The other day, I decided to take a walk through the park for a breath of fresh air (practicing social distancing, of course). I noticed a mom struggling with her two young kiddos, using all the patience she could muster. I watched as she calmly got down on their level, brought them close, and tried to talk them down from their tantrum. They were trying to get to the car, but they weren’t getting anywhere fast. The kids wriggled and squirmed out of her grasp, flailing around in true toddler form. I knew the look on her face well. She was exhausted and at a loss of what to do next. Or so I thought.
Suddenly, she whipped out a large picnic blanket and unloaded an assortment of snacks from her magical Mary Poppins bag. She popped a carrot stick in one child’s hands and a box of raisins in the other’s. They quietly sat down and began munching away. The tantrum vanished in an instant.
This well-versed mother knew that sometimes, when all else fails, it’s better to take a detour than to battle.
Proactive parenting goes beyond discipline. That mother knew that her kids did not need punishment, they simply had an urgent need that required urgent attention. She took a step back from the tantrum, identified the cause of the meltdown, and swiftly came to all three of their rescues.
If you are a childcare provider or parent yourself, no doubt you’ve witnessed the infamous toddler tantrums. They’re no fun for anyone, and it is difficult to pull away from the screaming. But proactive parenting is simpler than it sounds. Using the HALT method, you’ll be able to address the four most common tantrum triggers. Not only will identifying these triggers help to effectively resolve a tantrum, they will also provide tantrum prevention (music to every caregiver’s ears).
HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. We’ll give you tips on how to identify your child’s needs and the best ways to help them through it. HALT is a super simple method that consistently gets positive results. (Learn more about this method in No-Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D).
- 2. Angry – This one is the easiest to recognize but probably the hardest to resolve. When you notice that your child is upset, first remember that she truly may not have the power to control it. We all get angry, but cognitively, adults are better equipped and fully developed in this area. Those little brains still have a lot of growing left to do.
First, try to prevent the anger. If you know you’re going into an unavoidable situation that may trigger the anger, help prepare your child ahead of time. Let her know what your plans are and what they can expect. Explain how you will help her cope and navigate this situation.
For instance, you might say, “We are going to go play with friends right now. If you choose to bring your toys with you, your friends will want to play with them. It’s ok to feel mad that a friend has your toy, but it is not ok to hurt your friend. Can you choose a toy you would like to share with your friends, or would you like to leave your toys in the car to keep them safe?”
If the anger has already struck, take a step back and help your little one through the moment. Ask yourself:
- What triggered this anger?
- How can I help my child use words or constructive actions to express herself?
- How can I walk my child through this situation?
Sometimes, the best option is to remove your child from the situation to catch her breath. Or, find another activity to take her mind off of it.
Follow along with our Community Page for more positive parenting resources – we’re excited to take this journey with you!
- “Feeling Hangry? When Hunger is Conceptualized as Emotion,” American Psychological Association
- “Factors that Affect Focus and Concentration,” Better Mind
- “28 Healthy Snacks Your Kids Will Love,” Healthline
- “Is Your Child Lonely? (For Parents),” Mental Health America
- “Tired Signs in Babies & Toddlers,” Raising Children Network
- “How Much Sleep Do Children Need,” Grow by WebMD