6 things to do when your toddler is throwing a tantrum

Posted in Behaviour and Discipline.

The other day my toddler had a meltdown at the airport. He was screaming over having to ride in the stroller and was arching his little body as I struggled to buckle him in. In the end he won. He escaped my violation of his freedom and made a break from me.

Then he sped-toddled headfirst into some people pacing with their little wheely suitcases. But some tantrums are like that, right? They are a beast of their own and impossible to control. Sigh.

The one thing to always remember when your toddler loses it, is that his behaviour is not a reflection of your parenting. In toddler world, a tantrum is one of the only ways he knows how to express his anger or frustration.

Here are some suggestions for dealing with tantrums which I hope will help us all from also having a meltdown when our little one does.

1. Beware of the typical tantrum triggers

When my boys are tired or hungry, a tantrum is inevitable. I’ve gotten into the habit of always having snacks in my handbag and also prioritising their day sleeps – this is as much for my sanity as theirs. I know now that ruling out these two triggers can mean the difference between a pleasant shopping expedition and the supermarket trip from hell.

toddler tantrum about food

2. Distract, distract, distract

Thankfully toddlers have a short attention span and are easily distracted. Learn what things will switch your little one’s focus and you may be able to quickly defuse his tanty. Become a master in the art of distraction and your life will become easier.

3. Help him

It’s important to remember that when your little one becomes emotional, he’s not being naughty. He just simply can’t control his frustration and has no other way of communicating his feelings. Help him to work through these by acknowledging his problem and talking to him about it.

If he’s old enough you can also help him to find a solution. For example, if he’s wailing over his brother playing with the red firetruck, say, “I know you want the red fire truck so how about giving your brother the green garbage truck and  swapping?” If a solution can’t be found, then comfort and distract him.

4. Work through a manipulative tantrum

The world revolves around your toddler as far as she’s concerned, so she will throw a fit over simply not getting her own way. When this happens, you have two options:

You can either ignore her, sending the message that a tantrum over not getting her own way gets her nowhere, or if you think she’s too little to understand this, you can try and distract her.

5. Cuddle him firmly

When your little one has completely derailed and his tantrum has erupted into a full-blown meltdown, hold him firmly (even if he squirms). The deep pressure is calming. Use a soothing voice and reassure him that even though he’s lost control, you are there to help him to regain it.

Toddler tantrum

6. Try to calm yourself down

Sometimes it’s hard not to also lose it when our little one does, especially when we are so tired and over it ourselves! It’s important then to learn to recognise our own limits.

If you feel yourself about to explode, try to calm down. Breath deeply or even close the door on yourself until you have regained control and can think and react to him calmly.


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