Tantrums are a normal part of toddler development, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to deal with. In this article, I’m going to show you how to deal with toddler tantrums so you can keep your cool while helping your toddler learn important developmental skills.
In This Article
- 6 Easy Ways To Deal With Toddler Tantrums
- What Causes Tantrums To Happen?
- How To Prevent Tantrums From Happening In The First Place
- Coping With Tantrums As A Parent
- Tantrum Warning Signs
- When Will My Toddler Grow Out Of Throwing Tantrums?
- What To Do Once The Tantrum Is Over
6 Easy Ways To Deal With Toddler Tantrums
- Avoid giving attention to non-ideal behaviors
Some parents make the mistake of giving their toddlers attention when their toddler is throwing a tantrum. This can actually reinforce the tantrum behavior and make it more likely to happen again in the future. Instead, try to ignore the tantrum and focus on rewarding positive behaviors.
Ignoring the tantrums means you go about what you were doing while your child throws their tantrum. Keep in mind that ignoring your toddler’s tantrum is not the same as ignoring your toddler.
Ignoring your toddler means you are emotionally, physically, and mentally withdrawn from your toddler, and they are being left alone for a long period of time.
Ignoring the behavior means you are not giving your attention to their non-ideal behaviors, and you are going about what you were previously doing before the tantrum started.
Using this method, toddlers’ tantrums and fits may tend to increase during the moment since their parents are not paying attention to their fits or giving them what they want.
Once your toddler has used all their tricks in their books trying to get your attention they will eventually calm down. Once your toddler has calmed down then calmly address them by saying something like, “Thank you for calming down, do you need help getting your shoes on?”
Your toddler will eventually learn that throwing a tantrum is not going to give them the attention they are looking for.
2. Time-out Followed By The Time-in Method
Over the years time-outs have been a method to punish a child for their negative behavior. Using time-outs as a punishment is not an effective method of discipline since a child isn’t learning what behaviors and actions are appropriate.
Time-outs become effective when they are followed up with the Time-in Method. First, you want to use a time-out when your toddler needs a new environment and a break from the situation. During time outs, do not leave your toddler alone. You are still present with your toddler in time out with them.
Once your toddler has calmed down then you can move on to the “Time-in method.” Which is a brief explanation of what they did wrong and why it was not okay.
After the brief explanation, you want to end on a positive note such as, “I know you can do it,” or, “I know next time you will make a better choice.” Reconnect with a hug or a high five and then move on with the day.
3. Stay Present By Using Simple words
A toddler’s tantrum is not a time to rationalize, especially with toddlers who are younger than 3.
When a child is 3 and older they start to understand rationalization and parents can start rationalizing with their child once their child has calmed down. In the heat of the moment, stay present with your toddler using simple phrases such as, “I am here for you,” or, “Would you like a hug?”
One way to help your child calm down is by modeling calmness. When you can remain calm during these moments with your toddler they are likely to calm down much quicker.
4. Connection Before Correction
Before any lesson can be taught, parents need to first connect with their toddlers. If your toddler is throwing things or hitting during their tantrum, avoid scolding your toddler and instead say, “I can see that you are angry and it’s not okay to hit.”
It’s okay for parents to acknowledge their toddler’s feelings but not approve of their non-ideal behaviors or actions.
Address your toddler’s feelings and set boundaries on inappropriate actions. Toddlers need to know that it’s okay to feel any emotion they are feeling, but not all actions are appropriate.
5. Respond Instead Of React
When a toddler is in the middle of a tantrum, they are not in the state of mind to listen to reason. It can be helpful for parents to remember this when they are responding to their toddler’s tantrum instead of reacting.
Toddlers will not understand or listen to anything that is being said during their tantrums. Once your toddler has calmed down, start to talk about what happened and use the Time-in Method mentioned previously.
6. Tell Your Toddler What To Do Instead Of What Not To Do
This is a very helpful strategy when it comes to preventing tantrums as it can often prevent a tantrum from happening, especially if your toddler gets easily triggered by the word “no” or “don’t”.
Instead of telling your toddler “stop hitting,” you say, “please keep your hands to yourself,” or, instead of saying, “stop throwing food off the table,” say, “Food stays on your plate or goes in your mouth.”
Toddlers are much more likely to respond better when told what to do instead of what not to do. Now that we have covered how to deal with tantrums let’s go into what causes tantrums to happen.
What Causes Tantrums To Happen?
Sometimes tantrums seem random. For example: Maybe your toddler threw a tantrum because you handed them a blue cup instead of the yellow cup, or if you put on the wrong shoes. Even though some tantrums seem random and happen for no reason, there is always a cause or a reason behind your toddler’s tantrums.
Here is a list of some possible triggers:
- Overly tired
- The word “no”
- A transition such as being dropped off at daycare or being picked up from daycare
- Independence – such as not being able to make their own choices
When your toddler throws a tantrum, look for possible reasons why your toddler is throwing their tantrum. When you can meet your toddler’s needs then there is no need for your toddler to throw a tantrum.
How To Prevent Tantrums From Happening In The First Place
Tantrums are going to happen. They are normal developmental phases toddlers experience However, there are many ways that you can help decrease the frequency of toddlers’ tantrums. The best way to deal with a tantrum is by preventing it from happening in the first place. There are several things that parents can do to prevent tantrums:
1. Have A Set Routine
Toddlers thrive off of routines and knowing what comes next. When there is a set routine then your toddler knows what to expect which can help prevent tantrums. Toddlers often throw tantrums when there is a change in their routine or if they are unsure of what is going to happen next.
