Toddler Tantrums – What Parents Need To Know


Modern day parenting has become a herculean task.  Sifting through the abundance of the free-flowing stream of information to filling the self-created molds of a perfect child, parents face many challenges. The first and foremost challenge is how to tackle hyperactive and constantly demanding children. Children often throw tantrums to express frustration. According to research Childhood tantrums peak between the age of 18 months to 36 months and show a significant decline after the age of 4 years. Temper Tantrums are just a part of the emotional development of a child and if handled carefully with positive interventions it can be a great opportunity to teach them some important life skills.

The most important thing to remember is that there is no such thing as a “perfect parent”; therefore take a deep breath and a step back. Your child’s behavior is a result of an underlying emotional turmoil. This is his cry for help and here compassion is your best friend. However exasperated parents may retort with “Stop crying!” or “Kya masla hai!” kind of statements.  And if they go a step further into taking their frustration out on doors and tables, without realizing that during this whole episode, the tiny little sponges around are absorbing all of this….creating even more complex behavioral issues.

Here are some reasons kids whine, and a few tips on how parents can respond:

They are asking for your attention and connection

“If you can’t stand whining, your child will do it even more, simply because it gets a reaction,” agrees Jane Nelsen, Ed.D., coauthor of Positive Discipline for Preschoolers. Even scolding your child can reinforce the behavior. “Kids just want a response. When they don’t know how to get a positive response, they’ll go for a negative one,” Nelsen explains.

This is what encourages a child to seek out Negative attention. For kids, Negative attention is not a punishment; it is a reward.

So next time when your child does something good, praise him and give him full attention. When he asks you politely, give him immediate attention. Give praise where praise is due. Parents always point out, ‘Why are you always shouting!’…”why are you misbehaving” but often don’t provide enough positive reinforcement…You can always encourage them on a positive behavior by saying, “I am glad you are talking so politely” or “I am proud of my well-behaved daughter”.

Remind yourself: All reactions feed tantrum. It’s better to analyze the situation before and react accordingly.


They have a physical or emotional need

When your child throws a tantrum, ask yourself the following questions,

  • “Is my child tired, hungry, thirsty, stressed or overwhelmed?”
  • “Is there too much activity packed in our day?”
  • “Did they go to bed late last night?”
  • “Is an emotional issue on their mind, like a recent addition to the family, or something bothering at school?”
  • “Is there some physical pain that might be disturbing them?”

Remind yourself: This might be an urgent request for comfort.

An expression of their feelings:

Research suggests that a tantrum might just be a way for young children to express sadness or disappointment. Early childhood educator Janet Lansbury suggests that parents should “accept, acknowledge and support” kids and their feelings instead of “correcting, scolding, or controlling” them. She writes, “the more we welcome our children’s displeasure, the happier everyone in our household will be.”

Remind yourself: That this can be an expression of human, developmental feelings, which are best met with kindness.


They may be high spirited or have a sensitive temperament.

High energy children tend to be sensitive too, yelling and shaming them to calm down will not work. Teach calming skills. It can be a sequin pillow, rice bottle or breathing exercise.

Every child is different; your child might have inherited one of the parent’s personality traits. You can definitely work towards guiding this inbuilt feature into positive energy. This is the time when they can learn how to transform that sensitive temperament productively.

If you have space, encourage them to play outside. Enroll them in intense physical activity sports like soccer and swimming. Help them channelize that extra energy that they have.

If you still feel that the above doesn’t help, don’t shy away from taking help from a Psychologist. Exercises and lifestyle changes can have a positive impact on your child’s behavior.


Take a decision and stick to it


If you give in to one single episode of whining and buy that toy and fulfill that demand, expect tantrums for the coming few weeks. So yes, either be firm when you say No to something and try not giving in. Or just don’t say NO in the first place.

Buy them what they want a few times when they behave well, but at the same time don’t hesitate to say No FIRMLY when they are not supposed to have something. Kids pick up a parent’s confusion very quickly…saying things like, “acha dekhti hun”, “I will think about it”, “acha le lo” are really not what you would want to say.

Remind yourself:  Change in human behavior cannot happen overnight.

Although responding to a tantrum with understanding and gentleness is not an easy task, but it’s a great way to build a strong bond with your child. Researchers suggest that by giving a loving response and reassurance, you are filling your child’s “emotional bank account” and strengthening your relationship with them.

Many parents complain, ‘I tried it yesterday and it didn’t help”. But think of changing one of your own habits. Give them time to learn while they are still developing. Some kids may take more time, others less. It’s a long journey of learning, unlearning and relearning. But stick to the basics and be consistent in your behavior.

So let’s hold their hands and their hearts, with love and kindness, and guide them to be a better version of themselves…


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