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Calming the Storm: How to deal with toddler tantrums

TantrumThere’s not much worse than your two-year-old have a full-scale, screaming, crying, red-faced nuclear meltdown in the middle of the toy department because you said she can’t get a My Little Pony. Or the grocery store because you said she can’t get gummy bears. Or the pool because you said it was time to go. As you probably well know, I could go on for awhile…

But as frustrating and embarrassing as tantrums are to deal with, your child is learning about emotions and how to handle them, just like he learned to walk and talk. And as with learning any new skill, it’s not always a smooth ride at first. Add to this the fact that young children want what they want, when they want it and you have the perfect recipe for tantrums!

Toddlers are smarter than they’re given credit for. Remember that they’re watching your every move and trying to figure out what works best to help them get the things they want. Even though it might seem impossible that they would manufacture that hurricane of a tantrum just to get an ice cream, there is some truth to it. In their minds, if it worked before, they will try it again. That means if you give in even once, you’re setting yourself up for disaster.

Most tantrums are triggered by frustration (“I want something and mom/dad/friend is stopping me”), an important tip for dealing with them is to minimize frustration before it escalates.

Here are some examples:

  1. If you see your child getting irritated with a toy or game, step in and distract her with something new.
  2. If your toddler is triggered by the word “no,” find an alternative like “not now,” or “you can do that/have that later.”
  3. If you know your child is tired or feeling a little under the weather, try to avoid taking him out to a store or for a visit with friends. A tired or sick toddler is far more likely to fly off the handle if things don’t go his way.

Avoiding triggers can help, but your child will likely still have tantrums from time to time. If it happens, just let it happen. Make sure she’s safe and that there isn’t anything nearby that she can hurt herself on when she’s thrashing around (cups or glasses, hard blocks on the floor, etc.).

Even though it’s hard, just try to ignore it. If you’re in public, most people passing by will just sympathize with you, because they’ve been in your shoes before. This is not the time to talk it through with your child or negotiate with her. She is incapable of being reasonable, just like anyone who’s really upset and angry.

Once your toddler is calm, give him a hug if he needs it, and carry on with your day. Let it go, and don’t bring it up three hours later and try to discuss it. Most likely he will have long forgotten what he was even upset about. Just remember to stay calm and never, ever give in and buy the ice cream, let him watch one more show, or whatever caused the tantrum. Otherwise, you’re in for a daily battle… with a worthy opponent. ☺

Dealing with toddlers can sometimes be…. exhausting. If you’re looking for a simple, no-nonsense guide on how to quickly eliminate problem behaviors like tantrums, fighting, not listening, and whining, make sure to check out Kids: The Manual.

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Dana’s Sleep Blog

Straight talk about sleep, parenting,
babies, toddlers, relationships… and
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My blog is a great place to find opinions, advice, the occasional rant, and some great videos about sleep.

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