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My 18-month-old son throws terrible tantrums. When he doesn't want to do something, he often throws himself on the floor and kicks his arms and legs. I can barely bring myself to take him out in public because he throws tantrums so often. What can I do?Most toddlers throw temper tantrums. It's a typical stage of child development. To understand why your toddler throws a fit, put yourself in his place. A toddler has an intense desire to do things, but his mental and motor skills have developed more quickly than his ability to communicate. Because he doesn't yet have the verbal skills to express his frustration, he does so by throwing tantrums. But you should know that tantrums often come in two flavors: manipulative tantrums and frustration tantrums.
If you feel that your child is using tantrums as a tool to get his own way, give him verbal cues and use body language that says you don't do tantrums. Be aware that toddlers know how to push their parents' buttons. If you are a volatile person, it'll be easy for your child to trigger an explosion from you, ending in a screaming match with no winners. You send a clear message when you ignore his fits or walk away. This teaches him that tantrums are not acceptable. This is part of toddler discipline.
Frustration tantrums, on the other hand, require empathy. Take these emotional outbursts as an opportunity to bond with your child. Offer a helping hand, a comforting "it's okay." Help him out where he feels frustrated at not being able to accomplish a task. This way you establish your authority and build your child's trust. Direct his efforts toward a more manageable part of a task. For example, if he throws one of the common "I'll do it myself" fits about putting on his sock, you slip it halfway onto the foot, and he can pull it on the rest of the way. Sit down with him at eye level and caringly say, "Tell mommy what you want." That encourages him to use words or body language to communicate his feelings and needs so that he doesn't have to act them out in displays of anger.
To help parents gain perspective on the tantrum stage, we've divided fits into "biggies" and "smallies." Staying in the carseat is a biggie. It is non- negotiable and all the theatrics in the world will not free the safety-contained protester. But whether she should wear a red shirt rather than a blue one is a smallie. A clothing mismatch isn't worth a fight.
Occasionally, a very strong-willed child will lose control of himself during a tantrum. If often helps to simply hold him firmly, but lovingly, and say, "You're angry, and you have lost control. I'm holding you because I love you." You may find that after a minute or more of struggle, he melts in your arms as if to thank you for rescuing him from himself.
In general, don't ignore a frustration tantrum. Turning away from her behavioral problems deprives her of a valuable support resource, while you lose the chance to improve your rapport with your tantrumer. Once your toddler develops the language skills to express her needs in words, you'll be able to close the book on the tantrum stage. This usually happens between two and two- and-a-half-years-of-age, depending on your child's language development.