Those ubiquitous preschool temper tantrum. Every parent has been through it and we all dread it! These episodes are humbling and embarrassing, especially when they happen in public. The two that most commonly asked questions by frustrated are: Are these tantrums and meltdowns normal? And is it possible to prevent them?
For the most part, these incidents are a normal part of your child’s development. It might be difficult to remember this in the heat of the moment, when your child is throwing a fit on the floor in the grocery store. But it truly is characteristic of early childhood.
EXACTLY WHAT ARE PRESCHOOL TEMPER TANTRUMS
Almost 85% of all preschoolers have a temper tantrum about once a month. These usually involve stamping feet, yelling, becoming easily frustrated, falling out, or melting down and are likely to happen when frustrated, angry, or upset, when tired, hungry, or sick. These can happen when the child does not get something they want or during daily routines, such as bedtime, mealtime, or getting dressed.
Preventing tantrums is often more complex. The best solution is that if we can understand why they happen, we will be more likely to avert them. There are many reasons for temper tantrums happen.
WHY PRESCHOOL TEMPER TANTRUMS HAPPEN AND HOW TO MANAGE THEM
- Functional needs. The most basic cause of a child’s meltdown is the need for food, sleep, or downtime due to an illness. To avoid public tantrums, plan your grocery trip after nap and snack time.
- Personality differences. Look over these nine temperament traits to help understand where your child falls. Tailoring your activities around them can be helpful in preventing temper tantrums.
- Impractical expectations. Before taking your child into a public setting, it is helpful to have realistic expectations of how your child should behave. It is not realistic to expect a child to wait patiently and quietly for two hours before eating at a fancy restaurant. But it is realistic to think that your child could sit through a 30-minute dinner at a family-friendly restaurant with the proper distractions.
- Preparation. This goes with having realistic expectations. If your doctor is notorious for running an hour behind with appointments, bring activities and toys with you. A favorite toy or something new, snacks, reading and activity books are all appropriate and will go a long way in preventing tantrums.
- Consistency. Preschoolers thrive on routines and repetition. Being consistent about the rules at a store or restaurant will go a long way to helping you prevent those tantrums in the future.
- Overlooking warning signs. As parents, we are busy and often distracted. But sometimes we miss the early warning signs. Intervening sooner might help prevent the early whining from turning into a full-blown meltdown.
- Individual issues. Some children are sensitive to bright light, noise, or big crowds. Avoid these circumstances with careful planning.
- Positive reinforcement. It is important to positively reinforce the good behavior. And you can play into your child’s interests by rewarding with non-food, non-monetary things, like getting to choose the radio station on the drive home. Similarly, if your child breaks the rules, there needs be consequences.
PREVENTING PRESCHOOL TEMPER TANTRUMS
Realistically, not all temper tantrums are preventable, but if you can predict what triggers your child’s tantrums, you can prevent some of them. Think about the scenario in which your child had a tantrum. What was the situation? What time was it? Was your child hungry?
As a parent, you may write these things down so that you can get a better sense of what may trigger the tantrums.
Keep in mind, most temper tantrums are completely normal. However, they may be times when you might need additional help. When your child’s temper tantrums are exhausting a lot of your time, upsetting to the entire family, and affecting the functions of the family, talk to your pediatrician about it, who may recommend a referral to a child psychologist specializing in preschool behavior.
A preschool temper tantrum is stressful for the parent and the child, but this normal developmental experience will pass. And while temper tantrums may be difficult to work through, the reward is that you have established a firm bond with your child. At T's Learning Center, with daycare facilities in Jacksonville, St. Augustine and surrounding areas, we are experts at easing your child's anxieties and yours, too!