Toddler having a meltdown in the confectionery aisle? Throws a fit because her brother looks in her direction or you cut the sandwich wrong? We’ve all been there. Buckle up parents, here’s how to deal with toddler tantrums!
Have yourself a highly spirited child? Chances are, your toddler is just being a toddler. Tantrums come part and parcel with the age. A phase some might say. A long, exhausting, trashing about kind of phase. Give us strength.
Good news though, while toddler tantrums are inevitable (and we tell you why below!), with some planning they’re sometimes avoidable – and if it’s all too late and you’re in the thick of a “tanty”, we’ve got some advice on what you can do there too!
Why does my sweet toddler turn into a rage-fuelled monster?
You might think your tot saves up that rage to unleash when in public – and you’d be a little bit right.
Much like an adult, kids aged 1 to 3 years old often have tantrums because they’re tired, out of their familiar comfort zone or just plain #hangry. Let’s face it, hunger is often the root of undesirable behaviour, no matter what your age. Toddler tantrums can also stem from not getting their own way, needing to share a toy or lack of a parent’s attention.
In short, a toddler tantrum is pretty much your child expressing frustration, minus the luxury of a filter. Alas, it’s not forever. While tots don’t have a filter for their frustration at this tender age, they DO learn to deal with their feelings as they get older. So we must be patient and ride this storm out together.
The calm before the toddler tantrum storm
If you know trouble is brewing here are some quick-fire ways to avoid and/or extinguish the fierce flame that is a toddler meltdown:
Positive attention and reinforcement – catch your little one doing the right thing and praise the absolute bejeezus out of them for it. Praise reinforces acts of good and encourages them to do more of it!
Give them a choice and a teeny bit of control – ask them “do you want to help tidy up before or after lunch?”. They know the expectation of cleaning up is coming, but they can choose when.
One-on-one time – if a new sibling is causing some ruffled feathers, take time out while baby is napping to spend some quality one-on-one time with your toddler, they miss you!
Reduce temptation – if toddlers aren’t allowed to have something, remove it from their reach AND their view. From a box of chocolates to your new set of Global kitchen knives, all off-limits items provide less toddler drama if they’re safely tucked away.
Distraction – holy mother of toddlers, the distraction technique is invaluable. We all become masters of the quick change of subject or engaging the quick handbag toy to distract a broody tot from imploding. But be warned about using a screen for distraction. You can find out more about the hot topic of screen time for kids here.
Pick your battles – don’t be hard on your toddler just because you’re the parent. If what they’re wanting isn’t completely insane, it’s ok to give in on occasion. Just not always!
Feed them – offering a snack not only distracts the child, but it can also calm any frustration.
Know when enough is enough for your child – if your tot is overdue for a nap, they’ve had a busy morning or aren’t well, don’t push it. Inevitably the cracks of a cranky tot will begin to show very quickly (around aisle 3).
What to do if your tot throws one helluva tantrum
If it’s too late and your tot has engaged their full-blown tantrum throwing mode, here’s what to do.
Remain calm – tough one I know. When you want to throw yourself on the floor as well, it’s important to remain calm. Don’t fuel the enraged toddler fire with ranting, raving or laughing at them. Be cool as a cucumber on the outside.
Ignore the behaviour – yep. Again, tricky. If your toddler is demanding your undivided attention, a million dollar Lego set or doesn’t want to do something and you’ve rationally explained to them the reason you said no, it’s time to just ignore their badgering.
Change of scenery – if your child is arching their back in disdain of being put in a shopping trolley seat, temporarily abort the mission. Similarly, if your kid does start throwing their weight around where it’s not safe to do so, pick them up and move them to a safe environment (you’re not the first, nor the last person to haul their child out of a shop).
Accept that this is your child’s lack of tools – while a toddler tantrum can be embarrassing or make us angry and frustrated ourselves, no one is at fault here mamas! Your little guy simply does not have the tools yet to reason with his emotions. It’ll come!
Ignore onlookers – unfortunately, some people just can’t help themselves. Unsolicited advice, disgusted or pitiful looks will come your way thick and fast if your tot tantrums in public. Ignore them, they can go about their business around you!
After you’ve weathered the toddler tantrum storm
When your child has come out the other side and has returned to their sweet selves, resist the temptation to tell them off or hold a grudge. Be like Frozen’s Elsa and just “let it go”. Give a reassuring cuddle and tell them you love them. Even if it is through gritted teeth. Let it gooooooo…
Finally, remember we’re all in this parenting gig together. Toddler tantrums? They’ll pass. Like, eventually.