As a family life and child development expert, JP has devoted years in nurturing students and strengthening family relations.
5 Reasons Why Your Child Is Having a Tantrum, and What to Do to Stop It!
Picture this: You’re in the middle of the mall and suddenly, your toddler screams as if he is dying. Any sensible parent would check to see if he is in grave danger. (Honestly, check your child!) But chances are, he’s just throwing another temper tantrum.
I say another tantrum since toddlers have a tendency to test their lung capacity every so often. As a parent, this can be disconcerting, especially when all eyes turn to you. Some wait for you to make an Instagramable mistake, while others look at you with eyes full of pity.
Don’t fret! You can learn to handle temper tantrums—at least, most of the time. Children, especially very young ones, have only rudimentary communication skills, so expressing frustration, pain, discomfort, and other negative feelings is difficult. However, we can decipher this enigmatic phenomenon we call a tantrum by understanding what triggers it. By identifying the stressors, we can prepare for and mitigate the onslaught of tears, whines, and pavement-swimming of a tantrum.
1. Your Child Is Tired
Even adults get cranky when they haven't had enough sleep. Consider a child feeling the same way but unable to properly verbalize their emotions or do anything about it. Plus, since children have a limited capacity to control their emotions at this stage, you can expect crankiness when they are tired.
What to do:
- Ensure that you include a lot of rest stops in your plan
- Be ready to carry your child
- Use strollers and carriers
- Include quiet/restful activities to give your child time to relax and recharge
- Do your best to adhere to sleep schedules; make plans around (rather than during) the nap and don't keep your child up too late
I know and understand the physical demands of caring for a toddler. There are times when I desperately look for an off switch. So when they throw a tantrum after an exhausting day, I can understand the stress. But remember to maintain a level head since this harrowing experience will also pass.
2. Your Child Is Hungry
When your child is hungry, can turn into a little hulk—minus the green color. I often tell parents that a hungry child can be an angry child. However, this does not justify shoving food in their mouths just to shut them up.
What to do:
- Prepare healthy snacks and drinks
- Load up on snacks before leaving home
- Pack food that your child enjoys
- Include eating time in your activities
- Ensure that your child stays hydrated
Hunger is a basic need. If this hunger turns to anger or frustration, the probability of mayhem increases, so prepare as if your life depends on it.
3. Your Child Wants Attention
They wish to play with you; they long for you to tell them stories; they want you to do this and that. They want your attention. Unfortunately, when you fail to give it to them, they might just morph into something less adorable. I’m sure you’ve seen them in action.
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What to do:
- Spend quality time with your child
- Assign someone to focus on your child if you are not available
- Keep them preoccupied with activities they enjoy
- Hold their hand, put them on your lap, and spend a few moments one-on-one
- Give them the attention that they deserve
Depending on the age of the child, keeping them focused on activities will vary. As a rule of thumb, always have a backup plan.
4. Your Child Wants Another Activity
Were you ever forced to take afternoon naps? I had my share of afternoon siestas and I hated them. I often threw tantrums to no avail. When a child dislikes what you want them to do, they can act up. If this behavior persists into adulthood, we have the Human Resources department to deal with “tantrums,” but we can extend more patience and understanding to our kids when it comes to acting up. So, how can we prevent tantrums caused by boredom?
What to do:
- Create routines so your child knows what to expect
- Provide alternative activities that are equally or even more fun for your child
- Create a to-do list and check off things you’ve done so he will know there are more activities to look forward to
- Set a time before the child starts the activity
- Avoid areas that your child will definitely want to visit, especially if you don’t intend to spend time there
Children need activities and their interactions allow them to learn and discover. Thus, it is wise to provide them with meaningful experiences that will provide them with knowledge and skills.
5. Your Child Is Uncomfortable
Do you remember when you were young and your parents forced you to wear extremely adorable outfits that were truly itchy? Well, it still happens today— the clothes and the itching. There will be times when something is too warm, too cold, too tight, too small, too long, etc., and their physical discomfort may trigger them to go berserk.
What to do:
- Be sensitive to your child’s discomfort
- Buy and use products that are child-safe
- Learn to avoid those things that make your child uncomfortable—temperature, textures/surfaces, etc.
Children can get frustrated when parents fail to understand them or when their requirements are not met. It's important that we extend as much understanding and patience as possible since they are still learning how to express themselves. Furthermore, a child’s tantrums are never resolved when you throw one of your own. Instead, learn what’s triggering the behavior and address it immediately. With a little more premeditation and understanding, you won't have to stand in the middle of the mall watching your child roll on the floor.
Remember that you are not alone in this ordeal. Many have survived this stage in their children’s lives and you too can come out unscathed. Consider the tantrum as the crucible in which individuals are forged into stronger and more caring parents. This is what binds all parents around the world. So good luck and I do hope to see you on the other side of parenthood.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 JP Carlos