3 Easy Ways to Prevent a Temper Tantrum
For more tantrum tips, listen to our podcast episode Tantrum Prevention & Tips.
Q: My 10 month old boy is showing a lot of bratty behavior all of the sudden, screaming at us and yelling no. I thought tantrums came later? Could my 10 month old already be having tantrums? I don’t know what to do! Help!
Jennifer, 1st time mom of Jack.
A: First, yes babies at 10 months can start to exhibit tantrum type behavior, while it may not be a full blown tantrum, the behavior can start to surface at this age. More importantly though, it’s crucial that you are careful with your words and labels. This behavior is very normal for this age so it’s important to see it for what is, age and developmentally appropriate. Create a plan for learning about age appropriate behavior and development as well as a plan on how to handle the behavior, when it occurs, with warmth and understanding but that also helps your child to learn better ways of behaving. For more on this we have 2 great workshops, 1 on tantrums and another called Your Developing Toddler.
Here are some ways to help prevent temper tantrums. I want to start with discussion about the word “no” As you may know, it is very common for toddlers to begin to assert their independence and with little language on board, the easiest way is with the use of the word “no” However, I’m going to take an educated guess here and surmise that your child probably hears the word “no” a lot.
Remove the Word No from Your Vocabulary
The best way to see a behavior from our children is to model it ourselves. This goes for both positive and negative behaviors. (You will see SO many behaviors, mannerisms, and phrases come back at you over the years that will sound just like a mini-you, and you will know EXACTLY where your child got it!) I know you are wondering, how in the world do I parent a toddler without saying No! This is going to sound strange at first, but bear with me. I learned this first lesson a couple years before I ever had kids from our dog trainer. That’s right, our dog trainer. (No, I don’t think having dogs is really anything like raising kids but in this instance it has an important parallel) What we learned from our dog trainer is that you have to state your commands in the positive. If you tell your dog “no” all day long he gets confused and has no idea what you really want. So we learned to use the commands, “off” “sit” “down” and “leave it.” Once I started learning about child development, especially as it relates to cognitive and language development, it’s just as important to use positive commands with our kids. It’s easier for them to understand AND it doesn’t solidify and remind them about that word of opposition all day long. “Please put that down.” “Come here please.” “couches are for sitting.” Figure out a way to phrase your request in the positive. I cover this tool and several more positive tools in depth, that are great for toddlers, in the class, Focus on the Positive. Overall stating your desires in the positive will cut down on tantrums. Telling your toddler to “stop that!” or “No!” invites him get exert his will. Whereas the other, invites him to try something new, “please jump on the floor.” or “ please sit on the couch” rather than “No jumping on the couch!”
Have a Schedule and Stick to It
Schedule meals, snacks, naps and bedtimes and then stick with these as closely as possible. Keeping your toddler from getting over-tired or over-hungry will greatly cut down on tantrums. If you are running errands during snack time, bring snacks along.
Keep it Healthy
Junk food causes jumps and dips in blood sugar levels which adds to emotional ups and down as well. When I speak of junk food, I am talking about foods with added sugar, processed foods, or both. Stick to fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins for snacks and mealtimes. For ways to keep meals and snacks healthy, we have 2 great classes on nutrition, Feeding and Mealtimes for Infants and Toddlers and Healthy Eating: Preschool and Beyond that you may want to check out.
If you’d like to learn several other ways to prevent tantrums as well as how to handle them well when they do occur, our class on Tantrums is chalk full of great tips and information and will make you a toddler tantrum pro!