Inside: The toddler years are full of testing. Limits, patience, and willpower: it’s all stretched to the max with a two or three-year old in the house. But take heart, mama! You’re not the first to tread these dangerous waters. In fact, I’ve asked a few expert moms to share their best toddler parenting tips. Be encouraged with these toddler tantrum tips that will give you confidence to handle tantrums with grace!
I swear my son took one look at the calendar and decided he was turning two. A day early.
Yes, the day before his second birthday was one to remember. I can’t remember what he was upset about, but he pitched (as we like to say in the South) a fit. His darling cheeks turned red, his blue eyes flared.
And my sweet daughter? Well, she came to this realization of her need for independence at an even earlier age. The force is strong with that one.
Here’s what I’ve realized, though. Toddler tantrums are nothing to be scared of.
For far too long I absolutely dreaded tantrums. You, too?
They’re embarrassing. They’re draining. They’re just not fun.
But are we scared? No!
See mama, it’s all about a mindset shift. Your sweet little one is human. And humans, even the best of them, are imperfect.
Instead of living in fear of the next tantrum, remember this:
Toddler tantrums are a chance to teach, and most importantly to love. It’s when your child is at his worst that you can show him what unconditional love really means!
Does this mean we condone inappropriate behavior? Should we make a habit of making excuses for our toddler’s tantrums? Of course not. That’s not love.
Instead, we send the message, “I love you too much to let you behave this way. Let me show you how we can handle the disappointments of life with grace. Let’s find a better way together.”
I’ve asked a few expert moms to share their go-to strategies for these testing toddler years. While every child is different, I believe that these tips will give you a solid foundation for loving and teaching your child through a tantrum.
Related Reading: Try this Simple Strategy to Handle Toddler Bedtime Tantrums!
Toddler Tantrum Tip #1: Help them Calm
It’s the unwritten rule of toddler tantrums that they will pick the most inconvenient time or place to melt down. That’s just the way it is!
When those melt downs happen, our first instinct is to make. it. stop. By whatever means necessary.
One of the most helpful mindset shifts for me came when I realized that tantrums are just teaching moments in disguise. If my child responds out of control when something goes wrong, he’s sending me a signal that he needs me to teach him something. Maybe he needs to learn:
- how to calm his intense emotions.
- how to care about others.
- how to appreciate delayed gratification.
- how to handle failure.
- how to say “no” to selfishness.
Regardless of what the teachable moment looks like, the first step is to help your child calm down. When toddlers are in those intense emotional states, their brains are like closed doors.
It’s absolutely pointless to talk the ears off a toddler who is screaming at the top of his lungs. (Ask me how I know.) Help them calm and open those doors, and then they’ll be more receptive to your instruction.
Nina shares a genius tip for helping your child to calm down during a tantrum.
” If you’re like most parents, you dread your child’s tantrums, however inevitable they are. So you do your best to squash it quickly, and even feel worse when you can’t seem to get him to stop crying. You might have even sent him to time out, or confiscated a beloved item until he calmed down. Unfortunately, it’s typical parenting advice like these that not only backfire, but overlook the amazing opportunities tantrums can present (yes, opportunities!), especially when you can use them as a teachable moment you and your child can learn from.So, how DO you tame those tantrums and help your child calm down in a positive way? Use non-verbal communication. You see, when he’s in the middle of a fit, he’s can’t process anything “logical,” including words. Any attempt to discipline, to tell him why he needs to stop, or to reason with him simply don’t register when he’s coming from such a heightened emotional place. But what he CAN understand is non-verbal communication. This is when you simply hold and rock him in your arms (assuming he lets you), or when you relax your body and facial expression, or when you kneel down to his level to show that you understand the depth of his frustration. And if you DO use words, use simple, reassuring words and a warm tone of voice, like saying, “Mama’s here…” or “I know, I know…” It seems backwards at first, especially when most of us understandably want to stop their tantrums as quickly as possible. But by taking the time to support him in this way, you’ll find that he’ll actually calm down much quicker than if you were to reason, scold, or get upset at him. Try it next time! And if you’re looking for a few ideas on what to do when those tantrums hit, definitely check out my quick guide on handling tantrums that parents have found to be super helpful.” ~ Discover more positive parenting tips from Nina at Sleeping Should Be Easy
Related Reading: 10 Steps to Discipline your Kids (Without Losing Your Patience)!
