You know when it’s about to start. The foot stomp, the flushed face, the clenched fists … then boom, toddler meltdown. While tantrums can happen for a million weird and not-so-wonderful reasons, there are some typical scenarios that will bring out the worst in every toddler. Luckily, there are a couple of simple things you can do to help weather the storm.
1. I’m exhausted
You’ve been out all day, and there hasn’t been time for the usual nap. Or maybe your toddler didn’t sleep well last night and is feeling worn out by lunchtime. Either way, fatigue is a major tantrum trigger and it can mean your child falls apart over the simplest of things.
So, if it’s late afternoon and your little one’s dissolving over a badly cut sandwich or the wrong socks, then it might be time to rethink your schedule. That could mean scaling back on outings, or just changing things up so you’re not doing the grocery shopping right before nap time.
Naturally, there will be times when you have to be out at awkward times, so before the tired-tantrum hits, just give your toddler the opportunity to nap in the car, carrier or stroller – and remember to pack a toy or comforter to help ease the transition to sleep.
2. I’m hungry
Toddlers are so busy exploring the world, sometimes it seems they don’t have the time or the concentration to sit down and eat a full meal. Add to this the fact that their appetite fluctuates from day to day, and it can be really difficult anticipating your toddler’s food needs, particularly if they’re fussy eaters. Enter: the epic hunger meltdown.
One way around this is to keep healthy snacks on hand. Try and pick tasty snacks that are going to quickly satisfy those little pangs of hunger quickly and continue to fuel your toddler until the next meal.
3. I’m not ready
Birthday party in the morning, grocery shopping after lunch, play date in the afternoon … your toddler’s been so good all day, but then you make one last stop to the playground and they lose it. In a big way. Sometimes we expect so much from our little ones, but toddlers definitely don’t run well on busy schedules.
In fact, they live very much for the now, so try to avoid rushing, build in lots of transition time between activities, and pull out the old 10-minute warning so your child knows what’s happening and when.
4. I need your attention
There’s a reason why phone calls are universally difficult with toddlers around. As soon as your attention is diverted, they’ll do anything to get it back, and sometimes this means a please-get-off-the-phone-and-play-with-me tantrum. Yep, your child needs to learn that sometimes you’re busy, but in this situation, ignoring their cries can often intensify the tantrum … not easy when you’re taking an important call. Diversions can help, like toys, books and snacks. If that fails, try taking a moment to talk to your toddler, explain that you’ll be off the phone soon and then you can play together. Over time, they’ll learn that you will be there for them as soon as you hang up.
5. It’s MINE!
If your toddler has an older sibling, you’ll find this particular tantrum is on high rotation. Sharing is a difficult concept to grasp when you’re only two years old and can’t communicate properly, so no wonder there’s screaming and crying every time someone takes their toy.
The best way to start teaching your child to share is to talk about it. Play games that involve taking turns and acknowledge your child when they do manage to share well. Over time, you’ll see that the sharing tantrums decrease as your child gets better at handling their feelings and communicating their needs.
Staying cool and calm in the face of a toddler tantrum takes a bit of practise and lots of deep breaths. But if you’re mindful of your child’s turning points and have the right tools on hand to help them through it, you’ll breeze through the terrible twos in no time.