Dealing with Toddler Temper Tantrums {Parenting}

When I was pregnant I read many books with special chapters on handling tantrums and preparing for the “terrible twos”, I have visited forums and websites that discussed the topic and read articles about it.  Well, there is nothing like dealing with your toddler’s tantrums for the first time.

Toddler tantrums are a common emotional release characterized by crying, screaming, kicking and punching and even trashing around on the floor sometimes.  They are common among two and three year-olds but they can start earlier than that {like our son’s at 16 months}.  I have been experiencing tantrums first-hand for a few days.

Here are two example scenarios of how a typical temper tantrum begins at home:

Scenario #1
  • Mom’s Iphone is on the couch (she forgot to move it, she knows better!!)
  • Toddler sees the Iphone and runs faster than mom to grab it.  Then as he is about to drop it on the hardwood floor mommy asks for the Iphone and takes it away while says: “Can mommy have her Iphone back? This is mommy’s phone but here is your toy cell phone instead”
  • Toddler looks at mom and points to the Iphone while crying and screaming for the next 10 minutes
Scenario #2
  • Toddler is trying to unlock the child-proof locks to open the kitchen’s cabinet to throw one of his toys in the garbage bin
  • Mom holds toddler’s hand and helps him move away from the cabinet while redirecting his attention and saying “Do you want to play your piano and dance with mommy over HERE?”
  • Toddler runs back to the cabinet and tries it again
  • Mom redirects his attention again until he starts crying and screaming for the next 5-10 minutes

Does that sound familiar? For us it depends on the day but some days I have to deal with tantrums multiple times a day and it is difficult for both of us.  At this age kids have very strong wills and they can get extremely frustrated to not be able to express their emotions in words.  Tantrums become an emotional release and the only way they feel they can deal with the situation.

When he has a tantrum I try to ignore it and let it take its course while ensuring he is in a safe place and he is not going to hurt himself or others, giving in to my little one’s temper is not helping him and instead reinforcing his behavior.  Every time he gets what he wants I am just teaching him that misbehavior gets him what he wants and he will repeat the bad behavior again.

It is specially hard to ignore the tantrums when they last a long time and so many times I just want to pick him up and kiss him or tell him I love him, but I now know that he does not like being held during tantrums. When I have done it before he actually gets even more upset and the tantrum escalates.  I usually just say once: “You are o.k., I understand how you feel, I am here if you need me”.

Once I see the tantrum is coming to an end I am ready to give him a hug and tell him he is o.k. He usually hugs me back and stays in my arms while I comfort him.  I can feel him slowly relaxing and coming back to “normal”,  then we continue with our day.

I noticed that tantrums happen a lot more often right before nap times or when we missed a nap. I try really hard to keep his schedule and ensure he is always at home for nap times.

It is not easy dealing with tantrums,  specially in public, but I am trying my best!  Just like anything else we have to be patient and respect our little one’s emotions. It is not easy being a toddler and having so many intense feelings and emotions without being able to express them.

How do YOU deal with tantrums? What do you find works for you and your child?

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Angela V

Founder and Writer at One Smiley Monkey blog
Hi, my name is Angela van Tijn and I live in Vancouver, Canada with my wonderful husband, our two boys and our puppy. I am the founder and primary contributor behind One Smiley Monkey. Welcome to my blog!

25 responses to “Dealing with Toddler Temper Tantrums {Parenting}”

  1. Redirect, redirect, redirect. Doesn't always work, but often will distract my 20 month old from what he was so mad about in the first place. I usually look for a toy he hasn't played with in a couple of days so it's "exciting". I also take the time to explain everything to him. "No, sweetie, you can't climb on the kitchen table because it's dangerous and Mommy doesn't want you to get hurt." When all else fails and he has a fit, I tell him, "I know you're frustrated and it's okay to be mad". I like to try to acknowledge and validate what he's feeling. I may not be able to solve his problem, but at least he knows I understand his problem. Here's hoping consistency now pays off in the long run!

  2. Those are all great tips Ehlane! Thank you for posting! Redirecting their attention is definitively a must! It really works!

  3. I usually use "Stop-Start". Please stop doing (insert bad behavior) and instead let's do (good behavior) which I think is the same thing.
    I took some parenting classes when the tantrums begun to get the beat of me, and just KNOWING where he is in his development made a world of difference. Reasonable expectation and standard has helped BOTH our stress levels.
    It also helped me pinpoint triggers and make a game plan to avoid the situations that made my son flip out in the first place.
    Asking for help was the best thing I could have done. We went from 3-4 tantrums a Day to only 3-4 a week, and usually less. That's reasonable to me!

