Are your toddler temper tantrums out of control?
It can be hard not to meet their emotional response with your own. Trying to deal with a tantruming toddler is a real challenge, especially on your own. So we’ll share some tips with you to help you stay calm in these stressful situations.
Tackling toddler temper tantrums
When their toddler temper tantrum is starting, try to nip it in the bud right away. You can do this with distraction techniques to take their mind off what they want.
If the temper tantrum’s already in full swing, try to empathise with them to show that you understand i.e. “I know you want ice cream and daddy saying no is making you very sad.”
Pick your child up and move them away from the situation, physical contact can also help, so try rubbing their back or hugging while giving them their reassuring words to show you understand.
Are temper tantrums normal?
Temper tantrums in toddlers are extremely normal.
Your toddler is experiencing new emotions and struggling to communicate them. In fact, they are so normal that even adults have them!
As well as being normal, tantrums are also a fantastic learning experience.
While your toddler is having a tantrum, try to empathise with them. When the tantrum is starting to settle, you can use it as an opportunity to teach them how to handle their emotions and overcome them in the future.
However, this will take some repetition. Just make sure you stay calm, you need to model the desired behaviour.
Toddler temper tantrum causes
So why do toddlers have temper tantrums?
There are two types of toddler temper tantrums, one is emotional, which is the main focus of this post and the other is crafty. The crafty tantrum tends to happen when the toddler is around the age of three but can also start earlier depending on the development of your little one.
But what do I mean by ‘crafty’?
They start to throw a tantrum to get their own way.
This is a learned behaviour, they know what if they keep yelling, jumping around and crying, that eventually you’ll give in and they’ll get what they want.
In this case, you need to be like the Americans! They don’t negotiate with terrorists (even the minor ones who dribble).
Emotional tantrums usually come about through frustration, this could be through a lack of communication skills, or if you have an articulate toddler, perhaps not being able to find the right word or mixing it up.
Often, tantrums in our house are caused by us taking away our toddler’s independence. This could be: us holding her cup while she drinks because she usually spills it; holding her hand when she is coming down the stairs or crossing the road; passing her something that’s a little out of reach; you know, the things we do to be helpful.
But several things could trigger a toddler temper tantrum. When they happen, it’s time to HALT! HALT stands for:
Hunger can turn toddlers and adults alike into a grumpy mess! This is easily identifiable by the time of day. These temper tantrums occur for us in the mornings and sometimes in the evenings, but no two children are entirely the same.
Angry can also mean upset or frustrated. Is your toddler trying to do something that they’re unable to physically do themselves?
Have you helped them and taken away their independence?
Did you tell them off for doing something they wanted praise for?
It could even be something that happened during the day (at nursery) that they’ve held onto.
Loneliness could be through separation anxiety about you going to work and leaving them.
They might be having a fit about being left and don’t want you to go to the other room without them. Perhaps you have friends over and aren’t giving them the attention they require.
The list goes on…
Tired… This is a big one! When your toddler starts to get overtired, the tantrums come out in full force!
For us, these have been toddler temper tantrums of massive proportion!
We might have had an active day with great behaviour and just before bed while doing your winddown routine, they start losing their minds!
This is the temper tantrum we experience the most. They don’t just happen at night, they happen throughout the day when our toddler starts to feel tired.
Try to nip this in the bud before it can get any worse. As soon as you see the signs of tiredness kicking in – start moving towards sleep at a quicker rate.
7 Steps to deal with toddler temper tantrums
The following 7 steps work wonders when dealing with toddler temper tantrums.
I used to get incredibly angry when my daughter started throwing a tantrum, to the point where my behaviour wouldn’t be too dissimilar to hers.
Imagine, a grown man emulating a toddler (or perhaps you don’t need to imagine and it’s similar to most men you know…)
Following these steps, tantrums have gone from uncontrollable to ending within a few minutes.
This has really changed my relationship with my daughter for the better and is easy to implement into some areas of my daily life when dealing with adults.
These steps are something my wife and I came up with. I hope this helps you as much as it helps me.
1. Keep your cool
You’re no good to anyone if you’re emulating your tantruming toddler, so above all, keep your cool!
If your emotions are flaring with your toddler, they will not calm down and they will probably get worse. So keep your emotions in check. However, if you find it a struggle to stay calm and you losing your temper, we have a guide to becoming a more patient parent which will be right up your alley.
In this guide, you’ll learn some of the fundamentals, such as breathing techniques, the power of walking away and even the importance of sleep. All are crucial to not losing your head when your toddler loses theirs!
2. Pick your battles
Although an advocate of following through with decision, sometimes we need to pick our battles. If your toddler is doing something that’s going to cause them harm or is inherently wrong, then intervene, otherwise, sometimes it’s not worth the trouble.
I find that often I say no then stubbornly stick to my answer. Then my toddler sticks to her answer and we have a stalemate! The difference is, as adults we have greater control over our emotions and are able to understand the situation.
Although distraction is not usually a tool I employ when dealing with my toddler and her emotions, for temper tantrums, it’s a must.
If their emotions are building and starting to bubble out of control, let them know about all the things going on around them.
You can even introduce a game, such as I spy (I spy with my little eye something blue). Our daughter loves this right now as she is learning her colours.
You can even resort to being silly and taking their mind completely off what they’re getting upset about. Silly noises and funny faces can be a good distraction.
Toddlers like adults, like to feel understood. But when their emotional undeveloped brain takes over, forget trying to reason with them, it’s like they’ve shut off their hearing.
When you can see they’re upset, let them know you understand. You know it can be frustrating when you don’t get what you want. This is especially important if your toddler’s language isn’t very developed.
Even when your toddler’s language has developed, the surge of emotions makes it very difficult for them to think more rationally than normal and employ the language skills they’ve developed.
