Practical Tips & Tricks for those Pesky Tantrums

Practical Tips & Tricks for those Pesky Tantrums

“Me want”, “Me have”, “NO”

Every toddler has their own way of letting you know they want, no, need, this one thing, something has to be done a certain way, or they have to do everything themselves. Whatever it is, their perfect little bubble is about to burst.

At this point, we know we are most likely headed to meltdown city… so what do we do? Can we stop it? Do we just give in? Are these people judging me for my crying kid? Where is my patience level at?

Having a toddler is no easy task, they are starting to realize they are separate individuals. We are trying to help these tiny humans, who have big emotions, just like us, understand what they are feeling. While this may be an exciting time, full of growth and development; toddlers do not understand logic, they have a tough time with waiting, and a tough time with self-control. They can’t always say, “I’m mad, Susy took my car and I want it back.” Instead they hit, bite, push, scream and then we have more crying. We become upset because Joey hit Susie.

As a Mama of a 2.5 year old and as someone who has a degree in Early Childhood Education and has worked in plenty of classrooms with gobs of tiny humans… I am here to tell you, unfortunately, there is no easy fix. However, I have learned lots of things to make this time a little more manageable and I want to share them. As life gets busier, we often forget all the little things we could be doing to support, empathize with, and validate our littles BIG feelings.

  • What does your environment look like?
    • Is it crowded, cluttered, or are there an overwhelming amount of toys?
    • Try to have your main play area be more open with fewer toys.
    • Have this area be a YES space.
  • Your mood?
    • Stay calm & confident
    • Get down to their eye level
    • Make physical contact: holding hands, offer a hug, etc.
      • Don’t force it, they will communicate what they need
    • Make direct eye contact, when possible (not easy if your toddler is thrashing on the floor)
  • What to do:
    • Love. Love them unconditionally and validate their feelings.
    • Navigate & Label what you are seeing: 
      • “You are mad because Susy took your toy and you hit her. It is okay to feel mad, but in this house we don’t hit. Our hands are for helping, hugs, etc.”
      • “We have to leave the park now, so we can cook dinner. I know you love the park and you feel sad we have to leave.. Staying at the park is not a choice. But when we get home, you can help me cook. Do you want to walk to the car yourself or do you want me to carry you.”
    • Layout the day/transitions:
      • “We are going to leave soon for Grandma’s. After you finish breakfast, we are going to change your diaper, get dressed, put shoes on, and get in the car”
      • Repeat this several time as a reminder and as you drop something off the list:
        • “Breakfast was yummy, now we are done eating, so we are going to change your diaper, etc.”
      • If they fight or “refuse” the transition
        • “We are having so much fun at the park and Mommy loves pushing you on the swing. But now we are going to go home for a nap. First we are going to take a nap, and then we can play at the park after nap.
        • Make sure you clearly layout “first”, “and then”
      • Follow through, this builds trust:
        • You took such a great nap, I am excited to play at the park again.
    • Read, read, READ! 
      • Littles learn so much through reading and seeing visual representations of what they are going through
    • Acknowledge the good:
      • “I saw you were getting frustrated with your sister because she kept knocking down your tower, I love how you picked up your toys and moved to a new space.”
      • “Wasn’t that such a fun shopping trip, I really liked how you helped me push the cart so nicely.” 
    • Offer choices:
      • “You can walk to your room or Mommy/Daddy can carry you, make a choice.”
      • Make the choice something you are ok following through on.
        • Keep them simple & direct
      • Wait a moment, repeat
        • This is crucial, they need time to process what you are saying
      • Avoid:
        • “If you let Mommy/Daddy change your diaper, we can or Mommy will let you…”
        • “If you listen while we are at the store, you can get a special treat.”
        • We don’t want to bribe
          • This teaches them we will always reward them for good behavior
          • “Good” behavior should just be a natural part of everyday life
      • What can they do - show them other ways to express those big feeling without hurting someone else
        • “When you feel so mad and you really need to calm down, count to 10, go to your room and hit your pillow, make angry scribbles on paper, etc.”

None of this will stop tantrums, outburst, or the hitting. But, it will hopefully help it happen less frequently, allow them to come down more quickly, and eventually they will start to navigate these many scenarios themselves.

Here are some helpful resources:


Instagram Accounts to Follow:

  • @transformingtoddlerhood (also offers a course
  • @biglittlefeelings (also offers a course)
  • @sunnyseedco
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