Ah, the kids meltdowns. There’s nothing like a kid meltdown in public to suck the life out of fun family outing or to distract you from a productive errand running mission.
Let me paint you a little picture: you’re out shopping. You’re tired. Your three year old child is tired. You both just want to finish the shopping and get home asap. You’re at the counter, and almost out the door.
Your little angel has decided to demand something shiny and exciting (to them) on the display shelf next to the counter, or that ice cream outside the store. Something you have no intention of buying.
You say ‘no’.
Before you can say, ‘someone get me a valium sandwich!’ your precious one is writhing on the floor, screaming at full pelt. Everyone is looking at you.
I’m not sure why, since you’re not the one screaming.
I think it’s because they’re all waiting to see what you’re going to do about it. Or to wonder where the hell you went wrong to raise such an evil hellion.
If you’re having an especially bad run of luck, these same people will weigh in with useless advice. “Give the child a belting”, “Shut your little brat up”, or “Just buy it for them”.
Sadly, none of this is helping, since there’s a high chance you are trying to quickly come up with a plan of action yourself, and the strangers in the store who know what your child needs so much better than you do, are adding to your stress.
Are you nodding yet?
With a 5-year-old boy (strong willed too, I might add) in this house, I sure as hell am. I deal with this at the moment almost on daily basis. My son sometimes even attempt to hold his breath as part of the show.
I mean, seriously, who else had an idea to hold their breath as a way to voice his protest? A 5-year-old, apparently.
So now is a good time for me to post about this, whilst it’s fresh in my mind.
Are My Child’s Tantrums Normal?
First of all, rest assured, every kid has that meltdown moment. It’s part of normal child development. According to this publication, 87 percent of children between the ages one and four will have occasional tantrums and meltdowns. Phew! I often see other kids screaming and rolling on the floor, so I know my kids aren’t the only ones. But knowing that it happens to almost every kid is reassuring to know.
But how often kids tantrums are considered normal? Well, you can measure it based on the temper tantrum scale here. The best way to put it, if it occurs 1-2 times a week, no need to worry. But if it happens daily, there might be a cause of concern.
Now that we know it can happen at any time, how can we avoid the kids tantrums before it gets ugly? How can you calm a child before they unleash their inner Hulk? How do you make your days productive and family outings less stressful?
Let’s break down 5 things we can do and how to avoid the kids tantrums and meltdowns situation.
Keep To Routine
Kids thrive within the parameters of routine; they prefer predictability.
Kids also have a natural order to their internal time clock, which is something that should be paid attention to. Once you get into a predictable routine, work to stick to that routine to meet their needs.
It’s not to say you shouldn’t work to have adaptable kids, but by keeping certain things predictable, your kids will be able to roll with the rest of it.
If they wake and can depend on breakfast around the same time each day and they have their favorite lovies to nap with, then they will likely roll with the changes a bit better.
Explaining to you’re kids about what you’re going to do together for the day also prevents them from whining later.
Know Your Child’s Signals
Our children all have their personal thresholds when it comes to time out and about, and once they reach that threshold, all bets are off. In order to avoid kids meltdowns, learn to notice the signals when they have reached that point and start to back out before that time comes.
You can’t expect a toddler to maintain his enthusiasm at being wheeled around all day long doing errands. I learned the consequences several times, unfortunately.
When you start to see eye rubbing and a bit of whining occurring in addition to the normal hour of their nap time or bedtime, then you know it’s probably time to wrap up whatever you are doing and head home.
Unless, of course, you have that super laid back kid who will nap in their stroller just as long as they have a full tummy and their lovie; then be certain those needs are met and you’ll be able to continue on your way.
Meet Their Needs
Another simple way on how to avoid kids tantrums and meltdowns is to fulfill their basic needs. Make sure their tummies are full, they are well-rested and they are not sick before planning to be out.
Bring entertainment if you plan to be out for long periods of time to ensure they can be entertained as needed. Crayons, coloring books, lovies, small toys all work well on the go.
My poor bag is always full of things like little toys and a notebook with crayons that I can take out whenever the kids are bored. Just make sure to put the crayons inside a container to avoid the stains inside your bag!
