Parenting tips on controlling a toddler tantrum

We’ve all been there, those uncontrollable moments of sheer rage coming from our usually cute little angels. Often caused by something completely trivial met with the kind of reaction you may expect having told them they will never eat chocolate again.

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Robbie is 20 months old now and in full toddler mode. He charges around the house all day and is generally an exceptionally jolly little guy. Like all toddlers though, there are times when his emotions get the better of him so I thought I would share some great tips on how to control these outbursts.

As with so many problems in life, the key to solving problems is realising the cause of the issue. Tantrums and full blown meltdowns are just a normal part of being a toddler and they are caused by a lack of development in the brain. This logical part of the brain does not fully develop until age 25, which gives some understanding of why young kids can lose their cool so easily even up to a later age.

When combining a lack of communication skills and the ability to clearly reason it all results in an explosion of emotions designed to ensure their parents know just how angry and upset they are. Anything can trigger a tantrum, but the main causes are tiredness or hunger.

My toddler has a regular eruption just before bedtime every night when we clear away his toys and activities. We have a set routine of ‘quiet time’ just before bed where he will sit or lay with us and read a book together. The explosion usually starts when the last toy is away and he goes to his box to take them back out and is told that evil ‘no’ word.

So how do you deal with a toddler tantrum?

There is really no single right way to deal with a tantrum but there are several wrong ways. The child is simply expressing their frustration and to shout back will do nothing but escalate the situation.

It is also really easy to just give in and to allow the child to have or to do whatever had prompted the outburst. Though this will solve the problem in the short term, having a child that uses tantrums as a way of getting what they want will open you up to years of pain so just stay strong.

The simplest way to deal with a meltdown is to consider how you might handle an adult showing extreme frustration. Of course you would not shout at them, ignore them or show your own anger too much. The natural reaction is to give them a hug and to talk to them about why they feel this way and toddlers are no different.

Talk calmly to your child. They may not be able to talk back that coherently depending on their age but it is vital to show that you do understand why they are upset and to explain the reasoning for your actions. Despite the lack of speech, they can understand you and this may calm them down in itself.

A hug can help too. Though some will feel that this is rewarding bad behaviour the reality is that this will comfort your child and show them that they are loved. They are not getting their way but this is not because of a lack of love, just that the what they wanted at that time is not a good option right now.

If a little love and understanding is really not doing the job, there are other options. Since we are dealing with emotional turmoil in their head, a simple way is to switch the focus of the brain. There are plenty of ways to do this, a cup of water or a snack can do the job as long as this was not the initial reason for the tantrum itself.

A toy can help here but is not necessary. Smiling and laughing whilst interacting can change the mood pretty quickly so even a few silly faces or a impromptu game of peek-a-boo can change the mood. Much like seeing somebody yawn can make you feel tired, your kid seeing smiles will make them happy and smile too.

If you get angry and frustrated at their tantrum it will last far longer than if you play and laugh with them. To put it simply, now is the time to reflect positive emotions to counter the negativity in their brain.

If drastic mood swings are a continuous problem then it may be a good idea to teach your kids about tantrums when they are in a happier place. Once the situation itself is finished, always take time to calmly explain why they did not get what they wanted on this occasion and how the tantrum did not help them. There are also a great variety of children’s story books available that will help to teach them to control their emotions better. The book below is an excellent example, click the image to see a wider available range.

Tiger has a tantrum book.  A kids story about how to deal with anger.

Of course this is just a quick guide on a subject that can be covered in far more depth. Each and every child is different and some parents face much tougher challenges regarding tantrums and meltdowns than others. If you have any thoughts on the subject please drop me a comment below. If you still need more help controlling tantrums, I would recommend checking out this excellent book below which goes into far more detail, just click the image to see more.

The tantrum survival guide book linking to an Amazon website

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2 responses to “Parenting tips on controlling a toddler tantrum”

  1. The best tantrum advice I had when large boy was about that age was that you only need to be 2 seconds more patient (or stubborn) than them. We’re the adults, we can do that. It achieves several things: models calmness and patience, doesn’t make them more stressed cos mum or dad is upset too, and teaches them that they cannot control you with tantrums (yeah right). Good theory, very hard to practice.

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