EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Mondays are for Moms at 5:30 PM on WLNS, and this week we have expert advice when it comes to temper tantrums. Alicia Birdsong is a pediatric sleep and child behavior consultant, and owner of Hust Little Birdie in East Lansing. She says temper tantrums are normal and developmentally appropriate.
They typically start to happen around 2-years old and often start with a trigger, like a sibling taking a toy, for example. “As adults, our brains are fully developed and we’re able to recognize the anger and frustration and take that minute to assess. And with children, there’s no assessment happening. It’s just the triggering situation to that emotion. So that cognitive piece of how to work through it, they’re just not at that place,” says Birdsong.
That’s where the parents or caregivers come into play. They need to help the child regulate those emotions and teach them what’s appropriate, and what’s not. First, Birdsong says parents and caregivers need to keep themselves calm. “Being able to go over, get on their level, and say you know what, I can see you’re really frustrated by this right now. It’s okay to be frustrated, but it’s not ok to hit,” Birdsong said.
So parents need to set boundaries. They also need to find a way to calm the child down. You can try a long hug, or taking deep breaths with them. Birdsong says this is called “co-regulation,” where the child learns from the parent and they regulate together.
What happens if a temper tantrum happens out in public? “I know a first reaction from a parent in a store is to like, bribe them to be quiet. Right? Or like, hightail it out of the store because it can be embarrassing. But I would really do some of the same strategies; Validating, calming down, and if they’re having a hard time calming down, that’s ok and we’re going to go ahead and leave now,” said Birdsong.
After the child does calm down, it’s important to help build up their self-esteem. Birdsong says children can carry a lot of shame and guilt for how they react. So, give them the reassurance that it’s ok. Another great tip is to find moments where the child is not acting out. Catch them doing good and reward them for that behavior.