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 Jed Baker, Ph.D., director of the Social Skills Training Project, and author of No More Meltdowns, to discover the best tips for handling temper tantrums in family daycares and preschools. Part 2 of the interview discusses how to prevent temper tantrums.
OwnADaycare: Are there ways to prevent temper tantrums?
Dr. Baker: To prevent tantrums, we need to understand the triggers to meltdowns. Consider the following common triggers and ways to avoid these problems:
- Preschoolers often do not have the words to express what they want yet, We can try to understand what they want when they are tantrumming and give them a better way to ask for it rather than tantrum. Sometimes they want a break from an activity or need help or want a toy that someone else has and they do not know how to ask.
- Often kids are hungry and tired. Forget about reasoning with them then; instead, feed them and let them rest.
- Some children have sensory issues, overwhelmed by too much noise, activity, smells, or certain kinds of touch. We need to help those youngsters express their concern so we can change the amount of stimulation. We can ask if it is too noisy or if they did not like it when someone touched them, then make the changes necessary to avoid future meltdowns.
- When the trigger is a demand to do a task, we can change how difficult the task is and help the child learn to ask for help or a break.
- Sometimes the trigger is when the child has to wait for what he wants. We can avoid these problems by providing a clear schedule of when a child will get what he wants (like a snack or access to a favorite toy). Since kids cannot always tell time, using a timer is useful for waiting problems.
- When the trigger is that the child loses a game or makes a mistake, we can help him by teaching that mistakes and losing a game can be good: “Mistakes help you learn and, if you lose a game and do not get mad, you win a friend.” We can reward the child for losing or making a mistake without getting mad, particularly if we value self-control over “being perfect.”
- Some children meltdown when we ignore them or attend to others. If this is the case, we need to teach those youngsters when they will get time with us (create a schedule) and teach the child how to ask for our attention rather than tantrum to get our help.
OwnADaycare: When are temper tantrums a cause for concern?
Dr. Baker: When tantrums are prolonged (over 20 minutes) and occur frequently enough to interfere with functioning in school or daycare, then it is important to seek professional advice. Daycare and preschool teachers have the opportunity to compare your child’s behavior to others and thus offer an opinion as to when a child’s tantrums are more than what is normally expected.
OwnADaycare: When should children outgrow tantrums?
Dr. Baker: Adults have tantrums and meltdowns as well, only less frequently as we learn coping skills and have more choice as to what situations in which we place ourselves. If your child continues to have frequent tantrums after that age of 9 or 10 in school and in public settings (not just in the comfort of home), then you may want to seek professional advice as to what may be causing the problem.
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