Children like to attract their parents’ attention. If they find that a piece of behaviour persuades the adult to stop whatever they are doing and concentrate on them, then they will keep repeating it like a squirrel pressing the lever for nuts. They’ve found out how to press our buttons! It doesn’t seem to matter whether the attention is positive or negative. There are degrees of negative attention, from nagging, through to shouting, smacking and finally having ‘the screaming habdabs’ where the grownup’s attention is totally on the child or children. There are many types of behaviour that will provoke us. Toddler tantrums need dealing with before they become teenage rages.
What is the best way to deal with a tantrum?
First check to see if there is an easy solution to the bout of frustration. For example by encouraging a child to succeed in doing something he lacks confidence in doing.
If this fails, try ‘distraction’. Parents can start an interesting conversation with a glove puppet or read loudly from the toddler’s favourite book – commenting on the pictures – or find something interesting that’s going on outside the window – real or fictitious.
If the tantrum is aimed at making the grownup say ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’, stick to your guns and allow the toddler to have his tantrum without any outside help. All toddlers, and indeed grownups, have angry feelings sometimes and if we’re not frightened by them we can help the toddler not feel frightened either.
As TWINS tend to specialise (see COUPLE EFFECT) If one twin corners the market in tantrums the other may not bother. So helping one to control them will enable the other to express their feelings sometimes.
For school-age children rewards for calming down such as are suggested in my APP can also help.
Individual time for all the children in the family helps to give them an outlet for their worries and fears and some of that positive attention they crave when they can have the grownup’s undivided attention.
Parents who have a persistently angry child should where possible seek help from a qualified
professional. Referral to the NHS can sometimes be difficult, but it’s also worth going on line to look for help such as Young Minds which also has a free parents’ helpline.