Ah, yes, those wonderful temper tantrums are today's topic for Toddler Talk. Click on the link to get involved:
I guess if you want me to be all scientific and psychological about tantrums I will say that a tantrum is just a way for a child to express their wants and desires but they do not have the verbal capacity to do so. Children who throw temper tantrums are secure in your love for them and they feel secure enough to express themselves in whatever emotional way that comes out. (And they don't care if you are in the middle of Target when they decide to have a good one, either).
If you want me to be realistic, they really tick me off. I don't really get that upset when my now 19-month-old throws one, actually it is kind of cute, but I also know that he has no other way of letting me know that he is upset. Even though he doesn't communicate very well verball (he can say a few words), I will still tell him, "That is not how we act." I then make sure he isn't going to flail himself into a wall, oven, or sharp object and I turn my back on him. He usually ends up following me and when I sit down he will climb up and want a hug.
However, once they start using words to communicate, I am not a fan of just ignoring the behavior. I know that this may work sometimes and I might even be willing to try it at home but if any of my children have ever or will ever throw a tantrum in public, I do not/will not ignore it. It is just embarrassing and I don't think other people should have to be subjected to it . . . especially at dinner. I will always address it either by taking them to the bathroom, outside, or even leaving wherever we are. Tantrums are just not cute.
I've always heard people talk about the Terrible Two's but, personally, I'll take the 2's over the 3's any day of the week. When my children are around 2-years-old I introduce the naughty spot. Whenever they act up, talk back, throw a tantrum, etc. I make them sit in the naughty spot. I actually tell them, "Uh oh, that's not how we act. Go sit in the naughty spot." Caleb has seen Gracie and Kanin sit in the naughty spot so many times that he can actually show you where it is. LOL
By the time the kiddos reach 3, though, I have zero patience and zero tolerance for a temper tantrum. At 3-years-old they know what they want to say and how they want to say it. Now that doesn't mean that we don't still have them around here but I address them right then. If a temper tantrum even begins, I pick them up and carry them to their room. I then tell them "You can come out when you stop your xx (whining, crying, yelling, kicking, etc)." Then, I shut the door and walk away. Yes, I have heard things being thrown and lots of screaming but usually within about 5 minutes they will walk back down and ask if they can come out now. I will then tell them that if they are done throwing a fit that they can come back and join us. If they start in again, I usually just have to say, "If you start this again, you are going to go back to your room."
When things have gotten really bad I have also: sent them to bed with no dinner (gasp!), made them go to bed early (bad Mommy), and I have swatted them (don't call CPS). Of course, I HATE when it gets to a swat but it is just to get their attention and I feel they MUST learn that certain actions are not acceptable.
Knock on wood and Thank God above, it has been a long time since any of my three have had a really bad temper tantrum. It is by no means a storybook life around here but I feel like I have learned some tools to help me get through it.
The book that helped me the most is Parenting with Love and Logic by Dr. Foster Cline and Jim Fay. It is such a great book that offers tons of tips for children of all ages. They also have seminars around the country and you can "Like" them on FB to get updates.
I think another thing to point out is that what works with one child will not necessarily work with another so I try to find out what they are "in" to at the moment and use that as a punishment, "You tried to hit Mommy so no Dora the rest of the day."
I'm really interested to hear how others respond to temper tantrums. I know there is no ONE way and I am always looking for new solutions.