Using my child’s tantrums as a learning experience

Because your preschooler’s brain is still developing, it’s normal for your daughter to get very excited, frustrated, sad or angry about something and react accordingly. Since she has limited verbal skills, when she has a tantrum, she is actually communicating that she is struggling with an intense feeling and can’t solve a problem that seems unsurmountable. Yet, although tantrums are normal between 2 and 4 years of age, many of them are avoidable. Since, more than one are bound to happen anyway, use them as a way to better understand your child and let her know that you understand and are trying to help.

• Be a calm and reassuring model of how to handle emotions.
• Think ahead. Most kids are tantrum-prone if they become very tired or hungry. Having clear feeding schedules, rests and quiet times, you can avoid the feared release of the Hangry-Child.
• Give your child some minutes of warning before you end or change an activity since many children are prone to tantrums when play-time is over.
• Acknowledge emotions as they appear, and put them into words to avoid them escalating into actions.
• Psychologists from the extension Department of Human Development and Family Studies from Iowa State University recommend to “distract, remove, ignore, and hold”.
• Try to understand the reason behind the meltdown: when, what, where, who…
• Let your daughter assert her selfhood when it doesn’t compromise anyone’s safety or health.
• Hold your ground but stay calm and reassuring. Create a safe space where your child can explore relationships and emotions while resting assured you still love her.
• When she has calmed down, tell the story of what happened during the tantrum. Emphasize on the emotion that arose and why, and remind her of the fact that you stayed there. When she’s ready give her a big hug and ask her if she feels better.

You can read more practical tips by family therapists from Iowa State University by following this link: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/PM1529J.pdf

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