2. Anticipate Triggers and Plan Ahead
As a parent, you know your toddler best and what things can trigger a tantrum. If you know that your toddler is going to have a tough time transitioning from playing with their friends to coming home, then try and give them a heads up before it happens.
You can do this by setting a timer on your phone and as it gets closer give your toddler a 5-minute, 3-minute, and 2-minute heads up. Toddlers do not like surprises especially when it comes to change. Plan a head by making sure your toddler gets their nap, is fed, or has snacks when away from home.
When you plan ahead and prepare for a possible tantrum you will much more likely be able to prevent it. You can do this by setting expectations beforehand.
For example: if your toddler usually throws a tantrum while you are grocery shopping because they want candy.
Plan ahead by making sure your toddler is fed before going shopping, has their favorite toy to help entertain themselves, and set the expectation that you are not buying any treats and that you are only getting what’s on the shopping list.
If your toddler asks or throws a tantrum for a treat. State the boundaries again, acknowledge feelings, and then redirect their behavior.
3. Avoid Situations That Could Trigger A Tantrum
There will be times when you cannot prevent a tantrum from happening, no matter how hard you try. However, there are things to avoid that could trigger a tantrum.
If your toddler is hungry, avoid going grocery shopping or being in places where they would see food that they want but cannot have. If your toddler is getting overly tired, try to avoid being in situations where they would be around other children, or in places with a lot of stimulation.
Toddlers can often throw tantrums when they are overwhelmed by their surroundings. If you know that your toddler is going to be in a situation that could trigger a tantrum, avoid it if possible.
4. Allow Your Toddler To Make Choices
Toddlers like to feel like they have control and are often independent. When you allow your toddler to make choices, they feel like they have some control. This helps prevent tantrums.
For example, if you are going to the grocery store, ask your toddler if they want to help you push the cart or hold the shopping list. The key to making this work is by only giving two choices. Offering too many choices can lead to your toddler being overwhelmed. So instead, offer only two choices!
5. Say “YES” More Often
There are many ways to tell your toddler “no” without actually saying the words “no.” If your toddler asks for candy, but you want them to eat their food first, instead of saying, “No you can have candy after you eat your food,” say, “Yes, you can have a piece of candy once you have finished your food.”
Toddlers hear the word “no” often enough, and by saying “yes” more you are acknowledging what they want while still getting them to do what you need them to do.
Another way to help prevent tantrums is by…
6. Helping Your Toddler Understand Their Emotions
Toddlers don’t have a very big vocabulary and are still learning words that describe what they are feeling. As a parent, help your toddler understand their emotions by teaching them descriptive words for what they might be feeling.
For example, if your toddler is angry, say, “You look like you are feeling really angry right now, is there something that has made you upset?” By helping your toddler understand their emotions, you are teaching them how to cope with their feelings and how to express themselves without having a tantrum.
Coping With Tantrums As A Parent
It is normal for parents to feel frustrated, embarrassed, and helpless when their child is having a tantrum. The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone and that all parents go through this.
The best thing you can do as a parent is to stay calm. I know it is easier said than done, but try and take a few deep breaths and count to 10 in your head. It’s also important to not give in to what your child wants just because they are having a tantrum. This will only reinforce the tantrum behavior.
Tantrum Warning Signs
There are usually warning signs that a tantrum is about to happen. If you can identify the warning signs, you will be able to prevent the tantrum from happening. The most common warning signs are:
- Expressing anger with words or in their body language
- Going limp
- and stomping their feet
You may also be wondering…
When Will My Toddler Grow Out Of Throwing Tantrums?
Many parents look forward to the tantrum phase ending. The good news is that tantrums usually peak around 18 months to 2 years old, and then they start to become less frequent around 3 years of age.
However, some toddlers might continue to have tantrums until they are 4 years old. Handling tantrums when a child is older is not much different from handling tantrums when your child was a toddler. There are only a few things for preschool-age children that you want to do differently.
What To Do Once The Tantrum Is Over
Once the tantrum is over give positive attention once the tantrum has passed. Toddlers need to know that they are still loved, even when they have a tantrum. This is also a good time to talk about what happened and why it was not ok to have a tantrum. For example, “I know you are upset, and it is not ok to throw things.”
It is important to talk to your child about what happened. It’s important to remember to not shame your child when they throw a tantrum. Instead, use it as a learning opportunity. Help your child understand what they were feeling, why they might have felt that way, and what appropriate behavior and action would be in that situation.
Lastly, you want to move on. There is no point in dwelling on your toddler’s tantrum. Plus, toddlers have a short attention span and once the tantrum is over they will likely forget what they were even upset about in the first place so continue to move on with your day.
By following these five easy steps, you will be on your way to preventing or at least minimizing toddler tantrums. Now there are a lot more tips when dealing with tantrums than what was covered in this article. Such as knowing how to set boundaries and stick to them, how to enforce boundaries with love, and how to teach toddlers how to express their behaviors appropriately.
If you are interested in learning more about dealing with your toddler’s tantrums as well as how to set boundaries that stick, how positively discipline your child and how to prevent power struggles check out my book called Parenting Without Drama.