Every parent of a preschooler has experienced tantrums. It’s a normal part of parenting. Still, when your child has a tantrum in the middle of a restaurant or a grocery store, it’s easy to feel frustrated or embarrassed. Just know that you’re not alone and that you can work through those preschooler tantrums with your child.
What causes preschooler tantrums? Compared to adults, preschoolers are still fairly new to the world. Strong emotions like anger and sadness can take them by surprise. In their short lives, they haven’t learned how to manage all of these emotions yet, so they may express them inappropriately.
Note: It’s very important to know the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown. They look similar, but they have different causes. A tantrum often happens when a child doesn’t get what they wanted. A meltdown, on the other hand, happens when a child gets overwhelmed with too much sensory information – i.e., too much noise, light, smells, etc. Autistic children, highly sensitive children, and children with Sensory Processing Disorder can experience meltdowns. Pay attention to the cause of the “tantrum.” If it doesn’t have an obvious cause, it could be a sensory meltdown.
Strategize Ahead of Time
The best way to work on strong emotions with your preschooler is to talk about them ahead of time. Choose moments when your child is calm and happy. During these moments, talk to your child about appropriate responses to strong emotions. Stay patient, though. It’ll take lots of repetition before these lessons “click” during a tantrum. Not sure where to start? Children’s books can help. Start by reading a book about strong emotions, and then discuss the book together. Try When Sophie Gets Angry — Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang.
Minimize Tantrum Triggers
Like we said earlier, a lot of preschooler tantrums happen simply because a child wanted something and didn’t get it. In that case, it’s best to stay firm. If you’ve already said no, stick with that decision. Otherwise, your child will learn that a tantrum is a great way to get what they want.
However, some tantrums have other triggers. If you minimize those, you can minimize the tantrums. Pay attention to what happens just before the tantrums start. Does your child have more tantrums on the playground than at home? They may be reacting to the heat. Try keeping your child cool with a portable misting fan.
Most preschoolers have more tantrums when they’re tired, so keep up with your child’s bedtime routine. At age three and below, most children still need naps. If your child doesn’t currently take naps, consider adding a short nap to your child’s daily routine. Even 20 minutes of quiet rest time can make a difference.
Provide Space to Calm Down
If at all possible, find some space to let your child calm down. Preschooler tantrums can dissipate if you give your child a calm environment. Try to find a quiet space away from the crowd.
Validate the Emotions
For preschoolers, it’s easy to feel like adults don’t understand. They can’t always articulate their feelings, which makes things even more difficult. While tantrums are an inappropriate expression of those emotions, the emotions themselves matter. While you’re waiting out the tantrum, you can acknowledge and validate the feelings that caused it. “I can see that you’re frustrated,” is an example of something you might say.
Want to help your child through preschooler tantrums? The right preschool environment can help. At preschool, your child can develop social skills, get enough mental stimulation to prevent boredom, and learn how to handle strong emotions. If you’re looking for the best preschool environment, Legacy Academy has what your child needs. Ready to learn more? Contact Legacy Academy today. We’d love to have you as part of the Legacy family.