Meet Sandy, a fellow Mommy blogger over at Kid Savers Network. She’s got some tips, mom to mom, on how to handle things when toddlers strike. And believe me, it happens. Read on for tips on preventing this tough behavior.
Before becoming a Mom, I’d heard about “The Terrible Twos” and “Toddler Tantrums”. I bought parenting books, watched DVDs but absolutely nothing could prepare me for the first time my toddler hit me!
I forget exactly why he did it that first time. It could be because he didn’t want to put his shoes on, or finish his food, or he wanted to play and I was carrying his 6-month old daughter. I was however acutely aware that a line had been crossed and some new “phase” of our parenting journey had begun. My immediate concern was how could I help him and tend to my infant daughter. Then I realized that I did not have enough information or experience to actually help! What if he starts kindergarten and the behavior remained? How can I look after my daughter and give him the love and attention he needs?
Help Is Out There!
I did what I suspect may mothers do in my position – I took to Google. I searched for comfort and hopefully one or two solutions for my troublesome toddler.
It was reassuring to know that this kind of behavior is normal and there are methods out there to help mothers dealing with it.
I will now share some of these methods with you. I’ll also give 8 great tips to help parents and caregivers dealing with toddler tantrums.
Why Does It Happen?
I was shocked when my son hit me because we have raised him in a loving home. We have tried to limit his access to any form of violence so it really came out of the blue.
Some reasons experts give for toddlers acting out are frustration, anger and the loss of focus in the family. We did notice that his behavior changed considerably when my daughter was born.
As to be expected, there’s no definitive answer and many believe it’s just “a phase” that pre-school kids will eventually grow out of.
How Common Is It?
A study by Portegal & Davidson (2003) of 1,200 toddlers found that:
- 87% of 18 to 24 months old will throw a temper tantrum.
- It increases to 91% for 30 to 36 months old
- It Declines to 58% for 42 – 48 months old.
The recorded “typical tantrums” lasted from two to four minutes. Trust me – it can be a long 4 minutes!
Further research by Northwestern University highlights that most toddler tantrums are common but some are “atypical”. They are the ones that come out of the blue, and are so intense that your toddler becomes exhausted.
If these kind of tantrums happen every day, it could be an indication of underlying mental issues and definitely worth following up on.
Fortunately, the number of toddlers (and parents!) experiencing this is around one in ten.
How To Stop Toddler Tantrums?
The most common method parents use for serious toddler tantrums (which include striking) is the “Time Out” method. We all remember “The Naughty Step”, or being forced to stare at a wall, but this one is slightly different. This is usually performed in the following way:
1. Always get down on eye-level when speaking to your toddler
2. Grab both their hands (don’t leave one free so they can hit you!)
3. Tell them firmly “No Hitting” or use an affirmation like “We don’t hit – we hug!”
4. Walk Away and wait for your toddler to follow
5. After 30 secs – 1 minute ask the “Tell Mommy Sorry”
6. When they do, kiss them!
A slight variation some parents employ is getting your toddler to stroke your cheek or tickle you and making a big thing out of it. It’s always better to try and replace habits with new ones rather than “breaking them.” Here is a great video of how to give time outs:
Will It Work For Me?
As most parents know, all children are independent and unique. What works for some might not work for yours! This was my experience. When my son has a tantrum and starts hitting, he will also say “I want Mommy to go away! Go away!” So actually going away makes his tantrum worse and gives him what he wants!
What I did was change things slightly. Grabbing his hands, addressing him on eye-level and the “We don’t hit – we hug” mantra is working and he is now repeating it. So if the above steps work for you – great! If not, don’t be afraid of changing things to better suit your situation.
Tips for Dealing With Toddler Tantrums
Here are 8 tips I have learned when dealing with a toddler tantrum:
1. Be Consistent!
Whatever method or approach you choose – stick with it! It might take some time but consistency is key.
2. Don’t Get Angry!
This one is difficult! Try not to get angry. Your toddler will likely reproduce this behavior (monkey see – monkey do!). Many times they do things just to get a reaction or attention.
3. Meet Their Basic Needs
Trying our best to ensure they are not hungry, thirsty or tired (the last is hard when they refuse to nap!) will help lessen the onset of tantrums. Mine starts when he has a slight temperature so check that too!
3. Know The Signals
Some pre-tantrum signals you should watch out for include whining, asking for things they can’t have, scrunching up their face and stamping their feet. Some parents keep a tantrum diary to better identify what sets them off.
4. Distract Them
This might work better for kids under 18 months. Getting them to sing a song, count, play a game or complete a basic task can help distract them and forget their anger.
For older kids it’s possible to distract them with humor in some situations!
5. Encourage Words
This one is working well for me. My son is fond of throwing and hitting. I have asked him to tell me when he wants to do that. He actually said “Mommy, I want to throw your cell phone”. From there, I can secure the cell phone and try my best to talk him down. I swear sometimes it’s like dealing with a bank robber who insists on pizza and a ride to the airport…
6. Don’t Debate Toddlers
Some parents treat their toddlers like young adults, but in my experience that is like trying to herd cats. Getting down to eye level, short direct instructions with appropriate tone of voice and expressions seems to work better.
7. Don’t Bribe Them!
The temptation is to say “Be good and I’ll give you a gift!”. This only reinforces the bad behavior. It’s better to give them a choice like “We can stay here and be angry or go to the park. Which do you prefer?”
8. Understand It’s All Communication
Even when your toddler is hitting you, they are trying to tell you something! Tantrums are usually (but not always) an expression of wanting something but not getting it.
They are not deliberately being malicious – just trying their best to get their needs met!
Underlying Mental Issues
In a small number of cases, tantrums may signify an underlying mental issue. Some warning signs include if your toddler is especially violent to objects and caregivers, self-harms, has tantrums that last for 25 minutes or more and unable to calm themselves afterwards.
As always, don’t rely on what you read on the internet. If your toddler’s tantrums are causing you concern speak to your paediatrician or family doctor.
What do you do when your toddler strikes?