18 months old kicks, hits and throws things

How to prevent and handle tantrums?

Today, I share another tantrum related letter from a mom, who asked my advice on how to handle her son’s aggressive behaviour. He is 18 months old and when he throws a tantrum, he kicks, hits and throws things at mom and other people. Mom is thinking to put her son into his room whenever he has a tantrum so that he can’t hurt himself or anyone else.

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The letter:

My 18-month-old son has tantrums, hits me (but not his Dad) throws things at me and he even hits other people; I feel so embarrassed. No matter what I do he doesn’t stop. I think that if he see’s me or anybody whilst in the midst of a paddy it makes him worse so I'm thinking of removing him from being around anybody and putting him in his bedroom with his toys not as a punishment just so he can distract himself when he wants too and so he cannot hurt himself or anybody else, do you think this would be a good idea before we try it as I don’t want him thinking his room is a place he goes when he is in trouble and he won’t go to bed? 

Any other advice would be appreciated, i’ve had 2 other boys and none have been this bad.

Transcript / My advice

My advice would be that if your son throws a tantrum, take him away from the situation if you can (if you can’t, just make sure that he doesn’t have the opportunity to hurt himself or others with anything). What you want to achieve here is that your son will have a quiet area without too much stimulation going around such as noises (from radio, tv) or other people, cars etc. so that he can calm down quicker and changing the environment might distract him a little as well.

For example, if he throws a tantrum in the kitchen, you might want to take him to another room, or if he throws a tantrum at the playground, you might wish to move him away from the children. So when you find the right spot, stay there with him but try not to talk to him until he calms down a bit. It depends on the situation of course, but I would not touch, hug or kiss him at this stage; most of the children don’t like physical contact during tantrums, it can make things worse.

By taking him away, we ensure that he doesn’t hurt anyone, and you can sit or stand next to him, not so far but out of his reach. If he still somehow manages to hurt you or others, react immediately by addressing the situation and telling him that it hurts and he should say sorry to the person and you can even ask him to give a kiss or a pat to the person he hurt. If he doesn’t do it, you can show him how to and what to say. Try to be consistent, so whenever he hurts someone or something you need to respond.

How to calm toddler tantrums?

Choose a safe, quiet place

In case of a tantrum, ensure that your son has a quiet place to calm down. Also, make sure that he cannot reach anything that he can either play with or kick and throw. 

Talk when he really listens

In the middle of a tantrum, children are at such a state, when they cannot or don't want to listen to you and most of them find physical contact (kisses, hugs) irritating. I advise you to wait until your little one calms down and then talk to him and hug him, and not before.

Don't reward or punish tantrums

Mom mentioned that she is thinking to put her son into his room when he throws a tantrum so that he could distract himself. I think if she puts him there and allows him to play with his toys, he either:

  • carries on the tantrum and throws, kicks the toys away or
  • he will think that his behaviour was rewarded with toys and next time there will be nothing to stop him to throw another tantrum again

...but we don’t want to reward or punish tantrums, because tantrums are emotional outbursts. What we need to do is help our children to understand and express their feelings.

The power of distraction

If you think that distraction might work to prevent tantrums, you can do it by using humour or singing, doing some silly things or dancing silly etc. without rewarding him in any way.

Share the "work"

If you have the opportunity to let dad cope with his son’s tantrums sometimes, that would be great (you both must deal with tantrums in the same way)

Respond immediately

If your son starts hitting, kicking and throwing things you have to react to these immediately! You can explain him in a very simple way (but ‘no’ is not enough because he won’t understand what you mean) why you don’t want him to hurt people and throw objects. Also, you can ask him to say sorry or comfort the person he hurt.

Children at this age are not fully aware of others’ feelings so they don’t even realise if they hurt someone. Therefore, we want to teach them how to behave and react if they hurt someone by telling and showing them what to do. To help your son understand his own and others’ feelings and to express those, you can do a lot of things such as reading a book about emotions or behaviours, acting out these stories, playing imaginative plays such as pretending to take care of babies or animals, pretending that you hurt your foot and show him what you do (you rub it, you kiss it, you put ice on it) or playing with animals and pretending to be a vet etc.

For more tips on how to prevent and handle toddler tantrums, watch this video:

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Thank you again and speak to you next time.


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