When kids have a meltdown, it can be tough on both parent and child.
“Meltdowns are terrible, nasty things, but they’re a fact of childhood,” stated Ray Levy, PhD, a Dallas-based clinical psychologist and co-author of Try and Make Me! Simple Strategies That Turn Off the Tantrums and Create Cooperation in an interview with Parents Magazine. “Young kids—namely those between the ages of 1 and 4—haven’t developed good coping skills yet. They tend to just lose it instead.”
So just what sets them off to start with? Well, according to Dr. Levy, every single tantrum, results from one simple thing: not getting what they want. “For children between 1 and 2, tantrums often stem from trying to communicate a need—more milk, a diaper change, that toy over there—but not having the language skills to do it,” says Levy. “They get frustrated when you don’t respond to what they’re ‘saying’ and throw a fit. For older toddlers, tantrums are more of a power struggle. By the time kids are 3 or 4, they have grown more autonomous. They’re keenly aware of their needs and desires—and want to assert them more. If you don’t comply? Tantrum city.”
Just how can you stop these tantrums and meltdowns? Well, here are four fixes that you can put into your parenting toolbox that just might help!
1. Try to prevent tantrums from the beginning. Set aside regular playtime for your preschooler. Let them take the lead in choosing what you all do. Put your cellphone down and give them your full attention. Creating a shared, positive experience with your child will help them with tools to learn how to self-sooth the next time a tantrum is brewing.
2. Don’t try and calm them down. If they are not physically hurting themselves, ignore them and walk away. They will realize that they are not getting the attention that they want and you won’t be reinforcing a negative behavior.
3. Time out or take away privileges. Save this for the serious infractions because the more you use them, the less effective they will become. But when necessary, there is nothing wrong with time out or taking away something that means a lot to them when they don’t necessarily deserve to have it.
4. They louder they yell, the softer you speak. Once they realize that you are not yelling along with them, they will calm down and match your speech pattern. They want to be heard and they want to hear you. The next time your child is shouting and screaming, try and stay calm, use this technique, you both will be “talking” before you know it.