Have you ever witnessed a toddler having a tantrum in a store and thought to yourself, “My future kids will never behave like that”? If so, you’re not the only one. It’s common to imagine the type of parent you want to be, but experiencing parenthood firsthand is a whole different story. Nothing can fully prepare you for parenthood, and you may not know how you’ll react in certain situations until you’re faced with them.
My daughter has toddler tantrums.
In the past, I used to judge parents of kids having tantrums, but now as a parent of a toddler myself, I understand how difficult it is. Although I try my best to raise my child, she still has tantrums occasionally, albeit only at home. Her tantrums are not severe, usually just crying, stomping, and thrashing briefly.
As my daughter’s tantrums increased in frequency, I began to question my parenting approach, particularly my methods of discipline. This wasn’t an instance of self-pity or feeling like a bad mother but rather a desire to engage in constructive self-reflection and improve for the sake of my child.
Changing Your Parenting Style Is Possible Anytime
Parenthood doesn’t come with a manual, so it’s up to us to learn and grow along the way. If you feel like you need to change your parenting tactics, it’s not too late to make adjustments. As a mother, I constantly try to improve and improve for my child.
Whenever I feel like there’s room for improvement, I start by doing research. That’s why I decided to research toddler tantrums and share my findings with you.
You need to know your limits.
Before delving into toddler tantrum tips, it’s crucial to understand that every family, parent, and child is unique. Identifying your parenting style, comfort level, and limitations is essential before adopting anyone else’s advice or strategies. For instance, an article I came across promoted timeouts as a disciplinary tool and claimed it was the ultimate solution to prevent meltdowns and teach discipline.
However, assessing if this method aligns with your parenting philosophy and values is vital.
The article was compelling because even though I had never used timeouts before and didn’t entirely agree with them, I decided to give it a try with my daughter Lily. However, it turned out to be a failed attempt. Lily is too young to understand what I meant when I instructed her to sit in the corner and stay there.
Instead of following the rules, she would laugh and walk away from the corner. Eventually, I resorted to putting her in my room alone, with me standing outside the door to ensure she knew I was serious. This only made her cry and caused me to feel anxious and uneasy.
The use of timeouts didn’t resonate with me as a parent as it went against the attachment parenting principles that I practice with my daughter, Lily. We co-sleep, shower, and breastfeed together, and I haven’t been away from her for extended periods. So when I tried timeouts, it felt wrong to punish her for not following my instructions and putting a physical barrier between us.
It was a sudden change from the way we usually interact, and I can imagine it was confusing for Lily.
Always do what feels right to you.
It’s perfectly okay if certain disciplinary techniques don’t align with your personal beliefs. If you’re comfortable with giving timeouts, then go ahead and use them. But if you’re not, that’s perfectly fine too.
I’m here to share tips on preventing and handling toddler tantrums gently, but please know that you don’t have to follow all of them. We all have to find our own parenting style that works best for our children. Trusting your instincts and doing what you feel is best for your family is important. You can always try out new techniques and decide what works for you and what doesn’t.
How do you gently handle toddler tantrums?
Here are some tips that I’ve gathered on gently managing toddler tantrums. Do I personally implement all of them? No, but I’m making an effort to learn and improve along with my child.
Prevention – Lay a good foundation
To avoid toddler tantrums, it’s best to establish a strong foundation.
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1. CHILDREN LEARN BY EXAMPLE
The treatment you give to your child reflects the treatment you receive from them. If you shout at them, disregard them, give them commands, or neglect them, they learn that those actions are acceptable, and so it’s acceptable for them to shout or disrespect you in return.
Conversely, if we communicate with our children in a gentle tone, treat them with respect, and exhibit patience, they learn those positive behaviors, and that is how they will treat us.
2. REMEMBER YOUR CHILD IS HUMAN
At times, our children’s behavior that we perceive as misbehavior or acting out is just their expression of being human. We all experience moments of vulnerability and imperfection. It’s part of being human.
It’s unrealistic to expect our children to be perfect all the time or to penalize them for experiencing emotions that are inherent in our humanity. We must learn to distinguish between when our children are deliberately defying us or just going through a human moment.
3. REMEMBER THAT YOUR CHILD IS THEIR OWN PERSON
As parents, we must acknowledge that our children are individuals with their own unique thoughts, preferences, and personalities. Accepting and respecting these differences can be challenging, but it is necessary for healthy parent-child relationships.
Personally, I struggle with letting go of control and allowing my child to explore and take risks. For example, I am very cautious about germs, while my child loves getting dirty. However, I must recognize that my discomfort should not limit her experiences and independence.
By giving her space to be herself, I can reduce the likelihood of tantrums arising from her feeling restricted and frustrated.
4. HAVE LOVE, RESPECT, UNDERSTANDING, AND PATIENCE
It’s not easy to acknowledge, but the way we behave toward our toddlers is a significant factor contributing to their tantrums. Even young children are highly perceptive and can sense when we’re stressed, impatient, or agitated. Often, they have tantrums because they reflect what they’re sensing from us.
We must be conscious of our behavior toward our children and their actions to minimize tantrums. Are we showing them affection and empathy? Are we treating them with respect and patience? Being self-aware and evaluating our actions is a crucial step in preventing tantrums.
5. MAKE SURE TO SPEND QUALITY TIME
Attention-seeking tantrums are one of the most common reasons why toddlers have outbursts. In my case, it is the reason for 95% of Lily’s tantrums. When I sit in front of my computer, she starts crying and stomping because she wants me to play with her.
We need to spend quality time with our children to prevent such tantrums. We should be actively engaged and tuned in, not multitasking or using our phones. This will make our children feel loved and valued, and they will be less likely to act out to get our attention.
