Daycare providers must deal with a wide range of behavioral issues as a part of normal toddler and preschooler development. One such behavioral issue is the proverbial toddler temper tantrum.
We interviewed Dr. Joyce Willard Teal, award-winning teacher and author of Are You Raising the Next Generation of Hoodlums? to find out the best tips for handling temper tantrums in family daycares and preschools.
OwnADaycare: What is a temper tantrum and are there different types of them?
Dr. Joyce Teal: A temper tantrum is emotional behavior that can range from whining and crying to screaming, kicking, hitting, and breath holding. They’re equally common in girls and boys and usually occur from age 1 to age 4. There are different types of them since they range from somewhat mild to severe.
OwnADaycare: Why do preschool-aged children throw temper tantrums?
Dr. Joyce Teal: Primarily due to frustration. But children will also throw tantrums when they are tired, hungry, uncomfortable or seeking attention. Consider how your frustration as an adult manifests itself. Perhaps there are times when you have kicked an object, slammed a door or thrown a glass out of frustration. This is an adult version of a temper tantrum. In the process trying to master their world and when they aren’t able to accomplish a task, toddlers sometimes use one of the only tools at their disposal for venting frustration — a temper tantrum.
OwnADaycare: What can preschool teachers do when a child throws a tantrum?
Dr. Joyce Teal: The appropriate response depends upon the age of the preschool child who throws the tantrum. However, some basic rules apply:
The teacher and/or parent should always maintain his or her cool. The child will sense if either becomes frustrated, and this can complicate or escalate the problem
Breathe deeply and think clearly. If this is a recurring situation with a certain child, pay particular attention to what triggers the tantrum.
OwnADaycare: Are there ways to prevent temper tantrums?
Dr. Joyce Teal: Even the most good-natured toddler has an occasional temper tantrum. Temper tantrums are considered a normal part of development. However, the best way to deal with temper tantrums is to avoid them altogether. The following strategies can help.
- Keep items that are off-limits not only out of the child’s reach, but when possible, out of sight
- Take advantage of the child’s short attention span and distract him/her with something else.
- Give the child plenty of attention to assure that he/she is not “acting out” just to get your attention.
- Offer choices so that your toddler will feel that he/she has some control.
- Compliment the child frequently for appropriate responses.
- Ignore the tantrum (if it is no threat to the child or others) and continue your activity (but do not leave the child alone during this time). Sometimes the tantrum is an attention-getter).
- Be aware of your child’s limits. For example, if you know that your child is tired or hungry, this is not a good time for a visit to the food market.
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