Have you heard about the new research out of Yale University suggesting that how many of us respond to our toddlers’ temper tantrums is all wrong? If you haven’t read about Dr. Alan Kazdin and others’ research, check it out here. Among other things, Dr. Kazdin encourages parents to pay attention to what’s happening before the tantrum (i.e., the child is hungry or tired) and do what you can to fix that situation before a meltdown occurs. He also suggests we totally ignore the tantrum, but be effusive with our praise when our child behaves how we want them to (i.e., “Jill, I am so pleased that when I asked you to sit down at the table you did it right away. Nice job.”).
Dr. Michelle Borba (one of my favorite parenting experts) posted an article on her blog today chock full of tips for parents of toddlers. Check it out here. I don’t want to re-invent the wheel, and don’t feel I have a whole lot to add about how to deal with kids who are losing it. I do, however, have some thoughts about how parents can manage their own emotions when their child is about to explode.
Your child doesn’t hate you. While it may seem that your 3 year old loathes you and everything you stand for, it is extremely unlikely that that’s actually the case. Tantrums don’t equal hate, they just equal a frustrated toddler with few communication skills trying to exert their independence. It’s not personal.
You’re not a bad parent. Tantrums are a good thing. Seriously. It means your child is developing normally and starting to exert her will in the world. None of us want to raise a pushover, right? While there are times when temper tantrums may signal a more serious problem, and there are certainly better ways for dealing with them than others, the fact that they exist doesn’t mean you’ve failed at parenting.
The tantrums will end. Barring serious injury or disability, your child will stop having toddler-like tantrums, I promise. While tweens and teens have super frustrating behaviors of their own (eye-rolling, anyone?) flailing on the floor and crying is rarely one of them. Hang in there and it will improve.