In Safe Hands
Sleep and Behaviour Support & Advice
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Tantrums

Tantrums are a normal part of your child’s development and although they can be wearing and frustrating to have to deal with, with a consistent approach and appropriate support they will get fewer and less frequent as your child learns how to cope with their feelings and their environment.

Tantrums are generally caused by an overwhelming feeling of frustration and lack of control. Tantrums arise when children are faced with a task or situation they do not yet have the skills to complete to their satisfaction. There is also a great ‘need’ to want something whether that be a toy, attention or sweets! Your child will benefit from a consistent approach which is firm but supportive and which doesn’t give in to what the child ‘thinks’ they must have

Tantrums arise when adults expectations do not match the developmental level of children. External pressures create anxiety and insecurities which in turn exacerbate emotions leading to tantrums.

Children with autism or learning/ social difficulties may be more prone to tantrums as this becomes an effective way of getting attention and changing other’s behaviour and decisions.

Look upon tantrums as behaviours which allow children to learn about social interactions, relationships and coping with the environment. We all have tantrums in our own way it is just as adults we use behaviours which are not normally as physical as young children. When we have an argument or something doesn’t go the way we expect we deal with this in a way which is separate to our normal behaviour. Slamming the door, crying, swearing are all coping strategies and are similar to a young child kicking and screaming. It is just one way we deal with the frustrations we face in everyday life.

In the same way for adults we can’t always have what we want, when we want. Imagine an adult who when they start shouting and stomping around suddenly finds they get what they want, it is likely they would repeat this behaviour. Children have to learn in life there are boundaries whoever they are and because of this we have to learn to manage disappointment and upset and help children to do the same. Having a calm and supportive person who responds appropriately gives more security and reassurance than someone who reacts differently every time.

Tantrums are common during the second year of life, a time when children are acquiring language. Toddlers generally understand more than they can express. Imagine not being able to communicate your needs to someone and then seeing that person ignore us or at worse get irritated with us.

Toddlers want a sense of independence and control over the environment but yet they still need support and a dependable adult. This conflict within themselves over ‘I can do it’ and then they find they can’t can lead to uncertainty and then tantrums.

Children need lots of positive attention and from a young age work out what brings them this attention. Children are okay with receiving negative attention if this is all they can get so adults need to work at recognising positive behaviours and praising these with meaning. Not just ‘good boy/ girl’ but a genuine acknowledgement for what they are doing which meets your approval.

Give choices. Rather than say ‘Can you put your toys away now?’ which can result in a ‘no’ offer a choice. ‘It is time to put the toys away, would you like to do on your own or shall we do together’. Or ‘It’s bath time shall we climb the stairs like tigers today or a monkey?’ Give time for changes in what is happening. Respect your child in the same way you expect to be respected. Behaviour and attitudes are learned when it is experienced for oneself so give your child a time notice if you have to go out or if it is time for tea etc

Distract your child. Take advantage of short attention spans and by offer and alternative for the object which is not allowed or begin a new activity to replace the frustration of not being able to do something.. Or simply change the environment. Take your toddler outside or inside or move to a different room.

Consider the request carefully when your child wants something. We can often say ‘No’ before we have really considered what your child is asking. Choose your battles as well.

Know your child's limits. If you know your toddler is tired, it's not the best time to go grocery shopping or to rush them around

Learn some coping strategies for yourself ‘Stop, Breathe and Think’ are good foundations for adults and children

Make sure your child is getting enough sleep. Sleep is very important to children’s well-being and can dramatically reduce tantrums. The link between lack of sleep and a child's behavior isn't always obvious. When adults are tired, they can be grumpy or have low energy, but kids can become hyperactive, challenging, and have extremes in terms of emotional outlet.

Pay as little attention to the tantrum as possible. Once your child has calmed down offer a hug and then move on. Don’t be drawn back in to the discussion