How to handle a tantrum throwing toddler!!

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In this blog, John Pradeep, the academic dean of Happy Cow, talks about how to handle kids who cries and throws tantrums.

After watching some of our videos, a parent wrote to us on what to do with a child who cries for no reason. I felt this question might be relevant to a lot of parents – and decided to write about it. I have first hand experience as I have a toddler at home – and here’s what I tell my wife to do – “Wait it out” – he/she will be alright and here’s why.

Why do they do that?
My daughter is 3 years old and she IS “that” child. She IS the child who screams suddenly and throws things around for no reason. To such an extent that in my street, I am known as the dad of that child who screams a lot. When I tell stories, she’d scream if the book was not kept in a certain position. She’d want to wear the shirt on her own, but she’d scream while trying to put the second hand in. She’d keep a ball in her hand, cry… and give it to me and cry even more. When I try to give it back to her, the crying would exponentially increase. While climbing down a spiral staircase, she’d cry because the stairs aren’t symmetrical.

Let me quote an incident that helped me figure out what to do with her. We went to Fun city for the first time and my daughter wanted to get into the enclosed play area. This was an area where only children were allowed, for all the physical activities like slides, punching bags, ball pools etc. She was 2 years and 10 months old at that time. As soon as she asked us for her to go in, me and my wife were envisioning a screaming child throwing things around, crying for not being able to do something specific wrt the games or just throwing tantrums. We were very skeptical. We, for some reason decided to just go for it. We bid her goodbye, hid behind a pillar and watched. What happened next shocked us. Both of us were on top of the world looking at how adjusting, calm and peaceful she had become once she was in. She stood in the queue for her turn patiently, when someone did something wrong, she tried explaining it to them calmly (we couldn’t hear her but it seemed like she knew when things were to be addressed), when balls were thrown around she’d pick them and put them back into the ball pool etc.

And so what did we do?

When she screamed and cried with a ball in her hand, we never reacted – positively or negatively. We neither took it away from her nor did we give her a solution. We just gave her some time to figure it out. She would decide to go back to holding the ball again or throw it away, but we took the approach of just standing there quietly, reassuring her that we understood what she was going through. We decided not to say “The ball is too big for you” or “Let’s not do that again” or “Don’t scream”, neither did we carry her to console her.

Typically, when a child is done screaming there is a point when everything is silent & that enables him/her to think. I was very careful not to disturb that moment for my child. I let her think and the decisions that she took at that moment were her own and most precious – similar to the fun city experience.

Will Art help?

Another regular thing we did with our daughter was to expose her to things that did not have a specific structure or to things that needed less focus and needed her own time. While she’d get frustrated with LEGO blocks, she’d get less frustrated with crayons or play dough. It wasn’t like she didn’t throw tantrums for no reason, it was just that she was not able to understand what was going wrong! There was no task given and we did not tell her what the right way of doing things were. We just asked her to do whatever she’d want to and we’d quietly sit in front of her. She’d scribble on the whole page, I’d sit in front of her and draw various shapes and colour within. While playing around with clay, I’d sit and make clay balls. Whatever she chose to do was ok – and that calmed her down a lot.

I know what you are thinking – “When will all of this change?” I don’t have an answer for that. But all I can say is, I have seen many children come out of this in just 2 days. They will behave completely calm and pretend like they couldn’t have been the ones screaming ever. So wait for that time and never guilt trip your child for screaming. More importantly, don’t stress yourself about the screaming and crying. Know, that they are uncontrollably crying or faking a tantrum, just to get things done.

Have you found other ways of dealing with it? Or are you struggling with some other issues? Write to us and let’s find solutions together. Happy Parenting!

John Pradeep

About EVAM

Founded in 2003 by Sunil Vishnu K. and Karthik Kumar, ‘evam’ today is a profitable young thriving arts organization making people believe in the power of the Arts.
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