Taming Toddlers: A Parent’s Guide to Tantrums

Entry into toddlerhood is quite often the cute stage of growing up. Their lust for life never fails to wonder. But how come, one minute they are cute and asking questions about the world around them and then the next thing something terrible seems to have happened – the infamous tantrum. As you look on helplessly you wonder where your angelic child disappeared to. That’s right, they’ve reached that famous stage of the ‘terrible twos’ (which incidentally can start at aged one and can carry on for years, so be prepared!). Toddlers are a perfectly normal stage of childhood. So what are the best tactics for dealing with them?

Prevention is the best cure

As with almost anything in life, if something can be prevented then this is the best cure. If the situation doesn’t happen then there’s nothing to worry about! You will find that despite every best intention, meltdowns do occur. If you can stop some of then happening, then this will save you some tears and heartache. Here are some tips on avoiding tantrums:

  • Step in and offer help (without completely taking over) before your child gets frustrated.
  • Identify triggers and remedy these. Your child could be tired or hungry when tantrums are most likely to occur. Carry snacks with you at all times and ensure adequate rest. (Disclaimer: I appreciate, parent to parent, ensuring adequate rest to nap deniers may be tricky! However, even if they are not napping, then downtime / quiet time can lead to better moods and fewer tantrums).
  • Choose your battles. Your child might want to wear that completely unsuitable Spiderman outfit or Elsa dress to the supermarket, which isn’t conventional ‘supermarket’ wear. However, instead of saying no every single time, you could embrace their independence on choosing their clothes and allow them every now and then.

Help! A meltdown has occurred!

So, inevitably, you can not and will not prevent every single tantrum. There may be one lurking around every corner – from the wrong coloured bowl to the common Mummy and Daddy didn’t know ‘the rules’ to the game that was being played at the time. You now have a screaming, crying, out of control toddler on your hands. How can you handle it?

  • Stay calm. Even though you may also be frustrated at the situation, the worst thing you could do would be to raise your voice or shout at them. By staying calm you can encourage them to return to normal as soon as possible.
  • Ignore them. Don’t get mad or try to reason with them. They have not yet learned how to deal with their strong emotions. Let it pass to then speak with them rationally.
  • Understand them. Tantrums are a normal behaviour for toddlers that they find it difficult to control. In recognising this, you can try and understand that it is  just the situation and not their ‘bad behaviour’.
  • Communicate but don’t over-communicate. Let your child know that you are there for them but don’t smother them. Let them come round in their own time.
  • Remove them from the scene. Sometimes it is best to remove your child from the scene. Every week we go into a shop which has balloons as part of a display. Unfortunately these are not for sale so our little girl has a tantrum as she really wants a balloon. I remove her from the scene and the whole episode is forgotten about shortly after.
  • Provide a distraction. Similar to removing your child from the scene, but with a specific distraction. You could try distracting your child with some fruit, suggestion another toy to play with or giving your child a great big cuddle (everyone loves cuddles now and then).
  • Be patient. Remember that your child cannot control the intense outburst of emotions that lead to a temper tantrum. Don’t ‘lose your rag’, remain calm and patient. The tantrum will also soon pass.

Silly reasons why toddlers have tantrums (part 1)

We asked some parents about the reasons why their child has had a tantrum. Some of them can be quite baffling!

  • “My son has all sorts of amazing reasons for having a tantrum, usually because he can’t get his own way (like trying to play with the kitchen bin or having to wear shoes to walk to playgroup)” – Victoria @ Lylia Rose
  • “My son once had a mega tantrum because he couldn’t fly and I couldn’t make it happen.” – Anna @ Me, Annie Bee
  • Remember last year when we had a heatwave? Well the ice cream man was parked outside my daughters nursery every afternoon, and she wanted one every single day which resulted in a huge tantrum. I vividly remember during the heatwave her having an almighty tantrum where she lay on the floor. I wasn’t bothered about the hysteria – all I could think about were the Facebook posts I’d seen about dogs paws being burned on the hot tarmac – so I was desperately trying to peel her off the floor for fear of third degree tarmac burns. God damn ice cream man. He gave me nightmares last summer. – Beth @ Twinderelmo
  • We took my daughter to Peppa Pig world on her third birthday. It was quite busy and there was a queue to go into Peppa’s house. She was absolutely fascinated by it all and wanted to stay there for ages but we needed to move along. After a few minutes I gently encouraged her to come outside so we could see more which resulted in her most epic meltdown. She was lead on the floor, in the rain, next to the fake duck pond screaming that she needed to see Peppa. I was so embarrassed, I just sat at the table nearby and watched her as she screamed and bellowed next to what seemed like a calm and peaceful family. We haven’t been back since. – Kayleigh @ Candy Floss & Dreams
  • The best one we’ve had so far was because his toothbrush was wet! Full on melt down! – Becky @ Mommy and Rory.

Silly reasons why toddlers have tantrums (part 2)

  • My son had the most colossal tantrum in a shoe shop when he was about 2 and a half. He took a severe dislike to those trainers with flashing lights. And apparently anyone wearing them. Or anyone looking at them. And then me, for allowing them to exist. – Vikki @ Family Travel with Ellie
  • My youngest was 2, and had a huge tantrum Christmas morning because he didn’t want to open his Christmas presents – apparently his brothers were doing theirs too fast- and so he didn’t! It was Boxing Day before we could convince him that it was a good idea! – Sara-Jayne @ Keep Up With The Jones Family
  • My daughter had a tantrum once because I wouldn’t let her bath in her clothes. – Natasha @ Kiddo Adventures.
  •  Life with twins can be testing. My eldest girl twin once had a tantrum because I wouldn’t let her watch what she wanted to watch on TV. She kicked off waving her arms about hitting her twin brother. when I punished her for this by taking away her Ipad she stormed out of the room and jumped up and down trying to make some kind of noise. She only managed to calm down once she had fell asleep on the landing of all places. Nina @ Spencers Arc.
  • I ignored my daughter when she had a tantrum about her name. Well, it wasn’t entirely her fault. It was because his brother was teasing her about her name. All throughout the trip home, because she got no one to blame but me, She keeps crying and begging for me to change her name. – Veronica @ My Parenting Journey
  • My toddler hates when I put my hair in a bun and has a full on meltdown if I emerge with my hair tied up. I have to ignore her for at least twenty minutes before she will accept my hairdo and calm down. – Kate @ Ever After with Kids

For more funny tantrum stories, read Georgina Gardner’s blog which has some great anecdotes. Spoiler alert: pretty much anything could annoy a toddler on the brink of a tantrum.

But whatever you do, the best thing is to stifle those giggles, ignore the tantrum and treat your little one with empathy and understanding. Those little people are learning some huge life lessons every single day, so remembering to cut them some slack when they are carrying out their tantrum can be hugely beneficial. As part of my 2018 goals, I vowed to ‘continue to be a good parent’, and as part of this I will learn how to have patience with tantrums. This phase won’t last forever!

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