When our daughter starts to tantrum, it’s extremely difficult to get any words out of her until she starts to calm down. Empathising with your toddler is one of the most successful ways of making sure they feel understood.
A little bit of comfort to go with that empathy goes a long way. There are different ways we can go about comforting our toddlers, the best method is through physical contact.
When your child starts to get overwhelmed, start tackling their temper tantrum with the other steps. If they aren’t working, add some physical contact to the mix – a reassuring arm on their shoulder, hold them, rub their back whilst reassuring them.
Our toddler temper tantrums sometimes get completely out of control! One of the methods of comfort we’ve recently employed is a song. It starts like this:
“When your feelings get too much and they start to bubble up, roll over.”
It’s not the most creative song and was made up on the spot, but it really made a difference.
Often feelings can get stuck in a specific place.
When your toddler is having a tantrum, a fantastic method of getting them to calm down is removing them from the space. Put some distance between them and where their emotions were overwhelming.
The purpose of them isn’t to get them to stop their temper tantrum right away, but often when things are out of sight they’re out of mind. They may start to forget what they were upset about; you can either distract, empathise or comfort them at this stage.
7. Redirect behaviour
This will only be effective once your toddler is calm. They will not hear you when their emotions are flared.
Now that you’ve helped to calm your toddler, you can then help them find a more useful way to express themselves next time.
In the book No-Drama Discipline, the authors explain how the redirect method works using the example of fighting dogs.
“It’s like trying to teach a dog to sit while he’s fighting another dog. A fighting dog won’t sit. But if you can help a child calm down, receptiveness will emerge and allow her to understand what you’re trying to tell her, much more quickly than if you just punished or lectured her.”
Starting a dialogue with your toddler about how to deal with their emotions, how to get what they want or how to deal with the disappointment of not getting what they want is invaluable.
Severe temper tantrums in 2 year olds
So what do you do when your 2 year old tantrums are out of control?
Rather than using one or two of the above approaches, you may need to implement all of them.
If you have tried all of the above, sometimes you just need to be patient and keep at it. The other thing to consider is why are they having the tantrum in the first place?
When our toddler is tired, is when she’s most likely to have her tantrum. When this happens, what she wants gets confused, none of us knows what she wants, not even herself. She changes her mind frequently and the smallest thing could set her off even worse than before.
But what do I mean by set her off?
Red in the face, uncontrollable crying, rigid body, pointed toes and repeating of the same words in between exasperated fits of frustration, anger and sadness all rolled into one!
A complete nightmare!
How do you overcome this?
As well as trying everything previously mentioned and regardless of whether or not we were to give in to her demands, it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference; she doesn’t know what she wants at this point.
Get them to sleep and do whatever you can to get them back into the routine you’d usually have with them at that point.
For us, ‘milky’ is one of the only things that calms her down other than singing louder than her cries. Then she’ll pretty much fall asleep straight away, once the sobs die down.
Try really hard to preserve here, it’s not easy and actually really hard to deal with alone.
Toddler tantrums 3 and year olds
Toddlers at 3 still have emotional tantrums, these will continue through childhood and the teenage years. In theory, these should be easier to deal with at this age. Especially if you’ve been building an understanding of their emotions and how to cope with them.
The tools for coping with these tantrums are the same, so just be consistent.
How do we spot these crafty temper tantrums?
Once they’re over and the child gets what they want, they tend to stop immediately, that’s when you realise you just got manipulated by a toddler who knows how to pull on your emotional heartstrings.
But let’s take a step back, if you’ve got to this stage it’s too late!
Look at their facial expressions; when their toddler temper tantrum is real, it looks like the world is going to end, however, when they’re faking it, there just isn’t as much emotional pain on their face.
They will also likely come on quickly when the toddler wants something and you have denied them it, this could be a toy or a snack.
They will kick and scream until they get what they want, or know that you won’t budge.
You can also go through HALT, if they don’t fit into any of those categories, this is a warning sign that it’s probably not an emotional temper tantrum.
But how do we tackle these ‘crafty’ tantrums?
Like with most things parenting-related, you have to be consistent.
Giving in to these demands teaches your toddler that if they kick and scream enough, you’ll give them what they want.
This will be a hard cycle to break.
Once you have said, ‘we aren’t buying any toys on this shopping trip‘, or ‘no you cannot have biscuits before dinner‘ you should stick to those decisions.
Once you have made your case, you can use some of the above techniques like keeping your cool, distracting and distancing yourself from what your toddler wants.
The distraction could even be offering them something they can have or do instead.
- Rather than a biscuit before dinner, offer their favourite fruit and some chopped up vegetables.
- Make sure you take some of their toys to the shops with you to keep them occupied, remind them they have them on the trip.
In most cases this will work and eventually the tantrum will stop easily enough.
Warning!!! Crafty temper tantrums can turn into emotional ones
If these crafty tantrums are not resolved quickly, they can easily turn into emotional ones.
It’s not uncommon for toddlers to work themselves up so much that they lose control.
When this happens, their facial expression will have clear emotions, you’ll probably get tears and snot to boot.
Tackle this the same way you would a normal temper tantrum.
Remember though, we want to teach discipline, so stay consistent with your decisions and use this as an opportunity to show your toddler how to cope with their emotions.
Don’t emulate your toddler and make the situation worse. You don’t want to add fuel to the fire!
Follow the simple steps and stop toddler temper tantrums in their tracks.
These steps are easy to follow and successful in most situations, even when you have a toddler who can be hard to deal with i.e. very stubborn.
Do your best to stay consistent and don’t give in to their demands.
Remember, you’re only human, probably sleep-deprived and working a job to pay those damned bills.
Give yourself a break if you don’t manage to do this every time. Parenting is a journey that lasts a lifetime.