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Tantrums

6 Essential Tips for Calming Toddler Tantrums

July 17, 2019, Author: Tamra Cater

toddler tantrums

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So, I did a post a few months ago focusing on how to tame toddler tantrums. However, I would like to go more in depth on how to calm a toddler when a tantrum happens. As mentioned in my previous post, toddlers don’t hear you if you try to explain anything to them in the midst of a tantrum. Thus, it’s important to first figure out how to help calm a toddler’s tantrum before working on solving the problem.

To start, you may have had a similar experience such as this one:

Me: What do you want for breakfast?

Toddler: A waffle!

Me: (Cooks a waffle and hands it to toddler on a plate)

Toddler: I want cereal!

Me: But, you said you wanted a waffle?

Toddler: (Tantrum or meltdown).

At What Age do Toddler Tantrums Start?

So, tantrums definitely are a part of the toddler years. According to What to Expect, toddler tantrums can start at around 12 months and go through age 3 and even 4. You are most likely to see tantrums occur during your child’s second and third year of life.

But, with some patience and foresight, they can be handled! And as frustrating as tantrums can be at times, tantrums can actually be a good thing. I will tell you why…

How can Toddler Tantrums be a Good Thing?

According to an article from Parenting, tantrums can actually help children heal. Thus, tantrums are a big part of your child’s emotional health and well-being.

This same article suggests that tears contain cortisol, so when a person cries, we are releasing stress from our bodies (since cortisol is a stress hormone). So, while it’s important to help our children learn to self-soothe and calm themselves down, it’s also important (even for us!) to be ok with crying.

Also, when children have tantrums in front of you, this also means that they feel safe telling you how they feel. It’s likely the child is having a tantrum (and thus expressing how they feel) after you have told them “no,” as you are building limits and boundaries for the child. And this is a good thing!

Last of all, children can learn to experience empathy. When toddlers experience tantrums, they gain a better understanding of their own emotions, which in turn, helps them build a greater awareness of others’ feelings as well.

toddler tantrums

Tips on How to Calm Toddler Tantrums

1.Remain calm. Children can pick up on your own frustration and anger, which may escalate the tantrum even more. So, this would be the first step in helping toddlers calm their tantrums. According to one article, there are several things you can do to keep calm. You can consider walking away for a moment to help mentally prepare yourself on handling the situation, as well as taking some deep breaths. Also, give yourself time to think- What caused the tantrum? Is your child overly stimulated? Tired? Frustrated?

If we are frustrated at that moment, it’s important that we model ways to help ourselves calm down. In doing so, our toddlers are learning how to regulate their own emotions. This is why it’s important to take deep breathes, walk away and do something for a minute (such as tidying up), and then come back to the situation.

2.Find a distraction. There was one afternoon where my daughter was very upset and having a tantrum, but I can’t remember over what. However, the tantrum stopped almost immediately when she saw a ball nearby and starting playing with it. Soon after, she was in a good mood! Distraction can be something you try first in order to help calm a tantrum. There are other ways to use distraction, which can be done with sensory bottles. I have made 2 different ones that I sell on Etsy. Click here to check it out! These sensory bottles are meant to help children self-soothe and relax, so they can potentially help calm tantrums.

3.Hug your Child.  You may wonder if this is rewarding the tantrum, but it isn’t. It should help your toddler calm down in the midst of a tantrum. Hugs help reduce stress, so in turn, it will help reduce your child’s distress. According to one article, hugging results in the release of the feel-good hormone known as oxytocin. Generally, hugs have amazing benefits to children, because they help children learn to regulate their own emotions and become more resilient!! If your child refuses to be hugged, that’s ok to. I would sit near your child until the emotions subside. This will still help your child feel safe and supported by you.

4.Acknowledge and validate your child’s feelings. In doing this, this can help reduce the length of the tantrum. Just like anyone else, toddlers want to be heard. So, if we label the emotion and help them understand what they are feeling, this should help reduce the distress that your toddler is feeling.  For example, when my toddler has a tantrum, because her blocks keep falling down, I say, “I can see that you are frustrated. Let me help you.” And then, I also tell her to keep trying and then help her find other solutions to keep her blocks from falling down.

5.Create a “time in.” I’d consider setting up a comfortable place somewhere in the home where the child feels safe. This could be a tent with blankets, books, and stuffed animals. It should just be something where the child can calm down and learn to self-soothe. Thus, this can help with the child’s emotional self-regulation.

6.Avoid physical punishment and giving in to demands. Physical punishment has been shown to not be effective in truly changing behavior, and there could be a risk of losing control when emotions are high. Also, if you give in to demands, your child may learn to have more tantrums in the long run, because it helps them get what they want.

What to Do After the Tantrum

Remember that the tips for calming tantrums are to help your child learn to regulate their own emotions, and it’s not rewarding the behavior. After your child has calmed down, this is when you can can talk to them about what happened and work together to find a solution.

My Example

When my child has a tantrum and throws toys, this is not the time to talk to her about how we shouldn’t do that. My daughter is not using the logical part of their brain at that moment, so essentially, I won’t be heard. This is why it’s important to first get her to calm down (which I might do by letting her sit in her bed with her covers and a stuffed animal). Once this happens, we talk about how her toys will break if she does that, and that we can express our anger in other ways. I might tell her to say, “I’m mad.” I might also say to her that she can hit the couch instead.