Becky shares her practical perspective for helping kids learn to look to you for guidance as they discover self-control.
My best advice is to be consistent with children, remain calm and explain that it is not acceptable. If the child is safe, leave them alone to finish their tantrum, but do not give them the attention that they are seeking. When they have finished, talk to them so they can see that if they want your attention, they need to be calm and come to you. They will learn to rely on you to help guide them when something is wrong instead of feeling out of control on their own. ~ Boost your parenting confidence with more tips from Becky at Your Modern Family
Toddler Tantrum Tip #2: Help Them Communicate Respectfully
Once your child is calm, it’s time to teach. For my own kids, my motto is this: “You can say almost anything to me, but you must say it respectfully.”
Toddlers are just getting a grasp on language. What a powerful habit to start teaching to your children at a young age! As moms, it’s our job to teach them alternatives to throwing a fit, crying, or whining, to show them a better way.
I’m continually working to give my kids more communication tools in their toolbox. And the good news is that the earlier you start, the easier it will be! Even young toddlers can benefit from these tantrum taming communication skills.
Here are a few practical tips as you teach your child respectful communication.
- Keep your voice slow, calm, and warm. Instruct your toddler to “match my voice.” This helps them regulate their breathing, stop crying or whining, and begin to speak respectfully.
- Use one-liner phrases. Keep it short and sweet. “Try again, please.” or “Let’s solve this together.”
- Give your child phrases to keep in his “communication toolbox.” A few of our favorites are: “I feel…” and “I need help with…”
- Teach your child the lifelong skill of being the boss of his emotions. Start with modeling how to speak to your heart.
I love what Jodi has to say about teaching toddlers how to communicate respectfully:
“When children throw tantrums, my first goal is to help them get control so we can talk through their emotions. We have a spot in our house they can sit until they are in a place to work though it with us. They aren’t in trouble. I just say something like, “I can see you are angry. Head to the stairs to get control. Once you are able to talk about it, we can figure it out together.” This isn’t a time out. There is no designated time. They could be there for 15 seconds or for 30 minutes. We want to acknowledge their very real feelings and hear them, but they need to learn to get to a place to communicate and not have the power to change the atmosphere of the home.” ~ Learn more practical parenting strategies from Jodi at Meaningful Mama
Toddler Tantrum Tip #3: Do the Hard Work When They’re Little
There’s a phrase I love to repeat to myself throughout the day. “Be nice to your future self.” I say it as motivation to wash the dishes, but it also applies to managing toddler tantrums!
Being proactive about toddler tantrums is plain. hard. work!
- It’s easier to dismiss or ignore poor behavior in your two year old.
- It’s easier to just give him the toy he screamed for.
- It’s easier to let her shake her head no and disobey with those little feet. Because after all, it’s really cute sometimes.
But being permissive with toddler tantrums is a sure-fire way to give yourself teenage tantrums down the road.
Do the hard things now, mama. It will be worth it!
The earlier you start teaching, the easier it will be. I love this article on how to teach your one year old to obey. Renee shares beautiful tips for creating good disciple habits from an early age!
And trust me, it will get easier. Every time you’re consistent with toddler disciple, teaching, and expectations, you’re investing in that future child. You’re giving yourself the gift of a teenager you actually want to hang out with, or an adult child that brings you joy.
Heather has some spot-on advice about doing the hard things now so that you can reap the reward later!
“Get on their level and keep your voice soft. Kneeling down and looking at them eye to eye will show them that they have your undivided attention, so they don’t have to continue to escalate — all your attention is on them. Speak softly, instead of yelling, because it will help them to stay calm too. (I know, I know…this is crazy hard, but you can do it!) Don’t take this tantrum personally! They aren’t trying to make you feel like a bad parent or shame you in public. They are just feeling a lot of things and don’t know how to process all those emotions! Then walk through those emotions with your toddler, reflect to him that he is angry because you said no to candy at Walmart, and that is okay, but it is NOT okay to throw the candy across the aisle. Then immediately set your cart to the side and head to the car, where you can sit with him, strapped into his car seat until he’s ready to try again and go back into the store with you once he’s calm. Of course, he is going to escalate and scream the car down, but you can stay calm because you know 1.) you are not in a public place and 2.) you’re going to outlast him. Once he has gained his self control, you can, with hugs and kisses, head back into the store and finish your errands together, perhaps with a special activity when you get home as a reward.
