One of the biggest challenges that parents face with their kids is temper tantrums. While many parents see temper tantrums as frustrating, others see them as opportunities for educating the child. Tantrums are hard to understand, especially when you are doing everything you could for your little one. Many parents often find it very difficult to respond effectively when their kid is having a tantrum meltdown. Yet, with positive parenting techniques, you can easily overcome this issue.
But first, you need to know the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown. Although neither of them is a clinical term, yet they need to be clearly understood. The word 'tantrum' is most commonly used when there is a milder outburst of emotions on the part of the child, and he still retains minor control over his behavior. Many parents use ignorance to overcome tantrums as they believe that a tantrum can subside when one stops paying attention to them. On the other hand, during a meltdown, the kid usually loses control over his behavior, and it can only be stopped when the kid is calmed down, or the kid wears himself out. Tantrums and meltdowns are bad for the kid's mental health and for his parents who endure them.
Whether a tantrum is mild or reaches the stage when the kid starts having a meltdown, it is a sign that the kid is struggling with emotions that he is unable to regulate. One of the aspects of positive parenting is that you understand your kids' emotions. What is triggering the tantrum meltdown? Why is he feeling this way? For overcoming a kid's tantrum meltdown, you need to understand what your child is going through. You also need to know the source of his anger, anxiety, and frustration. You need to make him channelize all his negative emotions into something constructive to learn to take control of his emotions.
Why do kids throw tantrums?
Remember when your kid asked you if he can play with that toy, and you said no? How he overreacted and started whining and crying? It's because your kid started to feel that he needs something intentionally withheld from him. This sense of injustice and frustration is expressed in the form of screaming, crying, breath-holding, and so much more.
Temper tantrums usually happen with kids belonging to the two-year age category and are equally common among girls and boys. While some children have tantrums more often than others, they are part of the child's normal development and can be triggered with almost anything that may seem trivial to you but is a big deal for your kid. Since toddlers cannot talk about how they are feeling or what they need, or when they are hungry, the frustration leads to a tantrum. Since learning to deal with all the frustration they develop is a skill that kids gain with time, a temper tantrum meltdown tends to decrease with age.
In addition to this, children’s psychology is difficult to understand. They like having control of their surroundings and love their independence. This is usually followed by thoughts such as 'I can do it myself' or 'I want it at any cost.' And when the child discovers that he can't do it or can't have it, he is likely to have a tantrum meltdown.
What are the underlying causes of a severe tantrum meltdown?
As already mentioned above, tantrums and meltdowns are not clinical conditions. Think of them as fevers that can be triggered with different causes. But how do you treat a fever? By simply making a diagnosis of the underlying cause and treating it with the right medication.
Sometimes, a child may find it difficult to regulate his emotions due to an underlying pathology leading to frequent tantrums and meltdowns. Some of the common underlying causes include
- Attention Deficit Hyperkinetic disorder: If you cannot understand why your kid is behaving the way he is, this is the most common underlying pathology that you need to cut off your list. According to some researches, about 75% of kids who are presented with frequent and severe tantrum meltdowns have ADHD. If your child, besides having a meltdown, is unable to focus or tolerate boredom, he might be fighting a battle with ADHD without you having zero knowledge about it.
- Learning problems: When your kid is performing badly in his school or is uninterested in doing his homework, there is a possibility of an undiagnosed learning problem. For instance, your kid is continuously performing below average in math while his friends of the same age are doing just fine. The whole situation makes him irritable and frustrated. The anger or frustration is expressed in the form of ripping assignment pages or throwing his textbooks, or starting a fight with his siblings to create a diversion from real issues he is struggling with. That is why it is always important to pay attention to the cues that may lead you to learn about the reason behind your kids’ tantrum meltdowns.
- Depression and anxiety: While kids are unlikely to develop a full-blown anxiety disorder, there is a fair chance that your child's tantrums are the result of anxiety-provoking factors and situations. Whenever a child with underlying anxiety and depression is confronted with a stressful stimulus, he is likely to flip out at show an outburst of emotions in the form of tantrums.
- Issues with sensory processing: Children with autism or ADHD tend to suffer from sensory processing difficulties. Such kids become highly irritable and overwhelmed by their inabilities and start having inconsolable meltdowns.
How to handle a child’s tantrum meltdown?
The real question that needs to be answered here is how to handle your child while having a meltdown. The answer lies in positive parenting and the development of skills on the part of the parents to help their child. Here are some actions and suggestions that parents can take to handle their child's meltdown positively
- Stay calm: The first thing that you need to do while your kid is having a meltdown is to stay calm. You can not help your child if you are emotionally or mentally stressed. Shouting or crying when your kid is shouting and whining will only make things worse. Breathe!
- Distract him with his basic needs: Meeting your kid's most basic needs, such as his favorite snacks or drinks. You won’t believe but when my kid is having a meltdown, offering him his favorite chocolate flips his mood within seconds. It is because the distraction helps to decrease the intensity of the meltdown and helps them to access their cognitive functioning.
- Distract with something other than food and water: You can take advantage of the shorter attention span of your kid by replacing the things he can’t have with stuff that he can have. Replace the forbidden activity with a new play you just made up. You can change his environment by taking him out on a drive or giving him something squishy to play with.
- Give him a sensory stimulus: Whenever your kid is having a meltdown. Snaping your kid right back into a calm state is extremely crucial. You can make him experience sensory input or heavy work. For instance, you can offer him his favorite-colored shinny slime to squish and play with or give him bubblegum to chew and munch on. He is likely to forget about his tantrum provided that his senses are provoked in some way.
- Breathing exercises: You can do this regularly whether or not your kid is having a meltdown. Simply ask him to breathe in and out and close his eyes while doing this. Breathing exercises are a great way for kids and parents alike to forget about their issues and problems and calm their minds for a while.
- Connect with your child: It’s important that you provide constant connection during a meltdown by making eye contact with your kid. Breathe with them. Provide them reassurance that they are not alone in whatever they are going through and that you understand their concerns. Telling them to keep quiet or shut up will only add to their misery. Instead, choose these alternatives.
- Use toys: One of the most effective methods for helping kids while they are having a meltdown is by giving them their favorite toys. Whether it is the ball that they like or that plushie, he hugs every night while sleeping. In addition to this, certain toys help kids to manage their frustration. They are a good idea to use because they help kids to distract them and forget about the reason they started having a meltdown in the first place.
I know that the suggestions mentioned above are not going to work instantly. You might have that glass of water or that slime thrown in your direction. But the important thing is that these tips with help your kid to de-escalate his feelings and emotions. No doubt it is quite tough to handle kids that have frequent meltdowns. But you must keep reminding yourself that the entire situation is harder on your child. He needs his family to get through this. He needs your love, care, support, and constant reassurance that no matter how angry or frustrated he gets, he will always have someone with whom he can share stuff with. Practice with your child relaxing and breathing activities to help him calm down. And most importantly, keep calm.
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Thank you for the tips, working in long day care can be quite challenging at times. Often they would go for their dummy or special toy to help calm them down , a distraction to another activity like play dough helps.
Always enjoy reading your blogs and implementing them into our curriculum