Tantrums are without a doubt one of the most trying elements when it comes to raising toddlers. They can be so cute and butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-their-mouth one minute – to screaming and throwing their body on the floor the next. It’s the real extremes at this age.
Tantrums can range anywhere from winging and whining to the aforementioned screaming and throwing their body on the floor – or worse: hitting, scratching and kicking. But we’re sure you’ve experienced some form of tantrum yourself by now…
Whether we like it or not, tantrums are actually a very important part of a child’s development and are usually the symptom of something else that’s going on under the surface.
5 things your child’s tantrum might be trying to tell you
Understand what a tantrum is trying to tell you can help, so the next time you’re facing a tantrum take a look at the following…
1. They’re struggling with a big change
Have there been any big changes in their little world lately? A new daycare? A new baby? Moving house?
Big changes can have a big impact on our little ones, so if they are out of sorts, ask yourself what is going on in their life. If there are no big, obvious changes you can think of, try and put yourself in their shoes. Remember, they see the world through different eyes to you, something that might seem like a small or insignificant change to you can seem much bigger to them.
2. They’ve been holding their feelings in all-day
Often at daycare or when in the care of someone else our little ones may be on their best behaviour. E.g. Your mother-in-law who loves to tell you they were ‘a little angel’ for her…
This doesn’t mean that they are doing anything specifically to make them behave better, it usually means that our little ones have quite literally been on their ‘best behaviour’, which often results in them holding emotions or feelings inside.
Then when they see you – their safe space – they feel free to unleash all their pent up emotions.
Which, unfortunately, usually isn’t them showering you with love and affection. Sometimes it might be. But because they are yet to have the ability to regulate their emotions, this often appears in the form of a tantrum.
3. They’re hungry (or lacking nutrition)
Ask any toddler parent and they will tell you that HANGER is real. There’s a reason parents always joke about being constant snack distributors. Because there is absolutely NO reasoning with a hangry child.
Further to how much they have eaten, it’s also important to look at what they have eaten.
Have they eaten a lot of processed foods or high in sugars-foods? Certain foods will send their blood sugar levels soaring which can send their appetite out of whack, according to Kiindred’s resident nutritionist, Mandy Sacher. Not to mention that ‘sugar high’ all parents know all too well – swiftly followed by the ‘sugar-crash’.
Mandy recommends making sure they are eating a healthy, balanced diet and filling up on lots of whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables – as well as trying to keep little ones on structured meal times, where possible.
4. They’re overtired or burnt out…
Perhaps they had a bad night sleep the night before, missed a nap (if they’re still having one) or they woke early.
Often with our busy lives we schedule so much and are go-go-go – and our little ones are along for the ride. So, even if they are sleeping well at night, the hustle and bustle of daily lives can get to them and exhaust them.
Make sure you allow your child to have downtime – schedule it in the diary, if you must! Make sure they have time at home to decompress and play quietly without rules or restrictions and to just be themselves.
5. They’re testing the limits
It’s an important part of childhood development to test the limits and to understand cause and effect. They aren’t born knowing how to follow the rules and etiquette that we as adults live by. That’s something that is learned.
Kids do this by pushing limits, understanding consequences and learning from their mistakes. And, usually, it’s when they do something that comes up against a ‘no’ that results in a tantrum. Or conversely, when you ask them to do something and you are met with a ‘no’.
As frustrating as tantrums can be, taking the moment to step back and think about what might be going on in your little one’s world can make a huge difference. By understanding why your little one is acting out, you can help diffuse the situation before it becomes an all-out meltdown.
Kiindred’s child and family psychologist Jaimie Bloch suggests setting limits to help your child problem-solve and learn what is acceptable and what isn’t. Once they are calm, talk to them about what happened, be curious, for example, ‘Hmm, that looked like you had a really big feeling before. I wonder if that was sadness? I’m not sure, what do you think?’
Then be sure to reiterate to them that all feelings are ok but certain behaviours are not. For example, ‘I can see how angry you are with your sister. It’s ok to be angry but it’s not ok to hit’.
Navigating toddler tantrums is never easy but toddlers are just like us, after all. They want their feelings to be acknowledged and validated and not shut down or ignored. So, coming at them with a calm and sympathetic ear, rather than meeting them at a heightened level of frustration, can really help.