There have been several recent cases in the news about passengers being thrown off of planes (before the plane took off, in case you were worried about that!). One of them involved a 2 year old and her dad. She was having a temper tantrum and her dad was attempting to console her before takeoff.
Temper tantrums can occur anywhere, at any time, and sometimes at any age, including adults but that’s a whole other subject! They typically occur between the ages of 1 – 4 which is primetime for child development. So, it’s not particularly surprising that kids get overwhelmed. I know I do and I’m not in this age bracket!
Preventing temper tantrums is key
The best course of action in many situations is generally preventing something before it happens. Raising a child with forethought about limitations and then maintaining consistency about the rules can help tremendously, both in preventing difficulties and in dealing with them when they arise.
Toddlers especially are still in overwhelming learning mode. Picture yourself being in an unfamiliar environment (new job, different culture, relearning to walk or talk) and the myriad frustrations that could accompany that. Now, put that in a developing brain that is reliant on someone else for everything they need and want. That’s a great recipe for a temper tantrum.
So, what to do when that tornado hits?
- Tell the child in advance what is going to happen and what the expectations for behavior are. If appropriate, engage them in a discussion about it; give them choices.
- Whenever possible make sure they’re well-rested before an outing.
- Keep them as occupied as possible. Bring books, drawing materials, or small toys. There was no expectation that they would get to pick something out at the store so it was a special treat if they did. And, they always traveled with a favorite toy or book.
- Divert their attention as quickly as possible. This can be fairly simple with younger children. A 2 year old can be diverted with silly questions, games or songs or by asking them to tell someone else a fun or crazy thing that happened. When a toddler is crying over something that’s not very serious, bring out the silliness. “Did you tell Daddy about the GIANT spider we saw”? Or, “Are we gonna eat rocks for dinner? No, that’s silly!” There are some teachable opportunities here and best of all, toddlers love silly.
- Be calm! I know, right? Hard to be calm when you have that proverbial last nerve and your darling is on it. Hint – if you give in, you’ve probably already lost. But, they’re most likely overwhelmed with emotion and don’t know what to do with it. It’s not like they can go to the gym and work it off. Help them work through it. Talk to them, ask questions about what’s wrong, offer solutions or take some time out. It’s good for both of you!