Tantrums are one of the most difficult things parents of young children have to deal with. They can happen over almost anything, no matter how small, from being handed the wrong picture book to what they can wear to bed.
Tantrums are, fundamentally, outbursts of frustration. Children feel emotions intensely and frustration is no different. Thankfully, the Montessori method can teach us a lot about managing children’s frustration and preventing tantrums.
Here are three tips to help you deal with tantrums the Montessori way.
- Recognize Your Child’s Independence
Once children learn to speak, it isn’t long before they start exclaiming “I do it!” whenever we try to put on their shoes or cut their food. A lot of tantrums happen because our children feel ready to do things by themselves before we’re ready to let them. They’re constantly learning new skills and developing new abilities, and not being able to use them is incredibly frustrating.
The Montessori Way: The Montessori classroom is designed in a way that recognizes children’s independence. Materials and activities are kid-sized and kept at a low level so the students can engage in activities of their choosing.
Applying It at Home: Striking a middle ground can allow you to prevent these scenarios from escalating into tantrums. Instead of doing things for them, we can usually do those things with them. Helping our children do the things they want allows them to exercise their new abilities, feel independent, and learn from our guidance.
- Control Your Child’s Choices, Not Their Actions
It’s important to set boundaries for our children but it can sometimes feel like those boundaries are impossible to police without our children breaking out into tears or screams. And it’s easy to understand why: it’s frustrating for a child to feel like they hear “No” every time they choose to do something.
The Montessori Way: Students are free to explore and take charge of their learning because the Montessori classroom is a safe environment: the children can make choices at every turn because few bad choices are available to them.
Applying It at Home: Instead of trying to control our children’s actions, we can control the choices that are available to them. Telling a child they can’t play and must pick up their toys could result in an outburst, but asking them whether they want to start by tidying up the blocks or the cars lets them feel like they’re taking charge of the situation and aren’t jut being told what to do.
- Provide Practical Activities
Another way to prevent tantrums is simply keeping children engaged in activities. But this means more than just giving them a few toys to play with: there’s a difference between keeping busy and doing busywork. Children immersed in practical tasks end up feeling relaxed, fulfilled, and happy when they complete them. When they feel that way, they’re not going to be in the mood to throw tantrums.
The Montessori Way: Montessori schools provide children with practical life activities, like slicing fruit, cleaning projects, and manipulating objects with tongs. These allow children learn practical skills and imitate the everyday tasks they see at home.
Applying It at Home: Involving children in chores gives them hands-on activities that they can get engrossed in. Letting them measure ingredients and stir when you’re cooking, pouring in the detergent or folding their clothes when dealing with laundry, and giving them a hand broom when it’s time to sweep will keep them busy and happy. When it comes to keeping children occupied, these activities beat distractions. Children don’t like to be spectators; they want to feel that they’re taking part in the activities of the household.
Tantrums are a normal part of childhood. Until children learn to fully express themselves or to become completely independent, there will be times that their frustration overwhelms them. Tantrums happen. But they will happen less frequently if we make sure our children have choices, feel independent, and can take part in hands-on activities.
Learn more about Practical Life at Apple Montessori.