How to Prevent Toddler Tantrums: Tips and Advice
1. LIMIT THE USE OF THE WORD “NO”
Limiting the use of “no” can be an effective way to teach our toddlers by setting a positive example. Toddlers are naturally curious, and it can be discouraging for them to be constantly told not to explore their surroundings. Overusing the word “no” can also lead to toddlers repeating it frequently.
Although it can be challenging, making a conscious effort to reduce the use of “no” can be beneficial for both the parent and the child. Setting a daily reminder to monitor the use of this word can help parents become more aware of their language and communication with their children.
To teach our toddlers by example, limiting how often we say “no” to them is important. Constantly telling them to stop what they are doing can be frustrating and discouraging for their exploration. Additionally, it can lead to them becoming little “no” monsters who constantly scream the word at us.
2. GIVE CHOICES
Even toddlers want some degree of autonomy and control. When we constantly direct and control them, they may feel frustrated and powerless, leading to tantrums. As parents, we have to strike a balance between allowing them some control while still maintaining authority.
One way to achieve this is to offer them choices while ensuring that each option is acceptable to us.
For instance, when picking clothes for Lily, instead of dictating what she should wear, I can provide her with options that are suitable for the weather. By doing so, she feels empowered to make her own decision, and I am happy with any choice she makes. This strategy not only prevents tantrums but also fosters independence and decision-making skills in toddlers.
3. PICK YOUR BATTLES
I recently learned a valuable lesson that has helped to reduce my parental stress levels. It’s important to choose your battles! Turning everything into a power struggle can quickly create tension and lead to tantrums. Constantly reprimanding your child, setting too many limits, or making everything off-limits will only increase the likelihood of meltdowns and tantrums.
When I feel like I’m about to lose my cool, I’m making an effort to ask myself, “Is this really worth it? Will this harm my child or anyone else in the long run? Will this cause permanent damage?” If not, I let it go. Recently, this has meant allowing my toddler to run around naked, pee everywhere, and scatter my underwear all over the room. There will be many times when you need to take charge or discipline your child.
Save your battles for those situations and avoid turning everything into a war.
4. PLAN AHEAD
At times, toddler tantrums occur due to logistical reasons. Just like adults, hunger and tiredness can cause toddler toddler irritability and edginess. If your toddler tends to throw tantrums when there are changes in their routine, it might be due to hunger or tiredness.
To prevent logistical tantrums, planning ahead is essential. It’s best to avoid making sudden changes in their routine or allowing them to become too hungry or tired. If you have plans for the day, try to schedule them during their nap time.
If you’ll be out for an extended period, make sure to bring snacks or have a meal planned to keep your toddler’s hunger at bay.
5. KEEP OFF-LIMIT OBJECTS OUT OF SIGHT
An effective strategy to prevent toddler tantrums is to keep forbidden objects out of reach. By removing these items from your toddler’s sight, you can avoid constantly telling them “no” or engaging in power struggles that may lead to tantrums.
I have employed this tactic several times with my own daughter. Recently, she discovered how to open the drawer on my bedside table and started playing with her diaper rash cream, which resulted in a huge mess on the floor. Despite repeatedly telling her not to touch it, I realized it was better to move the cream to a higher location until I could install a child lock on the drawer.
It was a simple solution that prevented unnecessary conflict and stress.
How to handle a toddler tantrum at the moment
In case you have taken all the necessary steps to avoid a toddler tantrum but it still occurs, the following are some essential pointers and suggestions to bear in mind while dealing with a tantrum in the moment.
1. STAY CALM
The crucial step in managing a toddler tantrum is to maintain your composure. Reacting negatively by shouting, becoming upset, or being angry will only aggravate the situation. Although it can be challenging, it’s important to stay emotionally neutral.
Your toddler needs to observe that their behavior is not affecting you. They can learn from your ability to remain in control without allowing anger or frustration to take over.
2. HAVE EMPATHY AND GIVE COMFORT
It can be challenging to empathize with your toddler when they misbehave and push your buttons. Your irritation with their behavior may cause you to forget that they are feeling just as frustrated, if not more so. As a parent, showing empathy during a tantrum and offering comfort to your child is important.
While you are able to identify and manage your emotions, your child is still developing this skill. Let them know that you understand their frustration and that you are there to guide them through it.
3. NEVER GIVE IN AND BE CONSISTENT
Don’t give in to toddler tantrums, even in public. Consistency is key. Treat every tantrum the same, hold your ground, and don’t validate their bad behavior.
Communicate to them that their tantrum won’t get them what they want.
4. DON’T GIVE YOUR TODDLER TOO MUCH ATTENTION
When dealing with a toddler’s tantrum, avoiding giving them too much attention is important. While ignoring them completely is not advisable, giving in to their demands is not the best, as it can reinforce bad behavior.
Instead, try calmly communicating with them, like saying, “I’ll help you when you stop yelling,” or “I can’t understand you when you whine and stomp your feet.” Wait for a moment before asking again if they continue with the tantrum.
5. STAY WITH THEM UNTIL THEY ARE CALM
Leaving your child alone during a tantrum is never an option. Your child needs your presence and support during their moment of distress.
Even when your efforts to calm them down are not effective, do not walk away from them and leave them feeling abandoned. Instead, sit near them and reassure them that you are there for them whenever they need you.
6. SPEAK SOFTLY
Softly speaking is key when handling a toddler tantrum. Yelling or expressing anger only adds to the discomfort and frustration of your child.
Remind yourself to speak calmly to your child, even if it’s hard. It can significantly affect how quickly you can de-escalate the tantrum.
7. GIVE A DISTRACTION
One of the best ways to halt a tantrum, particularly if it was triggered by a restriction you made, is to distract your toddler. It’s surprising how quickly toddlers can switch their attention from one thing to another, which can work wonders in ending a tantrum.