Temper tantrums are a normal part of a young child’s development. They occur because the child does not yet have the words to express their frustration or dislike. Unfortunately for parents this means we have to deal with temper tantrums, especially when children are in the 2-3 year old age range.
When your child throws a temper tantrum it can be embarrassing. You and your child are happily strolling through Target on a shopping trip, when she sees a toy she wants and BAM! the next thing you know she is in full on meltdown mode because you said no.
So what is a parent to do? My advice, which is simple yet can be difficult for parents to follow through on is simply ignore them. The purpose of the temper tantrum is to wear you down, get you to change your mind about the toy (due to embarrassment, sheer exhaustion or both). If you are ignoring the behavior then the child no longer has a reason to throw the tantrum.
If you are at home, you can calmly say when you are done, I will be in the other room and walk away. If you are in a store you can take them out of the store, have them sit in a time out in the car or take them home and finish your shopping another day. Most likely you won’t have to remove them from the store more than a couple of times before they understand the consequence and it will start to change their behavior.
Actions speak louder than words. When your child is throwing a temper tantrum this is not the time for long lectures or trying to reason with them. Stay calm and walk away (as long as your child is in a safe place). If you consistently ignore this behavior eventually the intensity of the tantrums will subside and they may disappear altogether (especially as your child develops the words to express how he is feeling).
What is your experience with temper tantrums? What have you found that works for your child? Were you ever so embarrassed because you had to take your child out of a store when they were having an epic meltdown?
Author: Alison Pidgeon, LPC
Alison is the Founder and CEO of Move Forward Counseling, a boutique private practice for women with three locations in Lancaster County, PA. She is passionate about reducing the stigma related to accessing mental health services. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.