Tantrums - what is your child trying to say!


We have all been there. Red and flustered in the middle of a busy shopping centre, while your child lies kicking and screaming on the floor. No matter what you say or do, you are unable to stop them. You are facing a tornado of rage while the world watches. And they do watch! I have been there twice before and now I am facing this lovely toddler stage with my little princess!

While she was lying there screaming and refusing to listen to anything I tried to say I started to wonder how she must be feeling. What had caused her to fly off the handle so quickly?

Later on during the evening I decided to investigate my toddlers  side of the story.

what is your child trying to tell you?

Close you eyes and try and Imagine you are your two year old.

‘You have been at nursery all morning. Even though you love it there, you are still separated from Mummy. While you were there, you fell over and grazed your knee. The teacher gave you a cuddle, but it wasn't as good as Mummy's. Another child took your toy from you when the teacher was not looking, and then they scribbled on your picture. Due to a lack of language skills you were unable to tell anyone.

When Mummy picks you up, she takes you to the shops. As you are wandering around feeling really fed up when you spot a big bag of colourful sweets next to the till.

You ask Mummy if you can have the sweets, but she says no!  You are unable to communicate your feelings, so they build up and you explode like a hurricane. You fall to the floor kicking and screaming as all the mornings emotions and stresses take over. You are unable to stop. This outburst seems unjustified to your Mummy and the strangers watching. You are unable to tell them that the sweets were just the trigger to your meltdown.’

In October 2011, James Green a psychologist at the university of Connecticut and Michael Potegal of the University of Minnesota conducted a study on toddler tantrums. After collecting over 100 audio files, they discovered that toddlers use tantrums to express anger and fear either simultaneously or in patterns.

Green says, “When children are at their peak of anger, and their screaming and their kicking, probably asking questions might prolong that anger”

Therefore, what is the best thing to do while your child is in the throes of a tantrum?

Usually nothing! unfortunately when they are in the angry stage of a tantrum, nothing you can do can make it better. You just need to sit it out, and make sure they are in a safe place where they cannot hurt themselves or others. There has been many times when I have had to sit next to my child while they tantrum outside a busy shop.

Potegal says, “The trick is to get the child past the peak of anger. Once you do that, what’s left is the sadness, and sad children reach out for comfort. The quickest way past the anger – do nothing. Don’t shout, don’t hit, and don’t try to comfort the child"

Your child needs you to be consistent by not giving into their demands, as this storm of emotion can be very frightening to them. Children cry spontaneously after experiencing any kind of stress, they do not cry indefinitely, and they will stop when they are finished. This is usually joined by a sense of relief and well being.  They can then become happy and co-operative again, as the issue is forgotten.  Try not to take much notice of other people watching, as the majority of people have been there at some point, and the ones who haven't have got it all to come!

Once the tantrum has subsided, cuddle and calm your child down. By gently explaining her emotions to her, you are beginning to teach her the slow process of discussing her feelings.  You could say something like: "I understand you were sad because I couldn’t buy you the sweets, but it will be lunch time soon”

How do you cope with your child's tantrums?

Claire Wilson 32 has a novel idea to prevent her son’s tantrum from escalating. “I pick him up and carry him upside down or over my shoulder and walk him to the bin. He usually ends up laughing it off saying, again, again”

Do you have any light hearted ways to deal with your toddlers tantrums?

Do you find it embarrassing when your child throws a tantrum in public?

Have strangers ever commented on your child's behaviour?

feel free to share your stories :)

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