The look on their face tells you it’s coming – that dreaded toddler tantrum. You brace yourself for the inevitable – yelling, foot-stomping, crying. We’ve all been there – temper tantrums are hard. There are times when we’d give anything to make them stop, but beware – here are six things you should never say.
1‘You’re making me so mad!’
With children, we generally need to lead by example. So, in this case, we should be the calm to their storm. If they see us keeping our cool rather than losing our temper, in time, they will learn to do the same. There’s also a danger phrases like this can have a lasting impact on our kids – we don’t want them to think all they do is wind us up.
2‘If you don’t stop, I’ll throw [favorite toy] away’
Threats rarely work. Chances are, in the heat of the moment, your child won’t care. Toddlers and young children are unable to regulate their emotions so the threat won’t have the desired effect. What you need to do is calm them down.
And remember a cardinal rule of parenting – never make a threat you’re not prepared to carry out. Will you really get rid of that beloved teddy bear or Harry Potter Lego set? If you don’t, your child will learn they can safely ignore any future threat.
Your child doesn’t want to be naughty, angry or upset. Feeling out of control scares them. They don’t understand it. But at this age, they’re incapable of taking a step back – they need your help. Get down to their level – physically. Hold them firmly – but not roughly – and calmly ask what’s upsetting them. Try and make eye contact. Validate their feelings – let them know you understand. If they can’t explain what’s wrong, stay calm yourself – it will soothe them. Once the tantrum is over, you can then talk to them about why it happened.
4‘I’ll get you a treat if you stop it’
As soon as you bargain with your child, you’ve lost. There’s no quicker way to ensure they’ll push your buttons on every possible occasion than by rewarding undesirable behavior. It might be tempting to buy them a cookie or lollipop to stop the noise, but don’t give in. If you’ve got to the stage where bargaining seems like the only option, it’s time to leave – even if it means abandoning your shopping trolley (cart) in the middle of the supermarket.
5‘People are looking. You’re embarrassing yourself.’
A toddler in mid-tantrum doesn’t care if people are looking at them. They’ll barely be aware anyone else is around. It can also be damaging long-term, as the words will sink in later. Your child might become anxious and self-conscious about their behavior in public.
Try and remember that expressing our feelings is a good thing – and that’s what your child is doing. We just need to figure out what’s upsetting them and teach them a better way of dealing with it in future.
6‘Stop crying – right now’
If a friend or partner was upset about something, would you demand they stopped crying? No, nor would I. So why do so many people do this with their kids? When young children get upset, they show it in the only way they know how.
We need to keep calm and show them a more appropriate way of reacting. In the meantime, try saying “Can you tell me what’s wrong? I can help you work it out.” Or: “It’s ok to be upset. Let’s breathe deeply together, and then I’m here to listen when you want to talk about it.”
Every child is complex and different, and you’ll learn in time what works best with yours. The most important thing is to keep your cool and not shout at your child – it’s the quickest way to help them calm down.
- 6 Strategies To Help You Stop Shouting At Your Kids
- How To Discipline A Strong-Willed Toddler: 5 Essential Tips