  4. I have grown "kids," small grand-children, and have spent much of my life teaching pre-school, kindergarten, and middle school (middle school has a whole other set of issues!)I have found that keeping a schedule for eating and sleeping is the best way to avoid tantrums. Breakfast…morning snacks…(little ones need a morning nap)…lunch…nap…afternoon snack…dinner…bedtime snack…sleep. This means that, throughout the day, the kids are never very hungry or very tired for very long. I understand that parents are busy—taking a snack along on errands is easier, but scheduling things to keep nap and sleep time steady helps a lot.

  5. I loved this post! My third is a tantrum thrower, started about 12 months. My other two were not tantrum throwers so my husband and I were somewhat shocked. She has gotten better. I try to be aware of things that set her off and be proactive. She still throws the biggest one while I am trying to make dinner. We aren't sure why or how to help her. I have been trying to involve her more in the process and that seems to help but there are many times when I am working at the hot stove it just isn't safe. Anyways, thanks for the post!

  6. January 26-Two of my grandchildren used to take tantrums. My daughter or her husband would quietly remove them to a safe place and leave them until they calmed down. These episodes, if handled quietly and firmly, usually soon run their course. The trick is for Mom not to respond if this is a disaster!(This,too, shall pass.)-el03ro

  7. I let my kids have their tantrums and would often interject with "why don't we do this" or "how about we go here" but giving in is never the solution and I do agree with you that if you do give in, you are rewarding/re-enforcing bad behaviour! Its difficult to do sometimes though!

    Anne Taylor

  8. Thank you for posting this! My son is 11 months old but he already throws mini-fits and I'm scared (don't tell him!LOL) of what's to come as he gets older. I need to go back to my gym and start my yoga again, because I will honestly loose it and throw tantrums WITH him if I don't have some sort of relief! LOL

  9. And I love reading all the seasoned moms' tips. ::Sighs in relief:: "I am not alone"

  10. January 27–This item is more for older children–I babysat for a family where, because of serious illness, a four-year old was very pampered.(rightly so) When she became better, she still expected the 'royal' treatment and threw tantrums if she didn't receive it. Her mother would calmly send her to her room. That treatment worked and in a few weeks, no more tantrums!-el03ro

  11. My advice is to be consistent no matter what. If the bad behavior is not acceptable on Monday and it should never be acceptable any other day, no matter where you are with your little one. If I am out and my child threw a tantrum then I removed him from the situation, sadly we let Wal-Mart a few times without completing my I agree with previous posts, try to keep to schedules as much as possible as tantrums sometimes just happen because the little one is tired or hungry. Tantrum throwing does have to be broken as soon as possible because it will only get worse and you don't want to see a teenager throwing one..yikes!

  12. Its always nice to know we aren't alone. I have 4 year old triplets and each of them are unique to types of tantrums and reactions…if all 3 go at once its best to just sit down and ride the tide. 😉

  13. good advice.

  14. Very informative!

  15. Great advice that I will use

  16. Redirecting works ONCE – kids know the old redirect my thoughts trick when they see it.

  17. i have a son who is now 17 months old, i get all kinds of tantrums and screaming and beating all the time. as u mentioned most of things in my house if missing will be in dustbins, waiting for my son to become big, as well enjoying these moments, thank u for the tips, take care

  18. when mine were little sometimes i just tried to ignore them when they were having their ‘fits’ ! it seemed to work and i wasn’t giving into to them either! and then hugs & kisses!

  19. Sometimes it is difficult to just turned my back and leave

  20. When my kids threw tantrums, I would imitate the faces and sounds they were making. After a couple of minutes, they’d start laughing and forget they were angry.

  21. As a mother of 2 and an E.C.E. (Early Childhood Educator) my biggest advice here is consistency! Stick with what you say you are going to do, and FOLLOW though. Don’t make threats that you don’t intend to keep and be realistic!
    I tell all Moms to do the very best they know how; raise your children with all the morals and values they hold dear and listen to their gut. This will give their children a solid foundation to go and thrive on, and a feeling of security to know what is expected of them each and every time, and if they forget, and gentle reminder may be needed.

  22. redirection and prevention are our sanity-savers. we also do our best to always let him know whats coming next, because sudden changes are a recipe for disaster for us. my son is 29 months so now we are also working on learning breathing techniques (which right now isn’t effective because he’s so young, but i feel it will be as he gets older) and i always do my best to validate his big emotions (“i know you’re upset right now because i won’t let you have this cookie but the rule of the house is no cookies before dinner” for example)

  23. I remember those days my best advice is they grow up and those fits of temper will be cute compared to teenage problems!!!!

  24. Tantrums are hard to deal with, consistency worked for me.

  25. My 22m old has the worst tantrums and yes, over the iphone and ipad he too does not like to be held during, thanks for the post, at least i feel not alone! thought im the worst mom for my child to behave like this

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