How To Deal With Toddler Tantrums

By the end of this post you’ll understand more gentle ways to deal with toddler tantrums, maintaining connection with your kids yet still being able to keep boundaries….

When your babies become toddlers they start to have really big scary emotions.  On top of this they have very limited resources as to how to deal with these emotions.

Tantrums are an essential part of being a toddler.  It’s a build up of frustrations that eventually spill over into a tantrum and it is very healthy to let it out.  They are doing what comes naturally, something we, as adults, have mainly forgotten how.

There is a great article on toddler tantrums from Mothering Magazine that really explains the reason they are essential in your child’s development.

For now lets look at:

How To Handle Toddler Tantrums

  • The most important thing is to be there for them when they tantrum, if they want you to be.  Remain present even from a distance to make sure they don’t hurt themselves.
  • Don’t try and fix things for them, or tell them not to cry.  This will negate their experience.  Allow them to have their moment.
  • If your in a public place maybe you can carry them to somewhere more discreet if possible.  But most importantly, allow the cycle of emotions to complete because this will allow them to reconnect fully with you again and have healthier emotional selves.
  • It’s a good time to practice the skills of Gentle Parenting or Non Violent Communication, (NVC).  Acknowledge what they are feeling.  For example, instead of saying, ‘It’s OK, no need to cry, I said we have to go now.’  You can acknowledge their feelings with, ‘You want to stay and play and have fun, but we have to leave.  It’s not nice to be taken away from having so much fun.’
  • If they are a little older you can name the emotion they may be feeling.  ‘You look like you’re very upset right now.  You want to stay and play but we have to leave.’  You may need to repeat this a few times before the crying or the tantrum subsides.  However, you’re not saying these things in order to stop the tantrum, but it may stop because of it.

This kind of communication is great because it allows your children to feel heard and understood by you.

Afterwards you will probably  find yourself dealing with a much more content and pleasing little one because you have allowed them to release all the tensions.  On top of that you will have built connection with your children, rather than disconnected from their needs.

What About My Reactions?

Its not always easy to stay relaxed and serene in the middle of the supermarket check out with a screaming 2 year old.  But here are 5 tips to help you through the most challenging ones so you can engage them in the conscious communication we mentioned earlier.

1. Breathe.  Close your eyes if you have to and take a deep breath, count to 10.

2. Instead of focusing on how their screaming makes you feel; embarassed, angry, stressed.  Try and have compassion for their young and still immature feelings.  They are learning how these things called feelings work and it may take them sometime to get them under control.

3. With every tantrum, remember, that’s one less you have to handle.

4. Look at your reactions in private, and try and understand what it is about the tantruming that makes you react so stongly or loose your own temper.

5.  It is perfectly normal, and your child’s tantrums don’t reflect on your ability as a parent.  This is a good one to remember when you’re getting stares in the queue at the checkout!

Let me know your own tips for dealing with tantrums in the comments below, would love to know what you think!  :)

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Emma Combes

Emma helps parents overcome the automatic negative reactions that are stopping them from parenting consciously and with love through her coaching practice. She also helps parents live the most awesome life in all areas, so they can know they were the best role model they could be for their children.

  • http://www.stopthetantrums.com Bill Corbett

    Awesome, awesome, awesome!!! For once it is refreshing to read advice like yours that matches my own thinking. Too many professionals tell parents to MAKE their children take the tantrum to another room, sending the message that your emotions are not important and should be stopped. Thank you Emma!

    • http://www.consciousmama.com Emma Combes @ Consciousmama

      Thanks for your comment Bill.  Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been ‘away’ on maternity leave. :)

  • http://www.joyofgivingbirth.com Tomica

    Being a mother of seven I've sure had my share of tantrums. Though we have age gaps being my oldest is 17 my fifth oldest is 11 and then I have a 2 year old and 5 month old. So far I've been spared the tantrums. But I think it's because the older ones always have him doing something. Following you from linkedin pregnancy experiences.

    Tomica
    http://www.truthfulspeaking.blogspot.com
    http://www.joyofgivingbirth.com

    • http://www.consciousmama.com Emma Combes @ Consciousmama

      Thanks Tomica, love your sites by the way!

  • jennalogy

    Thank you Emma, boy I have been having a rough time with my 1 year old lately.  This helps me feel better, I feel like a bad mom because he has tantrums!  I know that they are natural, but I guess I thought he would be perfect, and he isn’t so I blame myself.  Time to re-write that story!  thank you…………..

    • http://www.consciousmama.com Emma Combes @ Consciousmama

      Hi jennaolgy!  :)  Yes all perfectly normal and in fact a healthy part of toddler development.  He’s just doing the best he can at the moment to express the emotions he is feeling.  Your job as a mother is to model the emotional intelligence / maturity you want him to develop as he gets older.  :)  Which can be difficult I know, but it really gets us to look at ourselves, our perspective of the situation and the stories we tell ourselves.  It always comes back to us ;)

  • Squirley-pearl

    My problem is usually the my 2 year old then turns on the 1 year old. I don’t know how to prevent it because I can’t remover the 1 year old from the room and leave either one on their own. M x

    • http://www.consciousmama.com Emma Combes @ Consciousmama

      HI squirley!  :)  I have a similar situation at the moment so I feel your pain :)  I have a 2 yo and a 4 month old, and we are going through a bout of hitting etc.  Bill has got some great advice above, it really is about the 2 yo feeling  like he’s lost his special place in the family.  It must be hard for them to deal with a younger sibling coming along.  Like Bill said, and what I’ve found to work is trying to get as much 1 on 1 time with the older sibling and making them feel special.  Try to look at the needs behind the 2 yo’s behaviour when he is going into tantrum mode too.  Check for Hungry, tired, teething / ill, or needing mummy time.  If you watch for the signs before hand you can try and change the energy before it escalates.  :)

  • Bill

    To Squirley-pearl, your 2 yo may be feeling “dethroned.”  In a way, he may be saying, “how dare you make me share my mommy (my lifeline) with another being, now I’ve lost my sense of feeling special and being the star.”  Providing more one-on-one time with him and helping him feel like the “special big brother” (assuming you have boys) may solve some of this.  Some children react to any adult emotion chaos that may be going on around them, such as adults fighting or not getting along, even if you think the children aren’t aware of it… they are.  Please know that children don’t see each other as precious human beings, they sometimes see them as competition and say, “I better get mom to love me more than my sibling.”  If you need more help, I have more at http://www.StopTheTantrums.com.

    • http://www.consciousmama.com Emma Combes @ Consciousmama

      Thanks Bill for your advice!  I’ve checked out your site and great tv show you’ve got over there.  Is there any chance of us getting to view it here in the UK?  :)

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  • Victoria Bhattacharya

    3 tricks to handle toddler tantrums I have discovered from experience.

    Food- prevent low moods by keeping them well fed, they have tiny tummy and are growing so they need more snacks than we need.

    Sleep, they need plenty of sleep so try to time going out after they have had a nap, or in the morning before they get tired.

    Tickle- if I’m at home and a toddler starts a tantrum, change their mood by putting them on the ground and tickling them until they can’t stop laughing.

    Distraction- as above explain that they can / can’t have what ever they are after and then draw their attention into something else – a book a passing train or car or bird

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