How to deal with a toddler’s terrible tantrums


Tantrums. They are so frustrating. My second child (who is 3 almost 4) constantly has them. Some days I feel like I need to pinch myself because I can’t believe they are actually happening. The non stop screaming, crying, kicking and rolling over the floor. It’s usually about something ridiculous. She usually wants something or is looking for something. Today she wanted a straw, a wide straw which she could connect to a pencil.

It drives us moms crazy to the point where we are screaming back at them and putting them into time out. (Do time outs really work? I don’t know.) But we feel that we need to punish them for their bad behavior in the hopes that it will get corrected and they will somehow learn from it. Well, I’ve tried the time out strategy many times and did the behavior change? No.

Here are some of the strategies that I have used.

1. distraction– Where I point to some animal outside (like a cat or raccoon that’s not really there) and tell them to look at it. This sometimes works. They all run to the windows and look for it and when they see that it’s not there, I tell them they missed it.

2. change the topic– I will just start making something up or talking about what I did today. This usually catches them of guard for a moment and then they remember why they were crying.

3. Start playing pretend– I just tried this today. She was crying because she wanted me to make her a key out of a ribbon. I don’t know, and then I started to play pretend with her. I pretended I was her customer and I wanted to buy cupcakes from her. This worked. She loves playing pretend! She loves to play the cashier.

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4. Suggest a fun activity– This also worked for me. Daughter was in the middle of a tantrum and I said, “Want me to put nail polish on your toe nails?” She immediately perked up and totally forgot about what she was crying for.

5. Get really silly– Like making silly faces or pretending to have a tantrum yourself. They then realize how ridiculous they are and find it funny how mommy is having a tantrum.

If all else fails and you’ve tried every trick up your sleeve, get help! Go to the grandparents’ house where someone else can try to entertain them for you.

But seriously speaking though, usually when kids have a tantrum, it’s because of some underlying emotional need. Heck, my husband has tantrums. (Love you hubby if you are reading this.) For him, its either he’s tired or hungry. Usually he’s Hangry! haha. Just feed him and he’s all better. I think of him as the first baby.

I’ve read some parenting articles and learned a thing or two. We need to remember that children are not small adults. We can’t always expect them to behave the way we want. Their brains are too immature. Instead we should respond with care and compassion. I have tried this and it seems to work. I crouch down, I get to their level and I try to listen, fully to what they have to say. Don’t get me wrong, this approach is sometimes very hard as it is hard to keep your cool all the time. Then, after listening, I show I understand them by showing empathy. Next I say, “I know you feel sad when you can’t find your toy, right?” and then the kid nods and says yes. She begins to calm down and then we can focus on something else. This doesn’t always work but it sometimes does.

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Also, when kids are crying, it usually means they are sleepy, tired, or hungry. When I cant stand the constant fighting between the two older kids and the baby is restless I say that’s it we’re leaving. We all jump in the van and we go for a ride. This usually puts everyone to sleep and then I can have at best 15 to 20 minutes of quiet time.

When your kid has a tantrum, try these strategies and see if it helps! Let me know if it worked for you or not and If you have your own tricks!

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2 thoughts on “How to deal with a toddler’s terrible tantrums

  1. These are all excellent ideas Emily. I know that when we were going through this stage with my kids it was hard and I could have used a few of these tips to save myself some meltdowns. I am hosting a new link party called Sweet Inspiration and would love to have you link up with us. We comment and pin all of the posts that link up. It runs from Friday till Tuesday.

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