Music can Calm Toddler Tantrums. Here’s How…
The first day of class is usually hectic. Kids are talking at the same time. Many cannot sit still. Some are loud. Some are quiet and shy. And some are in tears because they miss their mums and dads so much.
But one thing always works to calm them – music. When the teacher plays a song, the kids immediately engage with it. Don’t get us wrong. The kids don’t suddenly sit down and listen to the music. The energetic ones usually start dancing to the music immediately. The tearful ones are distracted by the music and stop crying. The shy ones will stay on the sideline observing the others. Eventually, the teacher will succeed in getting every two and three-year old in the class to get up and dance to the tune.
Music is a powerful tool to calm, control emotions and promote happiness in children. This is good news for parents who are struggling with tantrums. Toddler tantrums are part and parcel of parenting. Tantrums will happen. They will happen frequently. Often, they happen in the most embarrassing circumstances – in a packed supermarket, on the aisle of a busy shopping mall or inside an aeroplane.
Before we continue, we would like to assure every parent that tantrums are not your fault. It’s just a part of growing up.
Music creates a safe and secure environment
Young children find it hard to express their feelings. When they are confused, angry or upset, their emotions can sometimes spill over into Godzilla-sized tantrums. Have you ever tried concentrating on driving while our two-year old is screaming in the back of the car? It’s not easy. A simple way to settle your toddler when travelling in a car is to use music. Play them something calm like a favourite song or a nursery rhyme.
Music can also be used as a signifier for an expected behaviour. Who can forget Bluey showing children how to wash their hands at the height of the coronavirus threat? You can make up simple tunes and sing it with your toddler if you want them to get dressed in the morning, eat their cereal, get into the car and so forth.
Music helps kids manage their feelings
Children who can manage their emotions when they are stressed are less likely to throw a hissy fit. Kids as young as two years of age can learn to control their impulses. It is about understanding what it feels like to stop yourself from doing something.
Every parent knows the ‘freeze dance’. Play a song. Everyone dances freestyle. Stop when the music stops. Your toddler’s impulse is to continue dancing but the game wants him/her to stop. They will literally feel the sensation of stopping themselves. This is a fun and easy way to teach your toddler how to self-regulate their emotions. With enough practice, your two or three-year old may just be able to stop themselves from a full-blown tantrum the next time they are angry or upset.
Music can manage meltdowns
Meltdowns can happen even with all the safe, happy environment and self-regulating measures.
The next time your toddler goes into meltdown, try playing some music to soothe him/her. Studies have shown that music is effective in reducing stress and anxiety. Music connects with the nervous system (the brain, heart and blood pressure) and limbic system (feelings and emotions).
Playing music to a child who is upset and speaking to them calmly can diffuse tension and help your child calm down. When music is played, the body reacts positively. The heart slows, blood pressure drops and breathing relaxes. Correspondingly, the tensions around neck, shoulder, stomach and back eases. These reactions help your toddler to calm down. A major tantrum is avoided.
Both listening and making music can short-circuit the body’s stress response system and prevent it from recurring. Stress starts in the brain and chain-reaction to physical manifestations. The next time you think your kid is about to throw a tantrum, try distracting them with music.
Which composer does children love most?
Mozart of course! It’s simple, pure but at the same time, mysterious and accessible. Here are three Mozart songs you can play to stimulate learning:
Piano Sonata in D major K.448 – First movement. Great for stimulating learning.
Piano Sonata No.11, K 331, III Alla Turca
Sonata No. 15 – K. 54