Final Thoughts on Toddler Tantrums

Toddlers are a time in their life where they are feeling big emotions and don’t quite know how to handle them yet. So, we have to step in and help them. In the long run, if we can give our toddlers the tools to help them learn to regulate their own emotions, they will be able to better handle stress and be more resilient later on down the road.

As frustrating as tantrums can be, these are important teaching moments for our children and can actually help build a better relationship between you and your child!

If you’d like, you can download this free infographic on why tantrums happen and how to handle them!

toddler tantrums

Also, if you’d like further reading on the topic, see the references below, as well as my suggested book: 

References

Orson, K. (2019). 10 Reasons your Toddler’s Tantrum is Actually a Good Thing. Retrieved from https://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/discipline/tantrum/10-reasons-your-toddlers-tantrum-is-actually-a-good-thing/.

How do deal with toddler tantrums like an expert. Retrieved from https://happyyouhappyfamily.com/handle-kids-temper-tantrums/

Three Ways to Resolve Tantrums. Retrieved from https://ninchronicles.wordpress.com/2019/02/06/three-ways-to-resolve-tantrums/



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comments (26)

  • avatar image
    Beautiful tips. The overall feel of this piece is very calming.

    Jaya

    July 18, 2019 Reply
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      Thanks! 😊

      Tamra Cater

      July 18, 2019 Reply
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        An educative post. Thanks for this.

        Abbey

        July 19, 2019 Reply
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          I like the tips and using tge term time in vs. time out. Nicely done! An example of mylessonsearned.

          Denise

          July 21, 2019 Reply
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        Oh wow, you are a superwoman! Lovely post. Definitely great tips you gave here.

        MJ

        July 20, 2019 Reply
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          Thank you!

          Tamra Cater

          July 20, 2019 Reply
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            I rememeber the toddler tantrum days. And you know, they don't exactly go away when your kids are tweens, lol. Great tips for handling toddler tantrums in a calming way.

            Rebecca @ Boss Single Mama

            July 21, 2019
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            You’re exactly right!

            Tamra Cater

            July 21, 2019
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        Great tips! I’m always dealing with tantrums from my 3 year old, so this post might just save my life! Lol. Thank you!

        Kaila

        July 20, 2019 Reply
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          Lol, you're welcome!

          Tamra Cater

          July 20, 2019 Reply
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    MAKING eye contact. With hugs too:)

    Chocoviv

    July 18, 2019 Reply
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      That’s a great point!

      Tamra Cater

      July 18, 2019 Reply
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    This is such a good post! It's so important that we are more accepting of little kid's feelings. My girls were all very different but the validation of their feelings helped all of them. My oldest would need a quiet moment. My middle daughter needed to be held and consoled. My youngest needs a little space and the ability to be loud.

    Crystal

    July 19, 2019 Reply
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      Thanks, I absolutely agree. I think you make a great point about how everyone is different.

      Tamra Cater

      July 19, 2019 Reply
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    This is great information. I might add that these same principals apply to teenage blow ups. They are in the midst of huge changes to emotions, responsibilities, hormones and boundaries. They, too, cannot hear reason when in the midst of a drama. Every single one of these might work... personalized, of course. Well written!

    Karla Petersen

    July 20, 2019 Reply
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      Thanks. I love your point, and you are absolutely right about that!

      Tamra Cater

      July 20, 2019 Reply
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    I remember being guilty of being the toddler with a tantrum. I know I will probably have to deal with a toddler with a tantrum when I have children. Thank you for sharing these tips! It is so important that physical punishment is avoided - especially when it really messes with the child's emotion. I like the hugging and validating part the most! Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me

    Nancy

    July 20, 2019 Reply
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      Thanks! :)

      Tamra Cater

      July 20, 2019 Reply
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    This is such an interesting post! My daughter is only 9 weeks old but I'm getting the preperation in early ;) Ashleigh - https://www.thestoryofashleighdavis.com

    Ashleigh

    July 20, 2019 Reply
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      Thank you! That’s good!

      Tamra Cater

      July 21, 2019 Reply
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    Nice TIPS Tamra. This will definitely work but some kids, when you try to reach out, they become worse with the tantrum thing

    faith

    July 21, 2019 Reply
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    I love the idea of a "time in" and waiting to discuss the tantrum. Such great tips. Thank you!

    Kimberlie

    July 21, 2019 Reply
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      Thanks!

      Tamra Cater

      July 21, 2019 Reply
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    I have to admit I don't know what to do when kids start to cry and have tantrums. I'm not a mum, so I struggle to deal with children but was surprised to find out that I actually do quite a lot of these when my nieces start to kick off.

    Nyxie

    July 22, 2019 Reply
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    I'm glad I came across this. First of all, I LOVE my toddler when she throws a tantrum. It shows me she's just a real human with emotions. Her tantrums rarely ever get to me anymore. I'm a huge fan of hugging them when they are emotional and a lot of people don't agree with it. Great read, thanks for the tips.

    Laura J Dixon

    July 23, 2019 Reply
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      Thanks, I agree!

      Tamra Cater

      July 23, 2019 Reply