Tips on handling daily tantrums and instilling discipline for preschoolers
When you come home after a long day at work, the last thing you would want to deal with is your toddler throwing a fit just because he does not want to head to bed. When you’re out getting groceries at the supermarket, you are basically on a mission to get in and get out without your toddler creating a scene, when you say no to that big colourful pack of chocolates.
Some days your child is the epitome of an angel while other days, you wonder how can a tiny toddler be so loud and trying. Meltdowns are terrible, nasty things but it is a fact of childhood. Ray Levy, a clinical psychologist and author noted that the only thing people judge of these toddler tantrums are your reactions as parents. But hey, that’s part and parcel of parenting.
I’m sure you’ve experienced some variation of the classic “supermarket meltdown”. When a toddler starts screaming in a supermarket aisle, the first thing you would hear is the mother’s raised voice telling him to stop his tantrum-throwing at once. What people sometimes forget is that mothers go through a range of emotions in these kind of situations. It starts with the gritted teeth and firm voice to feeling frustrated and it usually ends up with the mother feeling anxious because everyone is staring at the commotion. No one ever said that this will be a piece of cake.
Your once-dependent baby is now growing into a curious toddler who is no longer a passive spectator of life. He wants to explore the world around him and sometimes, that includes the eye catching packaging of toys and candies. And refusing your toddler this opportunity to satiate his curiosity, will more often than not, bring on the waterworks. Losing control of the situation can be incredibly upsetting, especially to a toddler who has just started learning how to control his mind and body.
It is a battle of wits, determination, and will-power. Will the parent yield to a tantrum, thus setting precedence or will a firm ‘NO’ finally correct a misbehavior?
Choose your battles
“They are, after all, young and inquisitive and they want to explore and discover new things. Parents need to recognise that it takes a lot of patience, time, and a conscious effort to guide children and be there to instil positive values in their growing-up years.” says Kelvin Ang, a Family for Life council member. Just because you give in to your toddler at times, does not make you a bad parent and it does not mean you are raising a spoilt child.
What you can do is to consider your toddler’s emotional content insteading of responding with adult anger which will only aggravate the situation. We’ve always been told not to fight fire with fire right? Here’s how to douse the flame.
1. Prevent the “hangry”.
Pack the snacks and be mindful of your toddler’s nap time. A hungry and tired toddler will end up crying at some point.
2. Watch, learn, distract.
Pay attention to situations that upsets your toddler. When you see a pattern, brainstorm distraction strategies like getting them to count how many cereal boxes there are.
3. Loosen the reins.
Remember, your child is learning to be independent. Don’t sweat over the small stuff like them picking out oddly-matched outfits. Save your energy for situations that matter.
4. Remember to breathe.
You can do everything in your power to stop a tantrum. But sometimes, it still happens so don’t let it get on your nerves. Dr Michael Potegal, a pediatric neuropsychologist says a tantrum lasts about three minutes. So as long as you don’t lose your cool, you can control the situation.
5. Help them recognise their emotions.
Do you know why sometimes raising your voice and telling your toddler to behave doesn’t stop his tantrum? Toddlers are still developing children who are not able to rationalise and think as adults do when they’re upset. Even though it’s tempting to sigh with relief and put the episode behind you once the situation has calmed down, but you need to talk to your toddler about what had happened and help them understand why they felt that way.
Parenting is the easiest thing to have an opinion about but the hardest thing to do. Even celebrity parents face toddler troubles! In a Straits Times article by Janet Rose and Rebecca McGuire-Snieckus, said that emotional coaching is a way of telling children that they are supported, cared about, understood and respected. And remember, this doesn’t just apply to toddlers. As parents, you shouldn’t be afraid of reaching out for support once in a while. That’s why the saying goes, “it takes a whole village to raise a child”. Their tantrums can be stressful but this is just a small bump in a lifelong journey where you and your little one will get to know and understand each other more. It’s only going to get more interesting from here on.