I dread the moments when my toddler, or children, melt into a human heap of emotions and begin to throw a tantrum. For some reason, this happens at the most inopportune moments. Such as, when I am in the midst of doing a million other things or when we are in a public place. Regardless of whether you are home or out and about, learning how to avoid meltdowns is a key part of parenting. 

Exhaustion

The chief tantrum trigger for most children is pure exhaustion. Because they are little, children need a lot of sleep. In fact, you might even say they need a ridiculous amount of rest and relaxation. This is how their bodies grow from infancy to childhood. Needless to say, tired children have a difficult time regulating their emotions. When a child can’t regulate their feelings they enter into the danger zone, known to all parents as ‘tantrum territory.’ This is not a good place to be.

If your child reaches the tipping point and enters into a sleep-based meltdown, you will know it.

The signs are pretty basic with this type of tantrum. They consist of little hands rubbing eyes, uncontrolled crying, and a fixation on random things.

When this type of meltdown occurs it is critical that you get your child to sleep ASAP. Whether in the car on the way home from the store, in your arms sitting on the couch, or in their own cozy little bed. Sleep and sleep alone is the cure for this common type of childhood tantrum.

Frustration

An additional type of tantrum trigger that is common among the little people in our lives is frustration. Children are ‘little people’ just learning to navigate in the big world.

When a child feels frustration based on anger or sadness, a perfect meltdown moment may be brewing. A huge part of why a child’s frustration can result in a tantrum is their lack of appropriate vocabulary. It can be hard to express intense feelings when you are just learning to use words in the first place. It can also be frustrating to find the appropriate words and then be ignored.

An easy way to avoid a frustration-based meltdown is to diagnose the issue before it is too late. This requires listening to what our children are trying to tell us with their words and actions. It also requires taking the time to help our children deal with what is bothering them.

Hunger (also known as “hangry”)

When their little tummies are grumbly, children can’t control their emotions. As a result, they go into tantrum mode.

As adults, it is easy to satiate hunger by grabbing something to eat. For children, dealing with hunger is not that easy. First off, children don’t always know that the painful feeling in their middle is hunger. Then again, they may not be able to verbalize that need. Furthermore, even if a child knows and can state they are hungry, they still may be unable to get food.

Needless to say, hunger is a valid reason for a meltdown. It is also a tantrum trigger that we can deal with by making sure we feed our children an appropriate diet. Of course, this should be obvious. Reality check! If you are a busy parent with a lot going on, feeding your child nourishing food all the time can be tricky.

 

Pain

The fourth most common tantrum trigger is pain. Much to my mommy chagrin, pain can be a tricky feeling to diagnose in children. Sometimes I can tell when my child is in pain. (When they have broken a bone or are sick.) Other times diagnosing my child’s pain can be difficult. (When they are too young to speak or don’t understand that what they are feeling is pain.)

Just remember that sometimes the tantrum, itself, is the outward representation of an inner pain. (Physical or even mental!) When an adult doesn’t feel well, it is hard to control emotions and reactions. This is no different for children.

Children suffering in pain, walk a fine line where it is easy to slip into tantrum mode. More so than ever, if your child is experiencing a meltdown related to pain try to be patient. Just remember, this too will pass.

 

A Big Job

Our children may not instinctively understand how to deal with their emotions. Learning to handle their feelings is a big job for children. It is a job, which we, as caregivers, can help them with.

Each tantrum thrown is a chance for parents to improve their meltdown savvy. It is inevitable that childhood tantrums will happen. Just know that understanding why they occur solves half the battle.
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About the All-Star Blogger

Paige is the mother of three creative Little Women and enjoys spending time eating chocolate, watching movies, reading for pleasure, creating educational products, and maintaining her blogPaige has a passion for helping students develop a love of reading. She has been a faculty member at Amelia Earhart Elementary for over seven years. She is a CITES Associates member of the BYU-Public School Partnership and a member of Provo School District’s Literacy Committee. She is an award-winning educator who enjoys mentoring interns and student teachers. You can follow her on Facebook and Pinterest.