When you have young children, having too much going on around you on can be your enemy – especially when you are working towards nap or bedtime – so it’s wise to avoid over-stimulation.
Overstimulated children need quiet time, and a familiar, calm environment. How can we avoid kids’ tantrums if we’re surrounded with loud noises? When you see the signs, you can start to take them out from loud places and do a calming activity instead.
Go for a walk, talk to them calmly, or just let them quietly rest on your lap. It is really helpful if you know how much your child can take before they start to acting out.
Teach Your Kid To Express Their Feelings
It is equally important to teach your kids to use their words instead of behaviors to show how they feel. Children who understand their emotions are less likely to act out by using temper tantrums, aggression, and meltdown to express themselves.
You can start to teach basic feeling words such as happy, scared, angry, and sad. There are many ways to do this, but the easiest way is to point them out when you notice your kid is likely feeling a particular feeling. For example, say “You look really happy that we are going to watch that Disney movie” or “I see that you are mad when I tell you it’s time to finish playing”.
Later on, he also will start to learn more complex feelings like frustrated, excited, worried, disappointed, jealous, embarrassed, and nervous.
Hopefully, the next time he is unhappy about a certain situation, he will point that out to you. That way you can solve it together and avoid any meltdown from happening.
The Tantrum Tracker
Now that we have learned some of the triggers, it’s time to dig deeper into the tantrum patterns.
When you’re trying to change your child’s behavior and you’re not sure if what you’re doing is working, collecting some data and analyzing it will be extremely helpful to prevent them from happening again.
This is actually part of my experiment because I’m curious about my son’s tantrum patterns. There are certain times that I knew a meltdown is about to happen. So then I keep records in order to work out what was going on.
I wanted to know whether tantrums happened on certain days of the week or at certain times of the day. I wanted to record how long tantrums actually lasted, because one minute of a screaming toddler can seem like ten. I wanted to work out whether several small tantrums pre-empted a full blown rage.
But most of all I wanted to keep a record of what may have contributed to the tantrum.
Keeping a printout of the Tantrum Tracker on the fridge meant I could quickly take notes throughout the day. At the end of the week it was easy to look over and identify any patterns in behavior.
I started to notice which foods consistently resulted in uncontrollable behavior and eliminated them. I also picked up on which parenting strategies were causing me more grief than good, and switched tactics!
Keeping track of my child’s behavior didn’t spell the end of tantrums, but it did help me to reduce their frequency and intensity.
Because I find it so helpful for me observe and become more aware of why my child is having tantrums, and to give me a direction on how to deal with it, I will share it you. FOR FREE! I hope that this resource is a help to you too. You can download it here.
What If It All Fails?
So, we’ve talked about what causes tantrums, ways we can prevent them and how to build up our childrens’ communication skills to help get through the tantrum stage more smoothly. But what about if you have implemented all of these strategies and your child still has a tantrum anyway?
The kids are fully napped, in a good mood, smiling happily, but then one uneventful thing happened and they just lose it.
Motherhood is full of apprehensive and unsettling moments. When you already did everything you could and the kid still having a tantrum, we can get easily frustrated.
It can be tough to keep yourself from having your own meltdown too.
In that case, it’s better to wait it out, take a long slow breath and don’t let that frustration lead you to anger. When those emotions feel overwhelming, take a step back to just breathe and remind ourselves that this too shall pass.
It might sounds cliche and easier said than done. I know exactly that feeling. The frustration. The helpless feelings. The shame. But you know what? You can’t control other people. The only person you can control is yourself.
Five years from now we will remember these times and feel nothing but the pride we were able to survive. Sometimes, all we can do is remember to breathe and stay calm. Breath in, breath out, mommas. We got this.
I also made a blog post about how to handle tantrums, in-depth information of what we can do if a child still has a tantrum, and how to keep your composure if a meltdown is happened in a public place. Please check it out here.
It’s a long read, huh? Well to keep it easy I made an infographic based on this article, so you can easily save and share it (it’s perfect for pinterest!).