It always amazes me how much my children are so different from one another. For instance, three of my children started their tantrums at different ages, and for very different reasons. Therefore, I have found three different techniques that have helped my children cope with their tantrums.
Before I get into the details of when and why my children started their tantrums, and how I dealt with those tantrums, it is important to keep these three points in mind:
- Almost every child will have tantrums to a certain degree
- Tantrums are a way for children to express themselves
- Often times, there is an underlying reason behind your child’s tantrum
My children have had varying degrees of tantrums, thus prompting me to implement different strategies in dealing with these random emotional outbursts. Down below, I describe my experience with each of my children’s tantrums.
First Child, “H”
Prior to “H” turning two years old, she was a calm and quiet baby who kept to herself. However, once “H” turned two years old, she would have a tantrum almost everyday, and there were days where she had at least three of them! These tantrums would happen at any time of day, despite her being fed and well rested.
As I look back to this time, I have to say that it’s no wonder she had many consistent and frequent tantrums. Right around the time her tantrums started we had just moved into a new house AND I was pregnant with my second child; to make things worse, “H” was spending more time at daycare, as I was working full time. ONE of these changes is enough to make an adult throw a tantrum, never mind a child! With all these changes taking place, it made total sense that “H” would express her confusion and frustration to these changes through tantrums.
“H” would scream and jump up and down simultaneously, and all my attempts to calm her down seemed to fail. I tried talking to her, tried hugging her, I even tried bribing her with treats and toys; but nothing worked. As a first time mom, I felt helpless and hopeless. One day, I just couldn’t take it anymore, and that’s when I put my daughter in her first ‘time out’. I figured, ‘hey, if she’s going to scream and shout, she might as well do it in a room with the doors closed so I don’t hear her.’ I let her cry it out in the nearby washroom, and after a few minutes I decided to let her out. Just before I took her out, I knocked on the washroom door and asked her if she was ready to come out. She suddenly stopped screaming and told me she was ready. With that cue, I opened the door and gave her a giant hug.
Although, I initially labelled this method as a ‘time out’ (which sounds like an aggressive word and can be a form of punishment), I like to think of it as giving her time to express herself and calm herself down in a separate room away from everybody else – therefore this wasn’t a form of punishment, but rather a time for her to recollect herself. And you know what? It seemed to work. Now, I did also try the ‘time in’ method with her (where she has time to recollect herself with me, and not in a separate room), but it was not as effective as her being by herself for a few minutes.
Second Child, “M”
“M” didn’t start to have any tantrums until the age of 3. Up until that moment, I tried my best to maintain a consistent and predictable schedule for our family, however life is…well LIFE, and with that said, you can’t control everything. Therefore, “M’s” tantrums didn’t start until her baby brother started demanding more attention from me, thus putting me in a position where I had to sacrifice some quality one-on-one time with her.
As soon as my then youngest child, “I”, started teething, “M” started to cry and emotionally overreact to the smallest things. For instance, if I told her to put her toys away, she would just start to cry and scream. It did not take long for me to realize that her tantrums were due to the lack of attention from me, for I was spending majority of my time carrying my son around the house in an attempt to soothe him of his teething pains. With that said, as soon as “M” would start her tantrums, all I did was give her a hug and she would be back to her old self almost instantly. Therefore, her emotional outbursts were a way of communicating to me that she needed more of my attention and some reassurance that I loved her.
I noticed M having major tantrums again when she was in grade 1, and I couldn’t figure out why…until we went to the dentist that is. The dentist had informed me that her molars were coming in and most likely causing her pain- that explained it. Sometimes children can be in pain from growing pains in their legs or from teeth coming in, but they don’t communicate that pain to us and instead throw massive tantrums as a means to deal with the pain. Once I found out my daughter was having teething pain, I gave her some pain medication and she was a lot better.
Third Child, “I”
“I” is now almost 5 years old, and I’m happy to say he’s had the least amount of tantrums compared to my older two children. I have found that he usually has a tantrum when he cannot have something he desires, like a cookie before dinnertime; when this happens, I have to explain to him why he can’t have a cookie and when he can have one. For instance, I’ll say something like, “you can’t have a cookie right now because we are about to have dinner now, but you can have it for dessert after you finish your supper.” Next, I like to distract him by asking him to do something else, like helping me set the table- which he loves to do!
Every child is different, therefore, as parents, it is necessary for us to figure out the underlying cause of our children’s tantrums in order for us to determine the appropriate and the most effective method for our children to cope with these emotional outbursts.
The 3 methods that I found to have worked for my children are:
- Giving children space and time to let out their feelings
- Giving hugs and reassuring your children that you love them
- Explaining to your children why they cannot have something and redirecting them.
I hope that this post has benefited you in some way, thanks so much for reading!