September 16, 2017

How a Quiet Environment Can Help with Tantrums

Every parent’s been there. Those helpless times when your normally happy child has a five-alarm meltdown over something as trivial as wearing a different pair of socks. Tantrums are a part of childhood, and usually peak when toddlers are between two and three years old. They’re unpleasant and frustrating, but tantrums don’t have to be a daily occurrence. Their frequency and severity can be greatly reduced by recognizing common triggers and making some small but important changes in your normal routine.

The Physical Triggers

A child who is hungry can completely lose it, and it pays to remember that toddlers need to eat far more frequently than their parents. Keeping a steady supply of snacks on hand can stave off any number of hunger-related tantrums.  Sugar will only fuel their mood swings, so stick to fruits, vegetables, and unsweetened cereals. Craft boxes with multiple-dividers are perfect for carrying an assortment of small berries, raisins, cheerios and cubed vegetables. Hand your child their snack when they’re sitting quietly so that they take the time to unwind as they eat.

Being overtired is the most common cause of unprovoked tantrums, and sticking to regular nap and bedtimes helps your child hold it together when they’re getting sleepy. If you’re going to be away from home at nap time, bring your child’s blanket and pajamas along. Try to recreate their usual sleep environment, and respect the fact that they need this time to process everything they've seen, heard and done in the past several hours. Sleeping prevents a toddler from becoming overwhelmed, and overstimulation is what triggers most tantrums.

The Environmental Triggers

If you’ve ever watched a toddler stacking blocks or sticking magnets on the fridge, you know how completely immersed they can become in whatever has captured their attention. This incredible focus means that younger children need more time to transition from one activity to another, and trying to rush a toddler is just inviting a hissy fit.

Do what you can to slow down your daily routine, and leave time for both distractions and mindful attention. Help your toddler with transitions by letting them know well ahead of time that you will soon be moving onto something else, and try to let them finish what they’re doing at their own pace.

Toddlers will pattern their behavior on what they observe in their immediate environment. If you’re excited and enthusiastic about something, chances are they will be too. On the flipside, if you’re anxious, rushed and inattentive, your baby will absorb the stress like a sponge. The ensuing tantrum will be both a cry for attention and a plea that everyone slows down so that he can process what’s happening.

Creating Safe Space

Some tantrums are a response to being unable to do a task, basically an expression of frustration. Others are linked to not being allowed to have something, or not wanting to do what is being asked. In these cases, the cause of the tantrum is evident. You’ll likely be able to deal with the outburst by providing assistance or ignoring it altogether, and talking about the problem once your child has calmed down.

On occasion, however, your child may seem completely out of control without any identifiable trigger. The most common cause is being overwhelmed by what’s happening – too much stimulation and not enough processing time. In these instances, you need to create a safe space where your toddler can decompress. Take your child away from other friends or family members, and sit her in a comfortable, quiet spot. Keep the lights off, and draw the curtains if it’s particularly bright outside. Reducing environmental stimulants will help your child focus on their immediate need for peace and comfort.

Stay with your child as the tantrum runs its course, but only cuddle once he reaches out. Reassure your toddler that he will be able to return once he’s feeling better, and allow him to stop crying in his own time. Providing a calm environment within which to compose themselves teaches your child that when she feels out of control, she can “come back” with a little quiet time. As your toddler matures, she’ll be more likely to self-soothe by finding her own quiet place within which to adjust, and eventually forego throwing a tantrum altogether.

Tantrums can be embarrassing, stressful and disruptive. Allowing adequate transition time, recognizing your child’s triggers, and providing a safe space to recover, will all ensure that they’re less frequent, easier to manage, and over within time to get back to the fun.

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