Managing Toddler Tantrums

Toddler tantrums can be difficult to deal with. Most toddlers will have more than one tantrum between one year and five years. Many toddlers will have a lot of tantrums. Helping your toddler to deal with his anger will help to shorten tantrums. Over time it will also help to reduce the number of tantrums.

What is the cause of tantrums?

Toddler tantrums are caused by frustration. Your toddler wants a lot of things:

- he wants to explore and find out about things but some things are dangerous or too difficult.

- he wants to be able to do what he sees you and his brothers and sisters doing but because of his naturally limited abilities, he is not always physically capable of doing what he sees others doing.

- he wants things the way he wants them but you may not always know exactly what he wants and he may not have the language to tell you.

- he wants you to understand him but he doesn’t yet have the words to explain how he feels.

- he may be tired or unwell and not able to cope with his usual everyday activities.

So he gets very frustrated at times and a tantrum is often the result.

Toddlers vary a lot in how many tantrums they have. My son and younger daughter had very few tantrums. However my elder daughter was a different story. At 10 months she had her first tantrum and she continued to have at least one tantrum (and sometimes as many as five) a day until she was about 6. She found it very hard to be a little child and not be able to do exactly what she wanted or make the world the way she thought it should be. Also she did not always have the words to explain how she felt or what she wanted. As she grew up her tantrums grew less as she became able to do more things for herself and explain what she wanted and how she felt.

How to manage your child’s tantrums

Patience is very important when it comes to managing toddler tantrums. It is easy to get angry with your child for being angry. This is a natural reaction but it usually makes the tantrum last longer.

A child having a tantrum is completely unreasonable and will probably not hear much of what you say. So it tends to work best to sit beside your child, touch or hold him if he will let you, and talk in a soothing, quiet tone of voice. If it looks like your child is going to hurt himself or damage something then do your best to contain him and remove anything that could get broken. Let your child know that you understand that he is angry and, if you think you know why he is angry, let him know that too. If you are not sure, then it is best not to say anything as he is likely to get even more angry at not being understood. Instead, when he is calm enough, ask him what made him angry. If he cannot explain, make some suggestions about what you think could have caused him to get so upset.

Once the tantrum is over, cuddle your child and reassure him. That level of anger can be quite disturbing and frightening to a small child, even when it is his own anger. He needs to be given time to calm down and to know that you still love him.

If the tantrum happens in a public place, in the street or a in a supermarket, you can still follow this approach. Try not to worry about what other people think. Any parent will know what you are going through. Your child’s wellbeing is far more important than other peoples’ opinions. If you are really embarrassed, then carry your child to a more private place (the supermarket toilet, perhaps) and deal with the tantrum there instead.

How to prevent toddler tantrums

Let me say that it is not possible to prevent all tantrums if your child is very tantrum prone. However, there are some things you can do to lessen the number of toddler tantrums you child has.

• Give your child as much freedom to do what she wants as you can but don’t be afraid to establish boundaries.
• Explain to your child beforehand why certain things have to happen. For instance, if getting into her car seat regularly causes a tantrum talk to her about it beforehand. Explain where you are going and make it sound fun. Also make sure you have something special and interesting for her to do as soon as she is strapped in.
• Do not ask your child to do something you know she finds difficult when she is tired or hungry.
• Ensure that your child eats little and often. A child with low blood sugar is a tantrum waiting to happen.
• Give your child every chance to succeed. Let her try to do things, even if you think she can’t manage it. Trying things is how she learns, so the more you allow her to have a go, the quicker she will become capable and the less frustrated she will be.
• Don’t give way. If you have said that your child can’t do something and she has a tantrum about it, don’t say yes to stop the tantrum. This will only encourage more tantrums if she thinks that a tantrum will help her to get her own way.
• Take time to talk to your child and understand what they want. Doing this means you will more often do what they actually want rather than what you think they want and will avoid quite a few toddler tantrums.

Don’t forget that your toddler will outgrow tantrums eventually. Following the tips above will help make them a thing of the past as quickly as possible.

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