Are you frustrated because your kid is throwing tantrums? Are you wondering how to stop temper tantrums? If you’re exhausted from dealing with temper tantrums, then please, read on for my number one tip for putting an end to them!
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A Sense of Security
One of the most important things that all people need, despite their age, is a sense of security. If you think back to high school psych class, you might remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Just above things like water, food, and shelter, people need to feel secure.
This, of course, looks different at different ages. Today, we’re going to focus in on toddlers and preschool-aged children. Although, this trick is important for older children, as well.
Where I Learned This Trick
Through all my years of teaching kindergarten, and all the part time jobs that led up to that (summer camps, babysitting, daycares), I learned many things that have been so helpful in parenting. This one trick is something I used when working with children.
I now use it all the time with my own cluster baby children. Everyday, all day long.
What is this secret?
Let your children know what is going to happen next. That’s it. That the secret.
It’s truly a game changer. Let them know what is coming, and what they should expect. If you begin to do this regularly, you will notice a decrease in tantrums.
When children know what is going to happen in their day, or even in the next hour or so, it helps them to feel secure.
Think about it this way: You’re going along, doing your thing. You’re getting dinner ready, and maybe slicing some vegetables. All of a sudden, your partner comes in and says, “All done! Time to get in the car. We’re going to the store!”
Oh- and you have no choice in the matter. How would you feel? You’d probably try to ask why, maybe even argue. You assuredly would be at least a little stressed. There’s a good chance you might pitch a fit…or should we say, a tantrum?
This is similar to how a toddler feels who is just playing, and then all of a sudden put into a carseat.
But how do we do this? What about toddlers who can’t understand words quite yet? We will get into it all!
Always Give a Warning
I always give a warning before an activity is going to end. It doesn’t matter the activity. It could be a bath, playtime, outside time, a car ride, anything and everything.
I always give some sort of warning, and then let them know what’s going to happen next.
There are a few types of warnings that I give before we transition to something else.
A Few More
For this warning, I pick a number and apply it to the activity.
- “Two more slides, then we’re heading inside,” if we’re playing outside.
- “Ten more stirs, then it’s your brother’s turn,” if we’re baking brownies.
- “One more book, then we’re going to eat dinner,” if we’re reading books.
One More Song
If music is playing, you can use that to give your child a head’s up that an activity is ending.
I tend to put music on for bath time. Before a song is about to change, I’ll say, “After the next song, we’re going to get out of the tub, and go to your bedroom for pajamas.”
When the song ends, they’re not surprised that it’s time to get out. They already knew this was going to happen.
Use a Timer
I frequently use a timer to let my kids know that an activity, usually playtime, is coming to a close. I’ll announce it, and set it.
I’ll say something like, “I’m setting the timer for two minutes. After that, we’re going to clean up and eat lunch.”
Because young children are still developing a sense of time, it’s a good idea to always pick the same time frame for a timer.
Maybe you always use one minute, or maybe five minutes works better for you and your kids. I wouldn’t suggest any longer than that, unless your kids are older.
I would not suggest to use five minutes one day, and one minute the next. They don’t understand the difference.
If they get used to always having a timer set to two minutes, then they get used to what two minutes feels like. Over time, they won’t be surprised when the timer goes off.
If you’re looking for something a little more concrete, a visual timer is a great option. It allows children to literally see how much time they have left.
Routine Routine Routine
Predictability is a cornerstone of security in young children. It has been said that babies as young as eight weeks old can pick up on routine. Which means that toddlers understand routines, as well.
Routines don’t mean hard and strict schedules. Rather, routines are just a general order of events. For example, our bedtime routine is pajamas, three books, three songs, prayers, and tuck in.
Some people find the idea of routines to be suffocating. I find the opposite to be true.
Routines, especially with young children, give me freedom to do the fun things. We can go to the zoo one morning, because our routines surround us. We still get up and have breakfast like normal. While we’re there, we have snack, and later, lunch. When we get home, we have nap time, just like we always do.
Young children who don’t understand a whole lot of language yet, will understand the predictability of a routine. If they always go for a nap after lunch, then they will come to expect that. It helps that sense of security (not to mention sleep!).
Tell Your Child What is Going to Happen
When something different is going to happen, whether it’s good or bad, let your child know about it ahead of time. Tell them what is going to happen, and when it will happen. Give details as needed, but don’t overwhelm.
You might say at bedtime, “After breakfast tomorrow morning, we’re going to go to Grandma’s house! Aunt Sally and Uncle Fred will be there, too.”
Your child now knows that she’s going to wake up and eat breakfast like normal. But after that, something fun is coming. She knows where she’s going and who to expect to see.
I think too often, well-meaning parents want to surprise their children with fun things, and are left disappointed when it spirals into a tantrum. I still surprise my kids…it’s just that the surprise doesn’t occur exactly when I tell them. Instead, they get some notice.
Give a Plan for the Day
Even if you’re planning to have a very typical day, let your kids know! Tell them what you are planning for the day.
We go outside as much as we can. I might say when I get my daughter in the morning, “We’re going to eat breakfast, then head outside. It looks like a nice sunny day!” In her little world, she knows what to expect. She’s probably even planning what she’s going to do when she gets out there.
How to Stop Tantrums
To really stop tantrums from happening, you have to use all of the above in conjunction with each other.
For example, you might tell your toddler, “After nap, we’re going to the playground.” Then, on your way to the playground, you might tell your child, “When we’re done at the playground, we’re going to go home and have dinner.”
While you’re at the park, you might let your child know that there’s about five minutes left to play. As play time is coming to an end, you might say, “I’ll push you four more times on the swing, and then it’ll be time to get back in the car.”
By doing all of these things, nothing is left as a surprise. Your child knows exactly what to expect, and when to expect it. As a result, there’s a whole lot less reason for your child to have a tantrum.
If you let your kids know what is going to happen and when, you will begin to notice a decrease in the number of tantrums. Children need to know what they will be doing in order to feel secure.