Tantrums can be draining not only for your child but for you as a parent as well. But while there are many ways to manage a child’s tantrum — from phrases you can say, games you can play, and questions you can ask —the most important thing you can do to address it is to know why it is happening in the first place.
What toddler tantrums mean
When a child throws a tantrum, it is often a sign that she needs help. “Akala kasi ng maraming magulang, kapag nag-tantrum ‘yung anak nila, love na love [ng anak nila] na mag-tantrum. [But] when a child throws a tantrum, it is their way of telling you that ‘I need your help. I need your help to control my emotions,’” explains Teacher Tina Zamora, Directress of Nest School for Whole Child Development, a progressive school in Manila, during her talk at the Manila International Book Fair last September 2019.
She adds, “A lot of children do not know how to stop a tantrum. You are responsible [for] teaching them how to stop it.”
Temper tantrums are common with toddlers because the part of the brain that promotes self-control — the prefrontal cortex — isn’t fully developed yet. Teacher Tina describes it as toddlers operating their “downstairs brain.”
“The downstairs brain is all their emotions. Kaya ‘di ba puro drama? ‘Hindi mo binigay ‘yung gusto ko! I hate you, mom!’ They’re all using their downstairs brain because they are still developing their upstairs brain,” Teacher Tina says.
Tantrums are a myth
When your child throws a tantrum, she is saying, “Mommy, I need your help in regulating my emotions.”
Parents need to model a person using her upstairs brain to their kids. If you use drama to respond to your toddler’s tantrum — for example, “Hindi ko na alam ang gagawin sa’yo! Ilang araw na kitang pinagsasabihan!” — your kids learn nothing. “Hindi nagdedevelop yung brain nila to be more logical in their thinking,” Teacher Tina shares.
For Teacher Tina, tantrums are a myth. When your child has a meltdown, you should think of it as a plea for help. She is saying, “Mommy, I need your help in regulating my emotions.”
Teacher Tina says, “Hindi po nila ‘yun sinasadya at hindi rin po sila nag-e-enjoy habang nag-ta-tantrum sila.”
The no-drama discipline approach
What we want to teach our kids is lifelong skills. No drama, just very clear rules.
When it comes to handling your child’s tantrums, Teacher Tina says your discipline style should not be dramatic. She shares a real-life dilemma that she faced with her own child: her child forgot her school ID at home and was asking if Teacher Tina could bring it to school.
“Usually, parents go on dramatic mode. Ano ang usually sinasabi natin? ‘Sinabi ko na sa’yo kagabi pa lang, ihanda mo na ‘yung ID!” she shares.
Every time you say these kinds of things to your child, it is not welcomed by their brain, Teacher Tina says. That’s because it always has a negative connotation and you’re using your downstairs brain in response.
Instead, Teacher Tina says to try no-drama discipline. This is what she told her child: “Darling, last night, I told you to fix your things. You did not fix your things so you forgot your ID. I will not send it Ateneo. So you figure out how you’re going to enter the campus without your ID. I am not sending it there because I am about to leave for work.”
While her child may have become dramatic at the other end of the line because of her response, the important thing is she did not. “Sinabi ninyo na hindi siya sumunod [kaya] hindi ninyo ipapadala ‘yung ID.”
The consequence of their mistake will make a mark on your kid’s brain so next time, they will be reminded to fix their things properly before going to school. “That is what we want to teach our children. Lifelong skills. No drama, just very clear rules,” Teacher Tina says.
Yelling is a short-term fix for your child's misbehavior. Click here for positive ways to discipline your child instead.