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?