How do you calm a toddler tantrum?
Inside this post I'll share my absolute favorite tip for calming tantrums!
Two and three-year-olds are exhausting, adorable, and amazing. They experience basically every emotion possible in huge ways during short periods of time. As I am going through this stage again with my almost three-year-old daughter (my oldest son is almost six now), I think I am figuring a few things out. The strategies I am learning are helping me become a more respectful, empathetic, and kind parent.
Tantrums are inevitable with two and three-year-olds, especially ones that are slower with developing language who are still learning appropriate strategies for communicating. There are lots of tips for dealing with tantrums... many of which I have shared before in my post called Toddler Tantrums: Ways to Deal.
Today I wanted to share with you my absolute favorite tip for calming tantrums. It is so simple and yet I have only just focused on the power of this strategy during the past six months.
One of the most important things I've learned this year to help my daughter calm down when she is frustrated and throwing a tantrum is to simply acknowledge her point of view.
Simple, right? But are you doing it? I was not (or at least not consistently) and have been amazed at how quickly I've been able to stop tantrums just with this simple tip. Keep reading to understand more of what I am talking about.
In her article called The Key to Your Child's Heart, Janet Lansbury says,
"Acknowledge your child’s feelings and wishes, even if they seem ridiculous, irrational, self-centered or wrong. This is not the same as agreeing, and is definitely not indulgent or allowing an undesirable behavior.
Acknowledgement isn’t condoning our child’s actions; it’s validating the feelings behind them. It’s a simple, profound way to reflect our child’s experience and inner self. It demonstrates our understanding and acceptance. It sends a powerful, affirming message… Every thought, desire, feeling — every expression of your mind, body and heart — is perfectly acceptable, appropriate and lovable."
Does your child ever throw tantrums? If so, what are they about?
At our house, my almost three-year-old often throws tantrums when...
- her brothers take toys from her
- I won't give her a specific thing that she wants (toys, candy, breakable things, etc.)
- I ask her to change a specific behavior (walk... instead of run in the house, use her words instead of hitting, etc.)
- a task is hard and she gets frustrated
(these are just a few examples)
For example, when a toy isn't working the way she wants and she throws it or starts crying or getting mad, I'll just get down to her level (often I'll sit on the floor somewhere nearby her) and I'll say, "Wow! You are feeling really upset. It is so hard when your toy doesn't work the way you want it to."
Sometimes that's all I have to say. Often I will follow a statement like that by saying, "do you need a hug?" or "do you need help?" Usually the response is "yeah" with a sigh, followed by a reduction in tenseness, and an adorable moment of hugging. Then later (when she's calm) we talk about more appropriate ways to react and ask for help when something is hard.
When my daughter gets really upset because I won't give her something she wants I try and pretend that I am a professional and talk calmly. Emotional reactions often feed tantrums.
For example, if she wants a piece of candy for breakfast and I've said no and she is flailing on the floor, I'll acknowledge her feelings right away. Instead of getting annoyed at her for banging her legs on the floor or saying rude words, I just say, "You want a piece of candy and you are sad because I said no. It is hard sometimes when mom says no." Then I might offer a hug or a healthy snack/meal alternative depending on how she is feeling. Sometimes she chooses to still cry for a bit and sometimes she snaps out of it. Either way, she knows I listened. I might give an option for when we can have candy as well (like after dinner or after lunch).
Tantrums and crying are easy ways for kids to let out their emotions. As parents we often don't want to hear the crying or yelling and we try and get our kids to stop them. The problem with that is that if they don't feel like they can express those emotions, they don't learn how to share them in healthy ways. We can teach kids to express their emotions in different ways (like using their words), but first we need to acknowledge their emotions. We can't teach kids anything when they've shut down and don't feel like anyone is listening to them.
By acknowledging the emotions that our kids feel... and listening to those emotions (however they are expressed)... I have found that my kids are slowly having less tantrums and are having more appropriate reactions to situations. They are also using language like, "I am angry" and "I am upset" more often because it is modeled during these moments of acknowledgment.
As parents we often say, "You're okay" or "You'll be okay" and try and minimize our kid's reactions and emotions to situations. I have caught myself doing it many times. My goal for myself is to ban that response. If my kids are crying or upset then they are NOT okay. They are asking for help. Who am I to tell them otherwise? By ignoring their feelings I am not being a respectful or kind parent. I can also easily cause a tantrum by ignoring their feelings.
My relationship with my daughter has really been strengthened over the past few months as I have actively tried to acknowledge her feelings better, in addition to using several other strategies that I'll share with you in future posts. We have a deeper connection and many friends have remarked that she seems much more confident and happy.
I also feel more in control as a parent and I feel like I have a plan for dealing with her emotions. Having a plan helps me stay more patient and focused and help my daughter instead of just getting frustrated.
I strongly recommend that you head over to Janet Lansbury's post called The Key to Your Child's Heart to read the seven reasons that acknowledgment works and delve into this topic deeper. It is a really important one.
Do you have any thoughts on this?
What are other respectful tips you have for calming your child's tantrums?
** As always, just a reminder... I am a parent and an educator. I am not perfect. This post shares my opinions. I am not a parenting expert. Please use what works for you and leave what doesn't. I love to learn from others, so feel free to share resources with me that have been helpful to you. They may also be useful to other readers!
Was this post useful? Read more Toddler Tantrum tips here.
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- 5 Tips to Help Your Toddler Learn Language
- How Do I Stop My Toddler From Throwing?
- How To Stop Your Toddler from Running Away
- Helping a Toddler That Hits