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A Temper Tantrum in a Holly Jolly Season

Dec 9, 2023

Temper Tantrum

You’re decorating the Christmas tree with the whole family. Everyone enjoys putting up an assortment of colorful ornaments all over the prickly branches. Unknowingly, you take little Ty’s favorite ornament and place it on the tree yourself. Ty isn’t having it. At all. A temper tantrum ensues, leaving Ty kicking and screaming on the ground while you ask, Why is this happening? What did I do wrong? The holiday season is a time for unpredictability and unfamiliar structure. Ty and Ty’s mom can rest easy knowing there are ways to cope and problem-solve through this torrent of emotions.

Why Do Temper Tantrums Occur?

Emotions can be HUGE. Our little ones are brand new to this experience. Temper tantrums are a way to express frustration and upset until they can learn better methods of coping and manage big feelings. Some kiddos may be more prone to temper tantrums if they have existing conditions such as sensory processing disorder, anxiety, or a learning disability (just to name a few).

Of course, the holidays can trigger tantrums as well. Unfamiliar situations and crumbling routines make temper tantrums tough to avoid. From traveling, visiting family, opening presents, and seeing Santa, your child enters a winter wonderland full of constant change. Sometimes temper tantrums are unavoidable and can happen anywhere at any time. It would be like telling your toddler not to experience anger. Luckily, we have tips to help prevent as well as get past every one while keeping everyone on Santa’s nice list.

Preventing a Temper Tantrum

  1. Stick to Routines as Much as Possible. Whether you’re traveling or fitting dinner in at 3 instead of 6, keep routines in place as much as possible. Predictable structure creates feelings of safety and control for your little one. Coordinate regular bedtimes (sleep is so important!), eating routines, and find places/times for them to play so they can burn off some energy.
  2. Let Your Child Know of Changes. Communicate with your kiddo about what will happen in their future. Preparation for your kiddo removes the spontaneity that some tantrums thrive on. Tell them what will be for dinner, that it may be earlier than usual, or what a visit with Santa Clause is like. Show pictures, if possible.
  3. Acknowledge the Positive. Whenever you see your child behave well in social situations or even at home, let them know that you’re proud of them. Doing so gives them the confidence to repeat similar behaviors in the future.
  4. Give Choices. Choices between two options allow your kiddo to experience some control in a situation without harming a parent’s authority. It teaches autonomy, and even better, is a possible way to keep temper tantrums at bay.
  5. Avoid Tackling on Too Much in One Day. Everyone has their limits. Your little one is no exception. If you plan to see Santa, Christmas shop, enjoy a Christmas parade, and decorate the Christmas tree all in one day, your kiddo can easily grow intolerant to the lack of structure and unpredictability. Spread out activities over the days, making it easier on the whole family.

When a Temper Tantrum Strikes

  1. Master of Calmness. When your kiddo has a temper tantrum, the number one behavior a parent can model is calmness. Of course, this is challenging when your sweetie pie behaves like the sky is falling. It’s easy to yell, fight back, and cry yourself for the sake of regaining control. Behaviors that mirror elements of a temper tantrum will not help your child in finding their own ground again. Remember: you’re the adult.
  2. Consistency, Consistency, Consistency. Ty throws another tantrum. He wants that new toy in the store right now. There are many ways parents can respond to tantrums. Yelling and giving in are among the most unhelpful because it teaches a child that this method works. Standing your ground and remaining calm each and every time is the perfect defense for defusing the bomb. If your child knows that this behavior works in their favor even once, they’re more likely to repeat it. Keep the protocol controlled in your favor so you can help reinforce better coping skills after the event.
  3. Move Outside if Possible or Let it Ride Out. If your kiddo has entered into full-on meltdown mode, you’re more likely to win the lottery than to get any sense through to them. Make sure they’re safe as well as others around. If you can remove them to a safer location, go ahead and do so.
  4. Highlight the calm. Let your kiddo know that you are happy they are calmer. Place emphasis on the fact you acknowledge their shift in demeanor, and always, always be there for your kiddo afterward. Parents have the influence to show their kiddo how much they are loved even after the storm.
  5. Take a deep breath yourself. Temper tantrums are stressful for everyone. It’s not easy staying calm, even though it’s so valuable for your kiddo to understand you as a role model. Remember that you alone cannot control your child’s emotions or behaviors in the moment. It’s especially important to give yourself a break. We are human after all. We’re learning and practicing with each situation that comes our way. Take a breath, relax in a bubble bath at night with some eggnog, and soak in the moments that bring out your truest holiday joy.

If your kiddo’s temper tantrums are frequent, severe, or long-lasting, Occupational Therapy might be able to help.