Inside: 7 tips to learn how to handle toddler tantrums calmly
I’ve heard some kids are pretty even keeled when it comes to displaying their emotions.
My kids are not those kids! They’re very emotional and tantrums are a thing on the regular at my house.
Because there are so many between the two of my kids, I’ve learned there isn’t a one way fits all approach to tantrums.
I had to figure out different ways to handle tantrums to either prevent them from happening, or deescalate them quicker.
So let’s jump in to the nitty gritty on how to handle those tantrums like a boss!
How To Handle Toddler Tantrums
1. Ignore them
There was a period of time when my daughter would freak out because she couldn’t shut the front door by herself. (As in it was too difficult for her to do it not because I wouldn’t let her). Every single time this happened, if I tried to show her how to do it or explain to her how to shut the door she freaked. The more I tried to say anything to her, the more she would escalate.
There’ll likely come a time when your kids start to freak out over something and trying to engage with them is just making them escalate and makes their behavior worse. Maybe your kid tantrums over not getting something they want or when you’re about to walk out the door.
I learned that when I ignored this type of tantrum from my daughter, it fizzled out pretty quickly.
Read more on how to help your child handle anger.
2. Avoid them
If you can avoid your kids having tantrums, wouldn’t you do it?? By this I mean, make sure your kids are fed and well rested when you have to take them somewhere.
I made this mistake when A was younger. I took her out to a few stores for several hours and I didn’t have snacks!! She started screaming on the way home and no matter if I sang to her, talked to her, or gave her a toy to play with, she kept screaming. I realized when I looked at the time that it was dinner time and she was probably starving.
As soon as I got her home, I gave her dinner and she immediately stopped and scarfed the food down.
Besides feeling horrible for feeling like I starved her, I definitely realized that if I have to take her somewhere anywhere near meal times, I at least needed to have many snacks on hand!
Lesson learned folks…
Have snacks on hand no matter what, and try not to take your kids out when you know they’ll be really tired as this too is a definite predictor of a tantrum!
3. Leave your emotions at the door
This is one I’m definitely still working on because it is really hard for me to control my own feelings at times. But I’ve noticed that when I am able to respond to my daughter’s outbursts with a calm voice and demeanor, she is less likely to have a tantrum or it deescalates much faster than when I’m adding fuel to the fire.
You can’t expect your kids to stay calm if you can’t. They’ll pick up on your emotions, (especially if they’re sensitive like my kids) and it will only heighten their emotions as well.
Since they don’t have a way to regulate their feelings yet, it’s a tantrum waiting to happen.
4. Set limits
Toddlers test limits. That’s their job and what they’re wired to do. The only way they can learn what the boundaries and limits are is to test them to know what the reaction will be each time they test that boundary.
So if my daughter wants fruit snacks before dinner and I tell her no one day and yes another day, that’s an inconsistent boundary.
She’ll likely have more tantrums or they might be longer in duration because she thinks if she does it long enough she’ll get her way.
But if I say no every time, there’ll probably still be tantrums, but eventually she’ll know the answer. Once she knows the answer it’s less likely she’ll have a tantrum.
The more you stick to the limits you set, the quicker your kids will learn and stop testing them!
One of my very favorite parenting experts is Janet Lansbury. She has a website and many books on how to gently and respectfully parent your children.
For setting limits, she says you should acknowledge how the child feels (if they are sad or angry at your limit) but hold your limit. Janet also notes that you should follow through with your limit every time. (source)
Like if your toddler keeps throwing things they shouldn’t, like hard blocks, you can tell them you’ll be putting the blocks away (and then you actually have to follow through and put the blocks away). You can offer them an alternative but make sure you follow through with what you say.
5. Learn the best way to handle physical tantrums
This is relatively new to me because as my son is now 1 1/2 , he’s starting to have tantrums but they are drastically different than my daughter. He hits, kicks, pulls hair, or throws toys when he’s having a tantrum.
For him, the best thing to do is hold his hands/arms/legs (whatever body part he is using to try to hurt someone) and tell him I won’t let you hit. Or I’ll take away any toys that he throws and tell him he can’t throw the toy it’s dangerous. He calms down a lot sooner with this process and once the anger passes he is ready to be consoled and then he can move on.
Physical tantrums can be hard because you may take the aggression personally or you may get angry because your child hurt someone else (I know I’ve been there).
But you have to remember that your young toddler is not doing this to purposely hurt someone. They’ve lost control of their impulses and this is a normal behavior.
Again, taking your emotions out of how you deal with your toddler’s physical behavior will make a huge difference in the length of the tantrum.
Read more about what to do when your toddler hits.
6. Learn your triggers
If you know what sets you off, you can prepare yourself. If you know that your kid getting physical with another kid is a trigger for you to get angry, sit near your kid so you can prevent something physical from happening.
If you know that being late or having your kids take forever to get out the door is a trigger, try to prepare everything ahead of time so all of your things are by the front door or in the car. That way the only thing you need to leave the house are yourself and the kids.
The thing is kids are like little mind reading ninjas. They can tell when you’re getting upset or angry, and this typically works them up more.
I know by far this is one of the biggest reasons tantrums start or escalate in my house. If I get upset and start yelling, it’s almost a given that one or both of my kids will start to have a meltdown.
(Learn how to stop yelling at your kids with these tips).
Preparing for whatever might set you off gives you an advantage of lessening the length or intensity of the tantrum.
I know that a lot of this can seem easier said than done. I’ve many times read lists for how to handle tantrums and thought yea right! It always sounds so easy when you read it but implementing them when you’re in the middle of a full blown meltdown is a totally different story!
But that’s why it pays to have a plan in place so the chances of your kids getting to the full blown meltdown phase is much less and you’re better prepared to manage yourself and them.
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7. Read your favorite parenting sites or books
I’ve also discovered an easier way to implement these reminders more often! I’ve noticed that when I read my favorite parenting sites and books and it helps me to stay focused on my parenting goals.
So like I mentioned above, I love Janet Lansbury’s book along with Dr. Sears book. They align with my parenting goals and when I read articles they’ve written dealing with a specific problem I’m currently dealing with, it helps give me the perspective I need to be the mom I want to be. In this case, handling tantrums without losing my mind!
Tantrums suck…like there’s no two ways about it. It’s a hard phase to go through, (for you and your toddler).
But you can take control of your emotions and the situation. You can start by trying out these tips to see which one will help deescalate your children’s tantrums the fastest, (it may not work the first time, but stick with it and you’ll get results!)
If you don’t already have a favorite parenting site, I suggest doing your research to see who aligns with the type of parent you want to be (the two I suggested are great starts!). This’ll help keep your spirits high and remind you of how you want to parent your children, even when dealing with the dreaded toddler tantrum.