Some mornings, your tiny toddler decides to throw a full-blown tantrum because the laws of gravity refuse to cooperate with them.
A tiny bowl of their favourite cereal tipped over, and now they must express their displeasure at the unfairness of life.
Or perhaps, it was you.
Perhaps, you are the reason for this sudden outburst. In your naiveté, you tried to reason with them and refused to let them take a bath in the dishwasher with the other spoons. Tsk, tsk, When will you learn?
Like the calm before the storm, you felt the air go silent. The pressure built up, and before you knew it, you were caught off guard in the parking lot without an umbrella or any backup.
First came the big tears, then the high pitched screams that shattered your eardrums. And then you wondered, “How is it that you missed the warning signs from the meteorologists for what is clearly a Category 5 storm?”
And then it hits you, you are the meteorologist.
A few seconds later, the peaceful calm in your warm kitchen is replaced by screams that can be heard from 10 blocks away.
You sigh and momentarily ponder your next move. Do you demand that they be reasonable, negotiate, bribe them, or swoop them up for a hug?
Here are the 7 best ways to deal with toddler tantrums, including the things to avoid:
What should you not do during tantrums?
A tantrum may as well be classified as a Category 5 storm. So here are some things you should avoid when you suddenly find yourself in the middle of one and need help dealing with toddler tantrums:
Do not ask them to calm down
Nobody calms down when they’re angry simply because you say ‘calm down.’ If anything, it just makes them madder. It is like trying to put out an electrical fire with a bucket of water. BAD, BAD, BAD IDEA.
Step away from the bucket, and whatever you do, don’t say words like ‘calm down’ or ‘stop crying.’ or any other useless instruction that expects a 3-year-old to control his emotions.
Do not react
According to one study, your toddler should throw at least one tantrum per day. It’s perfectly normal and healthy for your toddler to have one meltdown every 24 hours.
And while, that stat may not work for you, remember, you can’t fight fire with fire, so don’t react to the situation by screaming or shouting. It will only end up with two humans having a meltdown.
Take it as an opportunity to teach our children to self-regulate.
Don’t ignore it
Don’t ignore your toddler’s tantrum and expect them to cope with it themselves. Don’t send them to their room or punish them by putting them in a corner. Imagine how you would feel when you are so overwhelmed and frustrated, but then find yourself being turned away from the only people you love.
Don’t take it personally
A tantrum at home is easier to handle than a tantrum at the park. The judgmental eyes of other parents will have you feeling miserable like the tantrum is a representation of your parenting.
It’s not. It doesn’t mean you haven’t disciplined your child or that you are not a good parent.
Don’t take a tantrum personally. A tantrum doesn’t have anything to do with you or your parenting style.
What are 3 tips for handling temper tantrums in toddlers?
So what is a tantrum? Imagine having this tiny little bucket. Now add a lot of water to it so much that it spills over. The water represents these big emotions. Now watch it overflow. That’s exactly what a tantrum is. It’s when kids are unable to understand and cope with their big feelings that they erupt.
This brings us to things to do when your toddler is having a meltdown.
Understand the why
Try to see what triggered your child. Sometimes it is not the rubber ducky slipping into the tub but a series of incidents that bought them to this point. Perhaps a series of events convinced them that things were not going their way and that they had little control over their surroundings. Perhaps they were upset before, and this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.
A toddler yelling or stomping is an expression of their anger, while screaming is a sign of distress. Understanding why your toddler is upset can help both of you communicate more effectively.
How do I stop my toddler from screaming tantrums?
Hug your toddler and let them cry it out.
The fifth way to help your toddler is to hug them and let them cry. The first time you try this, it’ll take some patience, but after a few tries, you’ll notice how your toddler calms down. Instead of screaming
Talk about the BIG feelings
Once they’ve calmed down, you can validate their feelings. “You feel upset because I didn’t let you sit in the dishwasher.”
Show them what to do instead
Encourage your toddler to express themselves, and one of the best ways to do this is to explain how you are feeling when you are getting upset.
You are putting out fires at work, going through your never-ending to-do list and just about to lose it because of the stress when your toddler spills coffee over your paperwork.
Instead of shouting, take a deep breath and ask them to give you five minutes to explain the emotions you are feeling.
“Baby, can you give Mama five minutes because she’s very upset? I will just try to take a deep breath and feel better. Can I get a hug?”
Even as adults, we find ourselves in situations where we are frustrated and unable to handle our emotions. We either shove our feelings down or lash out. Toddler tantrums are an excellent opportunity to teach our children how to handle their emotions.
As parents, we are always learning and evolving and we are always looking for ways to better help and nurture our children. If you are looking for advice on navigating tantrums or sibling rivalry, check out Stephanie Wicker’s courses on Kiin Courses. A child behaviour expert, parenting educator, and counsellor, Stephanie has successfully guided families through early childhood behaviour for over 15 years.