1. Parenting

Brat Attack: Stopping Tantrums

Parents Can Minimize Tantrum Potential


Who hasn't heard an out-of-control toddler shrieking at the top of his lungs in a store while a frantic (and embarrassed) parent tries to defuse the situation? Anyone with toddlers knows the scenario all-too-well, and babysitters and providers alike have experienced the wails, acts of defiance, or outright tantrums. So, we all know what a toddler tantrum is; the question is what can be done about this brat-like behavior?

The good news is that child experts say that tantrums are typically not caused to test a parent's patience; rather, they are a typical part of growing up. Toddlers often act out because they are learning to control themselves and to develop independence. However, having said that, it doesn't mean parents should condone the behavior. Rather, parents and/or providers need to learn to manage the situations to make it less stressful on everyone involved. And part of that is by learning more about what typically causes the tantrum eruptions and find a solution to avoid those triggers.

To help in determining what helps to minimize tantrums, parents should note patterns concerning behavior as to when your child is at his best and at his worst; and what happens when she is hungry or tired; overstimulated; bored; or frustrated. Then, give the following suggestions a try.

  • As possible, try and schedule on-the-go activities during your child's peak times and avoid trips to the store and other errands during key meltdown times. Really observe and listen to your child, and understand that sometimes tantrums occur because your toddler is trying to communicate a feeling or need, and is frustrated over not being understood.

  • Praise, praise, praise good behavior and talk about what your expectations are and what consequences will be administered if bad behavior occurs. If you decide to reward a child for good behavior, consider making it in the form of a non-gift and non-food. The "treat" for great behavior, for example, can be 10 minutes of snuggle time in a favorite chair with a parent and picking a favorite book to look at together. Many parents fall into a trap of "buying" a child's good behavior, only to find that it backfires because kids will learn to manipulate that toward their own gain.

  • Be prepared to back up what consequences you set for a child, even if that means leaving a store without making the planned purchases, or really putting a child to bed for the evening 2 hours early. Parents/providers also need to not take it so personally when a child exhibits bratty behavior from time to time, and try and keep calm control and not let the explosion get the best of them.

  • The best news about tantrums is that they really and truly will pass. As kids continue to develop and improve their ability to communicate and make their wants/needs known, the tantrums will typically diminish. But not to worry; it only means children are on to their next stage of behavior and growth, and with it new actions and misdeeds to keep a handle on!
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