As a parent you know that life with little ones can be a tad tricky. Small children are great at getting upset over seemingly minor things.
A cup that’s not pink. Or is too pink. The cutlery on the wrong side of the plate. Toast cut up the wrong way or mashed potato touching the sausages.
Before you know it your child is rolling about on the floor, screaming and sobbing like it’s the end of the world, totally inconsolable.
No amount of reasoning is going to help here. In fact, the more you try to reason the worse the tantrum becomes. While some tantrums are amusing to us, others can become difficult and if in public, embarrassing.
Surprising ways to deal with toddler tantrums
A golden rule seen time and time again on parenting forums is to never give in to demands. Once you give in to a child in this way they’ll continue to use the behaviour to get what they want. Or alternatively, ignore the behaviour.
But maybe there are some other tactics you can try.
Sympathise and see things from their point of view
Minor reasons for triggering tantrums may seem silly to us but to a child these issues are real. It must be disappointing to not get sweets during the weekly food shop or for the bunny-decorated plate to still be in the dishwasher at meal time. Acknowledge that your child is upset; show them you understand their disappointment or frustration without giving in to their demand:
‘How horrible. It must be upsetting that you couldn’t use your favourite bowl at breakfast time’ or ‘that must be disappointing not to get the packet of sweets you wanted’.
This doesn’t mean you are validating the tantrum. Instead, showing sympathy can reduce the initial trauma and your child will often calm down, a particularly useful tip if you happen to be out in public. A calmer child is far easier to deal with than one flailing about on the floor causing a scene.
Ask them to find a solution
Add a question asking your child what to do to make the situation better and get them thinking of solutions to their ‘problem’.
‘It must be upsetting that you can’t use your favourite bowl right now. What could we use instead?’
This helps to teach a child they can’t always get what they want in a way that appreciates their point of view but doesn’t give in to demands.
Kids love silliness
If your toddler is still upset and refusing to get involved in problem solving try being playful. Ask what plate you could use instead and start picking random items that might be used– magazines, the fruit bowl or a nearby toy.
Making the situation seem less disaster-like and funny might just defuse the tantrum. Most children will end up getting the giggles as they proclaim how silly your suggestions are. They might even forget what they were upset about in the first place.
There will of course be times when a different approach is required. Children have diverse personalities and what worked last week may not work again next week. You may be tired and fed up of the fifteenth tantrum of the morning but trying to stay calm, empathising and taking a different tack may be just what you and your little one need.