As a parent or caregiver, this scene may seem all too familiar. You’re traveling to visit family during the holiday season, or getting the house ready for guests to arrive, when your toddler has a temper tantrum. Tantrums occur when children are trying to get something they want or need. They are common among toddlers and preschoolers in part because at their age toddlers don’t have the language yet to express if they are feeling tired, frustrated, or uncomfortable.
Though they don’t have the words to communicate what they want, the tantrum is happening for a reason. Since all behavior has meaning, adult reactions to a tantrum should acknowledge what your child may need or want while still maintaining limits. “I can see that you are upset but it is not okay to throw your toys.”
Tantrums often stop when children’s emotional needs are acknowledged, and their need or feeling is addressed. Your reaction to a tantrum should come from a place of patience and compassion. Acknowledge their needs and come to them with empathy. If you suspect your child is throwing a tantrum because they are hungry after a day of travel, express understanding regarding your child’s needs: “I know that it has been a long day. When we arrive, we’ll stop and get food.”
“Tantrums are a signal that your child needs help regulating their emotions. Over time, your calm and steady response will be internalized, and they will be able to regulate their emotions more appropriately on their own,” advises Kathy Ham, Director, JCFS Chicago’s Virginia Frank Child Development Center.
JCFS Chicago can be a resource for you. A nationally recognized pioneer in the field of family-centered child development, The Virginia Frank Child Development Center offers caring, preventive and therapeutic services for families with children from birth to six years old.
For more information about the Virginia Frank Child Development Center, email Kathy Ham or call 773.765.3125