How to defuse a toddler tantrum before they blow

Posted in Behaviour and Discipline.

Nothing strikes fear into the heart of a parent quite like a toddler tantrum. It’s awful for your child, upsetting for you and awkward for any innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire. 

So what can you do to defuse the situation before they self-destruct? At our recent Tackling The Toddler Years workshop, we put this hefty question to guest speaker, early childhood expert Stephanie Wicker from Simply Kids, and she came back with these golden tips.

1. Avoid further inflaming the situation

This can be difficult to do when you’re frustrated too, but Stephanie say it’s vital to avoid more negative language which can pour fuel on the fire.  

“[We need to] be mindful of how often we are accidentally introducing stressors such as ‘no’ and ‘not now’,” she explains. “By understanding your child is already having a hard emotional time in the moment, we can reframe that ‘no’ and try to focus on a ‘first / then’ or ‘when / then’ statement instead.”

So try tactics like ‘First, we’ll clean up your room. Then, we can go to the park.’

2. Remain calm

Again, this can be hard when your little one’s flipping their lid, but Stephanie insists it gets easier with practice and makes things better in the long run.

“The more escalated your child’s behaviour becomes the calmer you should become,” she explains. “If you get into the practice of remaining calm and being the self-soother for your child, you’re going to find that they begin to regulate much earlier on and become more resilient much earlier, thanks to you.”

3. Use a phrase to calm them

“Choose one sentence that validates their feelings, that’s not lecturing or teaching them,” suggests Stephanie.

“I want you to choose one sentence that calms you down and calms them down. My go-to is ‘I know this is hard’ … what you’ll find is when you have that one sentence of validation, it keeps you calm and it passes on that message of ‘I’m here, you are relevant and I’m going to wait’.”

4. Show your child how to self-regulate

Before things go nuclear, Stephanie advises finding the right moment to intervene and reassure your child. Usually this is when they’re catching their breath between rants.

“This is the moment to dive in and give them that quick hug and cuddle and say ‘I’m here for you, it’s okay I know this is hard’, whatever your go-to sentence is,” she suggests.

By using these smart tips, not only will it minimise their mini-meltdowns, it will teach your child to better manage their emotions as they get older.

“They’re going to start to learn this is how we regulate. This is how I’m going to self-soothe during my big emotions and it’s going to last with them long-term,” adds Stephanie. “This is a wonderful first step into the world of mindfulness and resilience for your toddler.”

This post is brought to you by The Green Elephant, an event partner for the Tackling The Toddler Years workshop.


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