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A dads’ guide to tantrums

Maya Griffiths

Maya Griffiths

Tantrums are one of the most stressful parts of parenting. Even the calmest dad can be pushed to their limits by a screaming child in the middle of Asda! Here’s some helpful information to help you deal with those miserable meltdowns:

Are tantrums normal?

Yes. Tantrums are short outbursts of anger or frustration. It’s your child’s way of expressing their feelings about not getting what they want. They are part of a child’s development.

When do tantrums start?

Tantrums can start appearing anytime between the ages of 1 and 3. Both boys and girls have tantrums. Some kids will have lots of meltdowns while others may just have the occasional one.

At what age to tantrums stop?

The amount of tantrums a child has should be lower when they’re able to talk more (and therefore articulate how they’re feeling). There should be a total drop off around the age of 4.

What causes them?

As kids get older they begin to want to decide or do things for themselves. If we as parents have to stop them or make a decision they don’t like then a tantrum can occur. You may also find that a child is more prone to a tantrum if they are tired, hungry, anxious or wanting your attention.

How do I handle a tantrum?

When a meltdown begins, the child might shout, scream, cry or whine. It may then progress to kitting, kicking or even biting. There is nothing worse than being out in public when a tantrum occurs. However, despite how it looks, a tantrum is the time that your child needs you the most. Here’s how you can support them:

  • Try and understand the reason for the tantrum. Perhaps they’re tired, hungry or need some quiet? Figuring out the cause can be helpful for calming them down.
  • Distraction can be useful. Try to show them something that might take their mind off the tantrum, such as offering them a snack or doing an activity. If you’re out in public then try moving them to a different area, or pointing out something they might be interested in, e.g. a dog. Keep talking to them about the distraction in a bid to move them on from the meltdown.
  • Try not to panic or get angry. The more relaxed you are, the easier your child will recover from the tantrum. Remember also that anyone around you will know what you’re going through (and may very well have been through it themselves!).
  • Hold them calmly but firmly and use a soft voice. This will prevent them hurting themselves or you, and help them to feel safe and relaxed.
  • If none of the above work, then stay nearby but ignore the tantrum until it calms down naturally.

How can I prevent tantrums?

  • Firstly, reading stories with kids helps them understand emotions. You can discuss the characters afterwards and how they may have felt.
  • Offering choices (such as going to the park or the library) makes them feel like they have a say.
  • Be sure to praise good behaviour often.
  • Pick your battles. Sometimes it’s best to say yes to the things that kids ask for- e.g. a certain drink- so that they have the capacity to also hear no at other times.
  • Understand their needs. Are they fed, watered and rested? Try and time outings to when they’re in a good place- for example, avoid a trip to the shops when they seem tired.
  • Let them express themselves. It’s healthy for children to be able to express their emotions, and if that means throwing their bedding on the floor then it’s ok to let them (as long as they aren’t potentially hurting themselves or others and they help tidy up afterwards).

When are tantrums a worry?

If you experience any of the following, you should consult a GP or health visitor:

  • your child hurts himself or others
  • your child rarely cooperates with you
  • the tantrums are affecting your relationship with your child
  • the tantrums are happening very often or are getting worse
  • you find the tantrums difficult to cope with and overwhelming.

Remember that all parents struggle with meltdowns at some point and nobody finds them easy.

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