Dealing with tantrums

I’m going to dive right in to discuss a very tricky area for parents and children alike – tantrums.

I hope you find this blog post super useful so you can start applying Montessori principles in your home too.

Tantrums are a pretty normal part of life with children from around 1 year to 5 years. Hopefully they’ll start a little later than 1 year and will end earlier, but anything in this range is fairly normal. Your child is learning that things don’t always go their way. And as parents, we are helping them learn how to deal with these emotions and to make amends.

It can be upsetting for a parent. It’s hard to realize that your child is actually asking for your help. They are overwhelmed by the situation and need your support to calm down. It’s not the time to take it personally.

It can be possible to avoid tantrums before your child loses control. Here are some ideas to ward off tantrums when you see the first signs of your child losing control:

  1. Redirect them – “I can’t let you hit your brother; but you can hit this drum/pillow.”

  2. Get down to their level – “You sound frustrated. Can you show me?”

  3. If they are struggling, ask them if they would like some help – give them just as much help as they need and then step back.

  4. Give them a choice – “Would you like to put on your shoes or your scarf first?”

It can be useful to note down things that cause tantrums in your child: over scheduling can be common; a new baby; moving house; or certain children may trigger them.

Sometimes the tantrum is even caused by us as we deliver the news that it is time to leave the park, or we serve some food they don’t like for dinner, or that we would like them to get dressed to leave the house.

It’s ok for your child to have a tantrum. You can acknowledge their displeasure at what is going on. And help them to do the thing that they don’t like. When we back down and give in to them, you will find they shout even louder next time.

It’s difficult to be the parent and stay strong. But your hard work will pay off in the long term. They will learn that when you say no, you mean no; and when you say yes, you mean it too :)

When your child is having a tantrum, some experts advise putting them into time out. I find this difficult as your child is asking for help to calm down, and you are removing your support and punishing them instead.

When we punish our children, they often get angry at us rather than being sorry for what they have done, or they try to work out a way to get away with it next time without being caught. Instead, I look for ways that I can support my child to calm down. I’m not saying that their behavior is ok. But when they are in the middle of the tantrum it is not the time to teach them anything. They cannot hear you. They have lost control.

Some children will respond to a cuddle during a tantrum. You can rub their back, cuddle them, and sing to them as they go through all the range of emotions from anger, to intense frustration, to sadness and sometimes regret.

Maybe you are thinking that if I support my child while they calm down, I’m saying that their behavior is ok and I’m encouraging them to get angry. When they are upset, indeed my objective is to help them calm down.

Once they are calm, I then help them to make amends. If they drew on the walls, I would get them to help me clean up. If they broke a lesson they can help to fix it. In this way, they learn to take responsibility when things go wrong.

And when it’s over, it’s over. The good thing about young children is that they can move quickly from deep anger and sadness back to their happy selves.

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Headmaster: Dr. John Moncure

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