect with him, instead of trying to correct him.
2. When to worry about a child's aggressive behaviour?
If the child resorts to physical harm to himself or others around him frequently, you can talk to a professional who can help you guide your kid in multiple ways.
3. What are the leading causes of aggressive behaviour in kids?
A lack of sense of belonging, too much screen time and an environment that’s violent and abusive are often the leading causes of aggressive behaviour in kids.