Baby Tantrums: 10 Top Tips to Calm Your Baby

The meltdown… The highlight of any parent’s day!

Until your child learns to live with disappointment regular tantrums will just be part of your life. While loud and annoying, they can also be very cute. From an adult’s perspective the disproportionate blow up over a seemingly minor issue can bring a smile to your face – or maybe there is just something wrong with me.

The public meltdown is less cute. Most people will be understanding, at least if they have ever had kids that is. Your crisis management skills will be put to the test alongside your patience.

To save you from reacting only on emotion and instinct we wanted to at least try and prepare you with a few genuine techniques and a few tricks to try and bring your little one around to your way of thinking.

What are Tantrums?

Tantrums are very common from one to three years old.

During these early years toddlers are still learning how to understand their own feelings and handle their emotions. Throwing a tantrum is just how they communicate that they are feeling when upset, irritated or generally uncomfortable about something.

They can manifest in a number of ways –crying, kicking, back arching, flailing, twirling, and even vomiting at times.  While it can be unpleasant, the exercise actually gives you a great insight into your child’s emotional state.

By understanding how they react to things you will be well equipped to deal with the fallout and restore some normality.

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Tips on How to Effectively Handle Tantrums

1. Be calm and be still       

Your child’s actions are not rational. They don’t yet know what rational is. By reacting to your own frustration, raising your voice, or becoming noticeably agitated you are only going to confuse your child and heighten their emotional state.

This is not helpful in any way.

Take a deep breath and relax. Your child is looking to you to set the example for them to follow and keeping a calm exterior is essential.

2. Stay with your child

In the interest of safety, it is best to remain within a reasonable proximity to your child. They will be prone to hurting themselves in this period and will not be paying attention to their surroundings as much as they usually would.

You will need to keep that watchful eye out to make sure they do not place themselves in a dangerous position. An awkward fall in the wrong place could lead to an injury that would outlast the initial tantrum.

In their fit of rage, some children may do harmful things on purpose, like bang their head on the wall or floor. You will need to intervene before any damage is done.

3. Identify the reason why your child is having a tantrum

The causes are usually pretty obvious, but it is still worthwhile paying attention. Some common causes include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed with a new situation or new environment. This is especially true when in crowded places like a party, or family gathering, that they are just not used to. Some children will go quiet and hide behind the parents, others will go the meltdown route.
  • Frustration when unable to get somewhere, or reach for something. I am sure you have seen your child attempt an ambitious journey somewhere. If they reach the point of no return and get stuck they may end up crying out until you help them out of this tight spot.
  • Lack of sleep or tiredness. A child is more prone to this when away from their regular environment. If they were at home they would just go to sleep… Usually.
  • Worry and anxiety. This will often come from that fear of abandonment. If you leave the room for a moment the separation anxiety kicks in and they can get very upset in a moment. On the plus side, when you walk back into the room they light up!
  • Just not getting their way. If you have to stop them doing something dangerous, or banging a toy on the glass table they may not like it. Despite your good intentions.

4. Always be the Adult

No matter how uncomfortable it is for you watching your toddler in this fragile emotional state you always need to be considerate of the long term effects your own behavior could have.

If you enable the child and give in to the pressure of the tantrum you are teaching them that this is the way to get what they want. We want to teach them how to deal with disappointment and discomfort in a reasonable manner. You have to stand your ground for this lesson to sink in.

The other challenge of adulthood is the ability to stick to your guns regardless of the environment. Staying consistent at home, and in public will ensure the child is not confused by your own changing behavior.

I am sure we all feel the pressure when in public at some stage, but we are adulting here. For the sake of our babies, we have to rise above the embarrassment, pressure, and inconvenience.

5. Practice Safety

If the emotional escalation is unsafe or bothering other people, you can always move elsewhere. If you (attempt to) explain to your child why you are on the move it again gives them the opportunity to learn about consideration for others as well as the self-management of emotions.

At home this is easy. In public, well you just have to take what you can get! An out of the way corner can minimize the impact on those around you.

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6. Mind the tone of your voice

I continue to find this the most difficult part. It is easy to react and raise your voice in an attempt to curb the meltdown before it sets in. This has never worked, but it is still my initial reaction almost every time.

By maintaining that calm demeanor, and talking with a soft voice, you will convey a soothing and calming influence on your child. They will not notice at first, but eventually they will.

As I reflect on my own conduct when faced with this challenge I feel I really have to get this right. By reacting I am setting a poor example that will be copied by them over time. I need to do better!

7. Stick to the rules

Be consistent with the rules no matter where you are. You will have to grit your teeth sometimes with this one when there is an easy solution staring you in the face. Just have to suck it up and stay strong.

8. Offer solutions

As you learn about your child’s triggers you can be prepared with both preventative measures, and reactive solutions that trigger the tantrum response.

Prevention is better than cure and if you can manage the environment, ensure they get adequate rest, and…. Ok, don’t go overboard here. Tantrums are going to happen no matter what you do. You know your baby though and I am sure you are not deliberately provoking them.

The reactive solutions on the other hand, are where the preparedness should come in. Keep snacks on hand, favorite toys as distractions, milk, pacifiers… whipping out the boob. You get the idea.

The quicker you can distract or comfort them, the sooner they will move on.

9. Avoid arguing with your child

A child in full tantrum mode is very emotional, so it is useless to argue with him.  Kind of like adults when you think about it.

There is not much point reasoning with your child as it is unlikely to work.

Our efforts are better directed towards identifying and solving the immediate problem, rather than reasoning your way out of the problem.

10. Talk it out

After your child has calmed down, discuss what happened. The older and more responsive your child is the more effective this will be. But even if they are not yet talking, it can still be very helpful for their learning to have a conversation.

We want to help the child acknowledge their emotions, and encourage them to express them. If they can explain in their own words why they became upset or mad even better.

Remember that this should not be an argument, and it will be helpful to keep the tone friendly and supportive. Sometimes just asking “can you tell me why you became upset a while ago?” is all you need.

Final Word

Tantrums are just part of growing up. You will be dealing with them for many years, and despite the challenges, they present it is just part of the road towards an emotionally mature child.

When you decode the meltdown it all comes back to the fact that they are trying to tell you something. They just don’t know how to do it best. If we pay attention, and listen, we can get the right answers and move on before too much damage is done.

Self-control and discipline can be learned with intentional practice and restraint. I know that I am much better than I used to be, but still have a long way to go. I want to set the best example I can and this will continue to spur me on to improve myself.

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