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Dealing with toddler tantrums is every parent’s nightmare, isn’t it? Those sudden outbursts of anger and tears often leave even the most season parents flummoxed. For this week’s Voice of Mom interview, we spoke to Mom blogger Mahak on how she handles toddler tantrums (like a pro). We loved her insightful, well-thought-of and helpful tips, and we’re sure you will too! Read on for more.
Say hello to Mahak, Mom to a 2-year-old, and blogger at babyandbeyond.in where she shares her parenting escapades. Mahak spent 8 years working in business & technology consulting before she jumped off the corporate ladder and, in her own words “landed headfirst into a life of pooplosions, 3 a.m. feeds, teething, colic and of course, temper tantrums”. Check out our fun interview with her below.
Q. Thanks for agreeing to share your experiences with us and our awesome Mom community, Mahak. Let’s jump right in – what’s your favourite thing about being a Mom?
Ans. My favourite thing about being a mom is watching my child learn and grow each day. Every day he learns to say or do something new. The sparkle in his eye and the way his face lights up with excitement - it fills my heart with pride and joy! Every day is a new experience for him and for me as a mom too.
Q. If you had to describe your parenting style using only 3 words, what would they be?
Ans. Gentle, mindful and engaged.
Q. As a mom to a toddler, you probably deal with a lot of tantrum-throwing. What kind of situations typically lead to your child throwing a tantrum?
Ans. Yes, as most moms of toddlers will tell you, I have to deal with it regularly and I have noticed a pattern to this as well. My toddler usually throws a tantrum when he is overtired, overstimulated, hungry or bored. In such situations, anything can trigger an outburst - not getting something he wants (cookie, TV, phone) or having to do something he doesn’t want to (change diaper, give someone else a chance on the swing). Of course, he gets upset about these things anyway, but when he is tired or hungry, his emotions seem to get exaggerated and that leads to what we grown-ups would call a toddler tantrum.
Q. According to you, what is usually the best way to deal with a toddler tantrum? Can you share any personal experiences?
Ans. Well I’m no expert in this matter. I’m just a first-time mom learning as I go along, but I’m happy to share what I’ve learnt so far from my own experiences. I think the way to deal with a toddler tantrum depends on how far the tantrum has escalated. Here are some tactics that I follow.
Give some space: Sometimes children just need to express their anger, just like we adults do. Once this is done, they move on themselves, your intervention may not even be required.
Empathize: If the tantrum is just starting out, it is still possible to reason with the child and avoid a full-blown meltdown. Hold the child close, talk in comforting tones and show that you understand. Say something like “I know you want to play on the swing some more, but it’s your friend’s turn now. She waited patiently for so long while you had your turn. Mamma will wait with you in the line till we get our turn again.”
Divert: If the screaming/crying continues or worsens, try diverting the child’s attention with a toy or a song (“Lets sing Wheels on the Bus while we wait in the line” and I keep singing till he eventually joins in) or by pointing at something (usually my son is easily distracted by animals or trucks).
Ask Questions or Present Choices: A tantrum is an outburst of emotions which means that the emotional part of the brain is working in overdrive. Ask questions which make the child think so that the focus of the brain shifts to its logical part. “Do you remember where we kept your water bottle? I just can’t find it”. Or ask him to make a choice “What do you want to have for dinner today - ‘X’ or ‘Y’?” If he isn’t reacting, one sure shot way is I give the wrong answer myself: “What goes swish swish - the door of the bus?”, and he immediately goes, “Nooooo mamma wipeeeeer!” Then we continue playing this game till he finally starts laughing. I have also written a detailed post on this technique on my blog.
Encourage: After the storm has passed, remember to reward and encourage the child. “You were such a sweet boy for sharing the swing with all your friends. I am so proud of you. We’ll come back to the park again tomorrow so you can play some more.”
Q. If nothing else works, what is normally your last resort when dealing with a tantrum?
Ans. I wish I could say that I never give in, but that would not be true. There are times when I am tired, overwhelmed and cannot cope. If his demand is small and harmless enough - one more cookie or one last video before bed - then I do give in and let him go for it. Then there are times when he wants to play with switches or batteries or something like that, when I know I have to take charge. There is no guaranteed solution when it comes to dealing with such situations, however the tip I’ve shared above about asking questions and presenting choices almost always works for me.
Q. When your toddler throws a tantrum in a public area, how do you control the situation?
Ans. Firstly, I try to avoid the tantrum altogether by avoiding a situation which I know may upset him. Before stepping out I make sure he is well-rested and fed. I always carry a snack, water and milk along as backup. If I have to step out during his nap time, I take a baby carrier along so that he can nap in time (or you could use a stroller if your child is more comfortable with that).
It is natural for children to get uncomfortable in new surroundings, crowded places or when seeing new faces, so communication is important. Much before the event I start talking to him about where we are going, what is going to happen there and who’s going to be there so that he feels prepared to face the situation.
I also try to keep him engaged. If you are taking a toddler to the supermarket, he is bound to get bored and restless. Instead ask him to help you find something or push the cart so that he feels involved. Or when going to a restaurant, I carry some books along to keep him engaged.
Of course, despite all my best efforts, he does end up having a public meltdown once in a way. First, I remember to stay composed. I give him my complete attention, scoop him into a big hug and try to move him to a quiet corner if possible. Then in a calm, gentle way I try the things mentioned above -empathize, divert, ask questions. One advice I’d like to give parents in this situation is to just ignore the people around you. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. Remember that it is completely normal for toddlers to have tantrums and unfortunately it is also normal for people to judge. You cannot help what people think but you can help your child.
Q. What are your top 3 tips for Moms on dealing with and overcoming toddler tantrums?
Ans. Identify pattern, stay calm, communicate.
Be one step ahead of your toddler: Identify a pattern when your child usually starts throwing a tantrum, so that you can anticipate it coming and try to avoid the tantrum altogether.
Communication is key: Whether you are vocalizing, diverting, asking or encouraging, it is all about what and how you communicate with your child.
Try to stay calm and composed: It is natural to get ruffled in such a situation, but if you start yelling or crying, the situation is bound to escalate even further. One of you needs to stay in control and as the grown-up, it has to be you.
Moms, did you find this interview helpful? Leave a comment telling us your own experiences with toddler tantrums and your tips on handling them.