Tantrums in Childcare

Conner is cranky and whiney; and the minute you say, “Time to put the blocks away,” he snaps.  No matter what you do, this kid just won’t quit.  To make matters worse, while you’re busy manning the meltdown, the other kids in your care are ripping the classroom apart.  Not exactly a good way to start the day.  Where’s Mary Poppins when you need her?

Tantrums, emotional outbursts, hissy-fits, meltdowns – whatever you want to call them; they can test your patience and make you rethink your decision to become a childcare professional.  There are a number of things that can trigger tantrums in children.  Some of them include:

  • anxiety
  • stress
  • hunger
  • frustration
  • tiredness
  • wanting attention
  • wanting items they can’t have
  • discomfort (too hot or cold, etc)
  • overstimulation
  • changes in family structure or environment
  • deviation from normal routines

Unfortunately, children like Conner are common in childcare settings.  And dealing with their tantrums is no easy feat.  Not to worry though, we’ve got you covered with these tips.

Keep Your Cool

When you’re dealing with a tantrum in the classroom, it’s easy to explode.  But once you start yelling and spazzing out, the child will feed off of your anger and the situation will only escalate.  So if you feel yourself getting overwhelmed by a child’s hissy-fit, take a quick breath and regain your composure before you tackle the problem.

Provide Comfort

If a child is throwing a tantrum because she’s frustrated, provide a bit of comfort.  For instance, if a child is upset because she can’t put together a puzzle, gently touch her on the shoulder and say, “It can be frustrating trying to put these puzzles together.” Then offer your assistance to help the child complete the task.

Don’t Reward Tantrums

Offering a child a cookie or piece of candy to be quiet may work in the short-term, but bribery will only encourage tantrums.  The child will start to associate her undesirable behavior with goodies, and it’ll be all down hill from there.

Acknowledge the Child’s Feelings and Ignore the Tantrum

If a youngster is throwing a hissy-fit because she can’t have something she wants, acknowledge her feelings of disappointment, but stick to your guns.  You can say something like, “I understand you’re upset that you can’t play with the blocks, but it’s time to clean up.” If the tantrum doesn’t subside, acknowledge the child’s feelings once more and then ignore the tantrum.

Let the Tantrum Run its Course

If a temper tantrum escalates to where the youngster is kicking and flailing all over the place, don’t restrain him; you might accidentally hurt the child.  Instead, put him in a safe zone where he is not a danger to himself or others. An area surrounded by pillows is ideal.  The child can punch, kick, roll around and scream until he settles down.

Handling tantrums in a childcare setting can be challenging. But keeping your cool, offering no rewards, providing support, and letting tantrums fizzle out are methods even Mary Poppins would approve of.

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