How to Handle Toddler Tantrums

As a parent, you already know how stressful it can be when your little one throws a tantrum. You find yourself wondering why your sweet little angel has suddenly turned into a screaming monster. It is easy to feel helpless, angry, or embarrassed, especially when you are in a public place. You wish you could just make it stop.

If any of this sounds familiar, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Tantrums are a normal part of toddler development. They’re a way for toddlers to express new and unfamiliar emotions like anger or frustration. They are also a sign that your toddler is growing and learning more about themselves. 

So how exactly do you handle toddler tantrums without losing your cool? Here are some tips that will help you.

What are tantrums?

As we mentioned earlier, tantrums are a normal part of toddler development. They offer a simple and convenient way for toddlers to express complex emotions like anger, frustration, or sadness.

Toddlers have tantrums for many reasons. Sometimes they’re hungry or tired. Other times they are frustrated by something they can’t do or have. Sometimes they’re simply overwhelmed by their feelings or the environment. Or perhaps they just want your attention.

Tantrums can also look different depending on your child and the situation. Some toddlers cry, scream, kick, or hit. Others throw things, bite, or head-bang. In some situations, your toddler might also hold their breath, vomit, or faint.

Tantrums can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. Generally, they usually peak when your child is around 18 months to 3 years of age. They will then gradually decrease as your kiddo grows older and learns to communicate better.

Why do toddlers have tantrums?

Toddlers have tantrums because they’re still learning how to deal with their emotions. At such a young age, most toddlers don’t have the skills or the vocabulary to express their needs in appropriate ways. They also don’t have the ability to control their impulses. And they definitely do not understand other people’s perspectives.

Because of this, your toddler will have a tantrum as a way of trying to have some control over their life. Your little one is learning to be independent and assertive, but they also have limited choices. They’ll try to test the limits of their boundaries and challenge the rules often just to see what happens.

Toddlers may also have tantrums because they need your attention. They want to be reassured that you care about them and that you’re there for them. They want to feel safe in your relationship. They’ll therefore occasionally throw tantrums as a way of getting that reassurance. 

How to handle tantrums

Here are some tips for handling tantrums:

  • Stay calm: 

The first rule of dealing with tantrums is to stay calm. Easier said than done, right? But remember, your child is looking to you for guidance and support. If you react with anger or frustration, you’ll only make the situation worse. Instead, take a deep breath, lower your voice, and speak calmly and firmly. Don’t try to reason with your child or argue with them. Just acknowledge their feelings and let them know that you’re there for them.

  • Ignore the behavior: 

Sometimes, the best way to handle a tantrum is to ignore it. This doesn’t mean that you’re neglecting your child or that you don’t care about their feelings. It just means that you’re not giving them the attention that they’re seeking by acting out. 

By ignoring the behavior, you’re teaching your child that tantrums are not an effective way to get what they want. Of course, this only works if your child is in a safe place and not hurting themselves or others. If the tantrum could potentially be dangerous, then you need to intervene and remove them from the situation.

  • Distract and divert: 

Another strategy to handle tantrums is to distract and divert your child’s attention. This can be done by offering them something else to do or play with, changing the scenery, or making a silly joke or noise. 

The idea here is to break the cycle of negative emotions and help your child calm down. For example, if your child is throwing a fit because they don’t want to leave the park, you can say something like “Hey, look at that bird! What sound does it make?” or “Let’s race to the car! Ready, set, go!” This way, you’re making the transition more fun and less stressful for both of you.

  • Try to understand why your toddler is having a tantrum and offer solutions:

Look for clues in their behavior and their environment. Are they hungry or tired? Frustrated perhaps? Or are they overwhelmed by their feelings or the situation? Once you figure out the reason behind the tantrum, you can try to address it.

If possible, try to fix the problem or offer a solution. For example, if your toddler is hungry, give them a snack. If they’re frustrated by a toy, help them play with it or offer another one. This will likely bring the tantrum to a quick end. 

  • Give choices: 

As we mentioned before, one of the reasons why toddlers throw tantrums is because they want to have some control over their lives. They’re learning to be independent but they also have limited skills to communicate their needs. That’s why giving them choices can help reduce tantrums and increase cooperation. 

For example, instead of saying “It’s time to brush your teeth”, you can say “Do you want to brush your teeth with the blue toothbrush or the red one?” or “Do you want to brush your teeth before or after reading a story?” By giving them choices, you’re letting them feel involved and respected.

  • Praise good behavior: 

Finally, don’t forget to praise your child when they behave well. Positive reinforcement is much more effective than negative consequences in shaping your child’s behavior. When your child listens to you, follows directions, shares toys, or expresses their feelings in appropriate ways, make sure to acknowledge and appreciate their efforts. Say things like “Thank you for putting away your toys” or “I’m so proud of you for using your words”. This will boost your child’s self-esteem and motivate them to keep up the good work.

Final Thoughts

Toddler tantrums are inevitable and normal. Try to remember that they are not a reflection of your parenting skills or your child’s personality. They’re just a normal part of growing up.

As we have seen, there are several things you can do to help your toddler handle tantrums. First, it’s important to stay calm. If you get angry or frustrated, it will only make the tantrum worse. Second, try to understand why your toddler is having a tantrum. Once you know what’s causing the tantrum, you can start to address the issue. For example, if your toddler is having a tantrum because they’re tired, you can try to put them down for a nap. You can also try tactics like ignoring the behavior or distracting them and offering choices. 

With time and patience, you should be able to help your toddler learn how to handle tantrums in a healthy way like a little pro. You’ve got this! Good luck!