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The positive power of a tantrum

Dr Tracy Laverick – Enriching Parenting

Toddler Tantrums. The positive power of a tantrum.

#toddlertantrums #parentingideas #parenting #keepcalmandparent

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All children have toddler tantrums. They are an expected and normal part of growing up. They show children are learning to be independent and realising that they are an separate individual from you.

As a society, we are keen for our children not to be seen to tantrum. Or if our child does have a toddler tantrum in public we are very conscious of others around us. We may feel that we are disturbing them with the noise or that we will be seen as a failing parent. However, I can guarantee that all children tantrum at some time. It is normal and we need to see it as such.

Due to the lack of support for parents of tantruming toddlers we can try and stop a tantrum as quick as we can. This may work to move you from somewhere public to somewhere quieter but it is unlikely to stop the toddler tantrum i.e. they haven’t finished so they are likely to start again.

A toddler tantrum serves a purpose. It lets you know that they are unhappy about something and are holding on to not good feelings. But this doesn’t mean that you must ‘fix it’. The toddler who gets a lolly for stopping his tantrum or a new toy will only tantrum more. They have learnt that a tantrum gets them things.

So, what can you do?
  1. Allow children to have some control over decisions. Letting them choose between 2 items of clothing or 2 options for dinner. This allows children to start to learn about control and decisions. To begin with choose decisions that don’t really bother you. They then won’t always need to feel that they need to exert this control over whether they leave the house or not.
  2. Play! Before you want them to go out and do something that they might not enjoy such as shopping, put in some play time. Even 10 minutes of getting down on the floor and playing with blocks or hide and seek can really help a child to feel good. Let it be child led. The aim is for both of you to laugh and have fun. You can keep the fun going as you transition, funny walks to the car anyone? 
  3. If you know they always tantrum when shopping (or some other activity) look how you can make it fun. Can they ride the trolley? Find some of the items? See if they can sneak items in without you seeing and you have to catch them. I know all this can sound like hard work but the more fun it is the less stressful it will be for both you and them.
  4. If something happens and they have a toddler tantrum, as long as they are somewhere safe let them tantrum it out. Reassure them that they are safe and you are there. Don’t use bribery and try and keep calm. Phrases like ‘I’m sorry you’re feeling bad’ can help or ‘you’ll feel better when you’ve got it all out’.
  5. When they are calming you can then give them a big hug and move on with your day. They usually feel much better and are more cooperative after they have got the ‘not good’ feelings out of the way. Try not to reprimand or shout as this can lead to them feeling worse which can then continue a toddler tantrum not end it.
Where can you find further support?

Parenting is not easy and empathetic support for parents can be thin on the ground. If you would like more information and ideas without judgement please come to one of the Enriching Parenting Series of talks. The next parenting workshop with Enriching Parenting is on the 3rd November 2017 at The Yorkshire Hotel Harrogate. Or if you would like to get a group of parents together talks can be done in the home or at schools. If you are unable to attend a group or public talk, individual sessions can be requested to

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