It’s mind-blowing how quickly a timid toddler can turn into a wailing monster for no apparent reason. Yet, as parents, we never tire of doing literally everything to avoid an epic tantrum.
Apparently, a child’s frantic shrieks activate our primitive flight or fight response, scientists suggest. In this case, humans are hard-wired to react strongly to the unrestrained cries, urging us to respond even if the crying child is not our own.
But rather than looking for a quick fix to pacify a squealing tot, it helps to understand why your little one might be crying, so you can react properly and raise a well-mannered youngster.
Reasons why your toddler might be crying
In addition to discomfort, tiredness and the need to feed, toddlers get fussy as a way of dealing with difficult emotions such as jealousy, anger and frustration. Some toddlers are forthcoming and will tell you what’s wrong right away. The majority, however, resort to meltdowns instead of getting these messages across:
1. I’m tired – The lack of some shuteye causes increased sensitivity to stress and irritability on children and adults alike. Some giveaway signs that your munchkin is sleepy include eye-rubbing and yawning.
On average, infants (0-1 year old) need 14-16 hours of slumber and toddlers aged 1-3 years old, from 12 to 14 hours. Pre-school children aged 3-6 years have to snooze for 10 to 12 hours.
2. I’m hungry – If it has been a while since your child’s last meal or snack, and they’re starting to get moody, they might be hungry. After a period of not eating, one’s blood sugar eventually drops and this alerts the brain to secrete hunger hormones called ghrelin.
3. I’m stressed – Toddlers may get stressed with the changes in their environment and of what’s going on around them. A packed schedule, or activities that do not allow for relaxation and creativity, might overwhelm your little ones.
4. I’m overstimulated – Some unfamiliar settings can be too much for kids. There may be venues or instances that offer experiences, noise, sensations and other stimuli that a child could find overwhelming.
5. I want attention – A child knows they’ll get your attention once they let out a wail. As much as possible, show a positive reaction to respond to your child’s behavior.
6. I want something – Children can act as brats, wanting something right here, right now. If they start crying because you refused to give in to their whims, be firm. This way, your child won’t think they can manipulate you by bawling.
7. Minor accidents and pain – According to the NHS, some 40,000 children under the age of 5 are admitted to hospital annually due to preventable accidents. Choking, falls, burns and scalds, drowning and glass-related injuries are on top of these incidents.
Clumsiness, curiosity, inexperience and, sometimes, inadequate adult supervision are to blame for these otherwise avoidable incidents. For mild discomfort caused by minor incidents such as scratches and bumps, we highly recommend using these gel packs for children, which work well even for mosquito bites.
7 effective strategies to comfort a crying toddler
Your parenting skills are not measured by your baby’s endless crying. If your child is having a tantrum, these tricks can help you keep it cool and show that you are in charge of the situation.
1. Read a story or play music – Reading a story or listening to music before bedtime helps your child to calm down and have a restful sleep.
A routine napping schedule of one or two per day will help control your toddler’s meltdowns due to sleepiness, in the evening.
2. Offer healthy snacks – Sweets cause sugar levels to spike, but it will soon turn to a crash, leading to tantrums. Make sure your child is satiated with nutritious food at every meal.
Carry a healthy snack with you so you can offer it to your child before they turn into a hangry (hungry + angry) little monster.
3. Give your toddler a break – Giving your child enough time to relax and explore their surroundings minus the rush helps. Reducing the daily stresses of life gives the opportunity for your child to cope up and manage their emotions.
4. Take your child to a dark room – If your child is overstimulated, take your child to a place where they could calm down. For instance, take them outside or to a different room. If your child is still fussy, it might be best to go home to get some sleep or to be in a place that’s familiar to your child.
A useful tip would be to turn off the lights in the room. Turning the lights off can help them relax because it mimics the darkness inside the womb.
5. Give positive attention – Spend time bonding with your child so they won’t feel that they need to cry for attention when you’re apart. Be generous with giving positive attention and praise your child for good deeds. This will encourage them to act positively when they want to catch your attention, instead of whining at the top of their lungs.
Do not encourage your child’s attention-seeking behavior. Until they stop screaming, do not start a conversation or make eye contact.
6. Do not give in to your child’s bawling – If you say no, do not give in once your child unleashes a tempestuous tantrum. Giving what your child wants after initially refusing will teach your child that they can get what they wants simply by crying their eyes out.
Tell your child that you understand and “feel” their frustration, but that their tears won’t change your mind because there are serious consequences involved.
Teach your child to deal with uncomfortable situations by taking deep breaths, and working together to improve their mood.
7. Engage in play-based learning – Toddlers can learn important skills while playing. For instance, playing peek-a-boo stimulates their senses, motor skills and visual acuity. It also teaches them that even if they don’t see an object, it can still exist, which helps ease separation anxiety in the future.
Playing is also a useful distraction when your child is not feeling well. These gel packs are shaped like friendly monsters and can double as “toys” that relieve minor discomfort caused by toothaches, headaches, bruises, nose bleeds and other discomforts.
Keeping it together while trying to calm down a wailing toddler is hard. It takes practice and tons of patience as you get to know what works and what doesn’t work for your baby.
Amid all of this, remember to take care of yourself, too, as raising a child is emotionally challenging and mentally exhausting.
Would you like to share your best-kept secrets on how to soothe a crying toddler? Do you have questions about children’s gel packs? Start a conversation with us here.