Simple effective ideas to handle preschooler tantrums and meltdowns
If one thinks about it, toddler tantrums are very much like boiling milk. If addressed properly in time, it can be stopped from boiling over. But if left unattended it can result in unpleasant scenes. Most of us parents have encountered such meltdowns atleast once and sought to find the best way to handle our child’s tantrums.
What’s important to remember is that such temper tantrums are a normal part of a preschooler’s developmental changes. Parents should tackle them as naturally as possible. Tantrums which range from whining, crying, screaming throwing things, kicking, and hitting, are a fact of childhood. It’s how young children tend to show that they are upset or frustrated.
Why do Preschoolers throw tantrums: Toddler tantrums can happen due to a lot of reasons. It can happen:
- when your little one is tired, uncomfortable, hungry, or simply because they can’t seem to get what they want,
- due to their inability to communicate their needs. As they develop and improve language skills in time, their tantrums will decrease,
- when your little one slowly starts developing their personality at around 3-4 years of age. As they grow more aware of their needs and desires comes the attempt to assert them more,
- as they try to navigate the world around them with autonomy and independence- which can be more than can what they can handle,
- as a reaction to situations a child may find difficult and unable to handle in a more grown-up way.
If such reactions go unchecked, then our little ones may tend to rely on dramatic meltdowns to have their way. This could, in turn, result in a stubborn child- not something anyone of us wishes for!
Since it’s not a very effective way to communicate, we parents tend to struggle when it comes to how to deal with tantrums. Fingers tend to be pointed to the problems of parents many times. At this juncture, it is important to remember that tantrums or meltdowns are not the signs of poor parenting. Just as this developmental phase is new to your preschooler, it is a new phase for you too! Rather than looking at them as disasters, let's treat these meltdowns as opportunities for education.
Your goal as a parent in such situations is to help your little one unlearn such responses and help them learn better ways to handle unpleasant or difficult situations. How you respond also matters a lot as it affects the likelihood of this behaviour repeating.
10 Simple Ways to Handle Tantrums
Understand the triggers that cause tantrums: there can be a number of situations- like hunger, loud music, certain odors, lack of sleep, crowded places, etc- that may trigger your child’s tantrums. It is important to try and recognize what these triggers are for your child. Read your child’s behavioural cues. Being aware of your child’s tantrum triggers will help you plan and be better prepared to tackle when the situation arises. Anticipating those triggers and making it easier for your child to engage by modifying difficult situations is thus critical.
Step back, don’t react: sometimes the best way to react to a situation is to ignore it. By not paying attention, you will not reinforce unpleasant behaviour and in course of time, the tantrums will decrease. However, this may not be always possible. In such cases, take a stand and stick to it. Address very aggressive behaviour immediately. It is best not to give in or encourage the behaviour as it could then become a habit. However, in some situations, the smart thing to do is to be more flexible and make room for negotiations. When your child wants something, consider the request carefully. This will make your child feel like they have some autonomy and independence in making their own decisions.
Appreciate good behaviour: in difficult situations, when your child makes an effort to calm down instead of throwing a tantrum, shower them with praise and attention. Be lavish in your attention, and reward your little one for behaviours you want to encourage. You are, in turn, teaching them skills to handle and respond to frustrating situations in a positive way which would further reduce future meltdowns.
Avoid negativity: your child throwing a tantrum does not make them a bad person. Remember to separate the act from the individual. Rather than shouting, connect with your child in a positive way. Constantly turning down their requests- usage of ‘no’, without hearing them out can potentially cause more stubborn behaviour.
Create a distraction: sometimes just turning on your little one’s favourite song, the sight of their favourite toy, or bringing out their favourite colouring book is all that it takes to stop your preschooler from throwing a fit. Anything really that calms, interests, and cheers them up. Since they tend to have short attention spans, they can be easily distracted.
Have your child sway, tickely their frown away, and let grumpy feelings go as they listen to Kutuki’s ‘Fly Hop March’, ‘Minku the Elephant’, ‘Fimbo the Funny Clown’ or ‘Up Up Away’. Or, even better, have them pick out their own favourite music.
Check out the Kutuki kids learning app for more songs, stories and games for calming preschoolers.
Communicate- don’t just talk, also listen: talking may not be the best solution when the tantrum is at its peak. But afterward- definitely yes. Try to connect with your child- listen to them, acknowledge their emotions, and take interest in what they have to say. This shows them that you care. If you want them to listen to you and resolve the unpleasant situation, you will need to listen to them first. Be honest with them and help them articulate their difficult feelings, which probably is the cause for their meltdowns.
Give them space: at times it is best to let your child feel and let their anger out. Create a safe space that allows them to do this. This can be a non-destructive way for them to let out their feelings, pull themselves together, and regain self-control. Encourage them to sit down and breathe deeply or maybe create something. Bring out their creativity by engaging them to use art to show express how they are feeling.
Let your child breathe their anger out by watching the song, ‘Angry Kutu’. The song shows preschoolers ways to channelize their anger by observing their body language, using calming techniques and releasing their anger.
For a range of such engaging songs, stories, and rhymes for preschoolers, download the Kutuki kids learning app now!
Some snacks and hugs can go a long way: sometimes, all that your preschooler needs is some comfort food and a warm hug to relax, reset, and fall asleep. Most often, it's the stomach that needs the attention. In addition to hunger, lack of sleep can also impact your child's behaviour. Ensuring your child gets enough sleep can reduce tantrums. Big, firm, and long hugs can calm and help your little one feel settled and secure. It shows them that you care inspite of disagreeing with their behaviour.
Respect them- don’t disregard: giving your child options to address the situation instead of directing them what to do helps them feel like they are in control. Acknowledging their reasoning and requests doesn't mean you are giving in. It is rather crucial in building trust.
Model calm behaviour: children often learn by watching adults, especially their parents. So everytime you feel great anger, want to yell or spank, take a deep breath and remind yourself what you want your child to learn. Staying calm and patient is important to help your child understand the consequences of their action. Responding with anger only aggravates the situation. Choose your actions rationally.
Kutuki recognizes that each child can have a mood and mind of their own. The Kutuki early learning platform builds love and engagement with content among preschoolers using interactive elements through a mixture of creative song and story-based curriculum. Created solely for Indian preschoolers of ages 2-6 years, the Kutuki kids learning app offers interactive online stories for kids, engaging rhymes, and games with attractive animations and illustrations, the platform provides preschoolers an immersive experience that focuses on the child’s emotions in addition to addressing important learning milestones. To know more about the features of the app, read our blog titled, “The Kutuki Kids Learning App- Here’s What You Must Know”.
Reassurance is required right after your child’s meltdown episode as they are likely to be quite vulnerable. It is critical for them to know that they are loved, no matter what. When things get too difficult to handle, remind yourself that your little one is still yet to fully develop their social and emotional skills. And learning to deal with frustrations is a skill that they will gain in time. No matter how frustrating it is, the key is to comfort your child without giving into their demands and disciplining them with gentleness. Focus on addressing the behaviour and do not emotionally attack the little one. Most importantly, your child’s tantrums are not directed at you. So don't take it personally. It’s just their struggle to express themselves properly. As parents, let's support our little ones through their emotionally confusing phase. So, no matter how tough it is, step back and have a laugh at the end of it all. Keep calm, the tantrums will subside.