How to Handle Toddler Tantrums

How to Handle Toddler Tantrums

toddler tantrum

Tantrums can be challenging and really impact the quality of everyone’s life. Have you ever skipped out on running errands because you knew your child may not handle themselves appropriately? We have all been there, sometimes it’s easier to avoid something if you know it will only cause trouble, but that’s not an everyday solution, that is merely a band-aid fix. We need to think of a better approach…so how do we do that? Each child is different and there are specific strategies that will work for some, but not others. However, there are a few solid approaches that will help every child. This article will highlight the best approaches to handle your child to try and prevent tantrums from happening in the first place. But, we all know tantrums are an inevitable part of childhood and growing up; so, it’s better to be prepared and have the tools you need to handle your children effectively and efficiently.

General Approaches to Prevent Tantrums

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1.       Prep & Talk: So many tantrums can be avoided if we implement this step in the very beginning. Children, just like adults, want to know what is happening and want to be prepared. If we talk to our children about something that we know is going to happen and adequately prepare them forehand, then we can explain to our children what is expected of them and how to act. For example, if we are headed to the store to pick out a birthday present for someone, and you anticipate your child begging you for a toy as well, talk to them about it. You can say “When I pick you up from school today we have to go to Target and get a birthday present for Sally. Do you think she would like a new puzzle or a new doll?” Let them participate in the planning and shopping. Giving them some control over what occurs, will help them handle the situation. “Wonderful! I think a doll is a great idea. Can you help pick one out for her today when we go to the store?” Now that you have set up what you will be doing, make sure to go over what is expected of them. “Remember, we are buying a doll for Sally’s birthday. We are not picking out anything else.” You can remind them on the drive over and once you guys get close to toy aisle. Put emphasis on how great of a helper your child is and acknowledge their actions as they are occurring, to reinforce the good behavior. For example, “you picked out a nice doll for her birthday present. You are holding my hand while we walk in the store. You are standing next to me and helping,” etc.

2.       Know your Child: By paying attention to your child’s behavior and responses, you will be better equipped at knowing the antecedent of problematic behavior, which will give insight on being able to prevent and or curb the unwanted behavior. For example, if your child has a hard time at school drops off and gets really worked up when you are rushing and need to quickly say good bye, you can plan for that. Knowing that your child is slow to warm up and needs a few minutes to help get situated before dropping off, will help prevent that tantrum. You can help prepare them in the car ride over, by going over what will happen and what is expected of them. For example, “when we get to school, we will read a story together, then I will walk you over to the play dough table and give you a hug and kiss goodbye.” Knowing their behavior will help in being able to solve tantrums before they begin.

3.       Get down on their level: When you are talking to your child, make sure you are physically down on their level, looking at them eye to eye. Being down on their level automatically helps to lower anxiety and shows that you are ready to listen and hear them. Repeat your child, to show you have heard them and that you understand. For example, “Slide! Slide! I want to slide one more time!” This shows you have heard their need, they understand you get it. Then respond with what you need to say “We will slide one more time than, all done. Time to go.” Remind them and repeat as you finish the last slide so they know. “One more slide, than all done. We will walk to the car.” Once you finish “woohoo! So much fun! Can you help me unlock the car? Can you hold the keys?” Giving your child responsibility helps them feel in control as well as helps distract what they were originally upset over.

4.       Remind them so they know what is expected of them: Just as we have touched on previously, once you have set something into place, help your child by reminding them of what will happen, when it will happen, and what is expected of them. Reminding them and adequately preparing them will help set them up for success and limit tantrums.

5.       Have consequences that make sense: This one is important. For one, when we are teaching our children, it is important they understand there are consequences to not listening, but the consequences need to be appropriate to the action. For example, if they keep throwing their fork at dinnertime, and they have been told how to appropriately use the fork, they have been given a warning of what will happen if they throw their fork again (the fork will be removed), then an appropriate consequence is removing their fork because they have chosen to not be safe with it. When you implement a consequence, make sure to explain they have chosen that consequence because of their action. They have chosen it, because it was explained what was expected of them. An example of a consequences that does not make sense for throwing their fork at dinner, is taking away their favorite toy.

6.       Follow through: Following through is important because it shows our children our word means something. They will come to learn that when we say “no” it means “no.” If we are wishy washy on our behavior, then you can expect your children to be wishy washy on their behavior as well. If you have explained to your child that they will not go on their play date if they push someone at the park, then you need to follow through, cancel the play date, and explain to them why their play date is being canceled.

7.       Be loving: Handle it with love and care. Yes, children can be frustrating and yes, we can get upset, but it is important to regulate our emotions and be compassionate with our children. We need to be understanding that it is difficult for them as well. We need to remain calm and loving.

8.       Let them be upset & give them a space to do it: Children need to be able to express themselves when they are upset, and they should be able to cry and scream if they need to however, they need to understand there is a time and place. If you are home, let them know they can be upset, and they can cry in their room. Explain they are going to their room because it is loud, and it hurts your ears and they can come out whenever they are ready.  

9.       Enough is enough: you can set a limit and say we are all done now…sometimes they may be waiting for your attention. After a few minutes of their fit throwing, check in. You can say something like “I hear you are very upset; would you like to tell me?” Or “do you need a few more minutes to cry?” Wait for their response and respect what they need. If they need a for more minutes, allow them to have it. After a few minutes, you can try to help reason with them or try to distract them to see if you can hit the reset button. Often, a little distraction goes a long way.  

10.   Worse comes to worse, leave. Sometimes tantrums are inevitable and the only thing to do is leave. Right then and there. It’s OK. Maybe you have abandoned a full shopping cart and lost 20 minutes you will never get back, but it happens. It’s important to maintain sanity for everyone. If your child is not having it and you have tried to prep them, but it didn’t work, leave. You have not failed. Try to be perceptive of your child’s attitude and behavior. If they are tired and grumpy, don’t push something that may cause them stress. Try to be perceptive of your attitude as well. If you are tired and have little patience that day, don’t force something that may be stressful on you.

There you have it, 10 strategies to help prevent and/or handle tantrums. We all know tantrums are difficult, but there is way to help lessen the blow. What strategies do you think will work best for your child? What strategies have you come up with?

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