Yes, this is going to take more time, but when your kids are this young, time is super important. Better to take the time now and help him learn and process these emotions than have a school-age child having a meltdown in public 6 years later. Do your parenting due diligence now, and reap the rewards of a more peaceful home later!” ~ Find other toddler tantrum tips from Heather at MightyMoms.club
Related Reading: Nine Beautiful Ways to be a Better Mom
Toddler Tantrum Tip #4: Know Your Child
My mom and dad have four girls. Four! We’re so alike in many ways, and we all have the same smile. Yet in certain areas we couldn’t be more different.
One is adventurous, the other enjoys home life. One is artistic, the other mathematically-minded. One is extroverted, the other introverted.
Our parents realized these personality differences early on. And instead of fighting against the grain of our natures, they molded discipline and instruction to fit our needs.
On the big stuff, stay rock-solid: We don’t disrespect people or property. We speak kindly. We take responsibility for our actions. Communicate your family values to your toddler!
But when it comes to the in-the-moment actions to tame a tantrum, don’t be afraid to work with your child’s natural personality, rather than against it.
I love how Leah addresses these inborn differences, and her grace-filled approach to managing toddler tantrums.
“Children are so very different that there is no one-size-fits all solution to temper tantrums. Two of my children respond very well to distraction. By pointing out something interesting or handing them a little toy, their attention shifts and they completely forget about what they were upset about in the first place! With one of my children, his tantrums are often caused by an inability to communicate clearly, and the subsequent feeling of divisiveness between us. Holding him tightly helps him to calm down quickly and feel that connectedness that he craves.” ~ Find helpful toddler and habit-training advice from Leah at My Little Robins
Related Reading: Five Transformative Phrases for your Strong Willed Child
Toddler Tantrum Tip #5: Look Deeper
Sometimes, it really is simple. It’s really about the lost toy, or the food they genuinely don’t like.
But other times, a toddler tantrum is just a symptom of something underneath the surface. Those outward lashes are indicators of an inward heart problem.
Maybe your child is feeling unloved with a new baby in the house. Or maybe he’s struggling with confidence or finding his place in the family.
Make it your mission to find the root problem instead of just addressing the symptoms!
After discipline, slow down those moments of re-connection. Resist with everything within you the urge to hurry up and get back to what you were doing before the tantrum.
Savor those post-tantrum moments, mama. This is where the real heart-work takes place!
I love Jenn’s encouragement to take time to understand your child’s heart and mind after a tantrum.
When toddler tantrums strike, the simple practice I find most helpful is to get down on my child’s level, look into her eyes and connect with her by holding her hands or hugging (figure out if this is something your child wants–some kids would rather not be physically held during a fit). Sometimes, I’ll even pick up my daughter and hold her until she calms down, because I’ve learned that’s what she needs. Then I’ll guide her in taking deep breaths, explain her feelings back to her and pray over her. It helps so much to be understanding of what their little hearts and minds are going through when they have a tantrum! ~ Learn more heart-centered parenting tips from Jenn at The Purposeful Mom
Related Reading: One Simple Question that will Transform your Child’s Behavior!
Has your mindset shifted when it comes to toddler tantrums? Remember, tantrums are nothing to be scared of. These five tips will help you through!
- Help them calm.
- Help them communicate respectfully.
- Do the hard work when they’re little.
- Know your child.
- Look deeper.
When your toddler tests the limits, I know you’ll have the confidence to love and teach your child through these difficult tantrum stages. Don’t give up!
Your turn! Share in the comments below, what is the best piece of advice you ever received about toddler tantrums?
Oh my gosh. This is so good and so what I needed to hear right now. I am a mom to three little girls, and my two-year old and four-year old are SO different. My two-year old threw a fit today and what worked with my four-year old wasn’t working. I loved the reminder in this post about the differences in their personalities. My two-year old’s love language is physical touch, but I never thought about holding her during a tantrum. I’m going to try that next time! Thank you for sharing this!