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Toddler having a tantrum over her game

How To Deal With Toddler Tantrums

01 July 2024

Dealing with toddler tantrums is a common challenge for many parents. These emotional outbursts can be triggered by various factors, from frustration and tiredness to hunger and overstimulation. Understanding how to effectively manage and mitigate these episodes is crucial for both the child's development and the parent's sanity. Fortunately, this guide is here to help you manage these tantrums, and reassure you that you’re not alone!

Understanding Toddler Tantrums

Tantrums are a normal part of toddler development. Often referred to as “temper tantrums”, they usually occur between the ages of 1 and 3 years, as children start to assert their independence but lack the language skills to express their needs and emotions effectively. Recognising that tantrums are a natural developmental phase can help parents respond more calmly and constructively as and when they occur.

Strategies for Preventing Tantrums

We understand that tantrums aren’t a pleasant experience to deal with, for both parent and child. Therefore, we’ve compiled a list of tips to help prevent a tantrum in the first place. It is important to note that these will not work for every child, since there are several factors which can cause tantrums, and every toddler is different. That being said, let’s explore our best tips in more detail…

  • Establish a Routine - Consistency helps toddlers feel secure and builds a sense of familiarity. Establishing regular meal times, nap times, and bedtimes can reduce the likelihood of tantrums caused by hunger or tiredness.
  • Communicate Clearly - Use simple language and be specific with your instructions. For example, instead of saying “Tidy up” say “Please put your toys back in the box”, as this will help your child understand what’s needed of them.
  • Offer Choices - Giving toddlers a sense of control can prevent tantrums. Offer them limited choices where possible, like choosing between two outfits or treats, to make them feel important.
  • Prepare for Transitions - Sudden changes can trigger tantrums. Give your toddler a heads-up before transitioning from one activity to another. For instance, “We’ll leave the park in five minutes”.
  • Ensure Basic Needs Are Met - Ensure your toddler is well-fed, rested, and comfortable, especially in unfamiliar situations. Addressing these basic needs can prevent tantrums stemming from discomfort.

Strategies for Managing Tantrums

Sometimes, preventing a tantrum just isn’t possible, so your next point of call is to manage a tantrum. Toddlers learn very quickly from the behaviour of their parents, so how you respond to a tantrum is very important. For managing a tantrum, we recommend the following:

  • Acknowledge Feelings - Validate your toddler’s emotions by acknowledging them. Say, “I know you’re upset because you can’t have the toy.” This helps them feel understood and may lead to fewer related tantrums.
  • Stay Calm - As mentioned earlier, your reaction can influence your toddler’s behaviour. Aim to stay calm, and speak in a soothing tone. Taking deep breaths can help you manage your own emotions.
  • Use a Distraction - Sometimes, diverting your toddler’s attention to something else can prevent a full-blown tantrum. Show them a toy, a book, or a different activity to shift their focus elsewhere.
  • Ignore Minor Tantrums - If the tantrum isn’t harmful and is simply a way for your toddler to vent frustration, it can be effective to just ignore it. Giving attention to every outburst might reinforce the behaviour in the long term.
  • Use Time-Outs Sparingly - For severe tantrums where the child might harm themselves or others, a brief time-out can be effective. Ensure it’s a safe and boring place, and explain why they are there.
  • Stay Close and Offer Comfort - If your toddler is having a particularly intense tantrum, stay nearby and offer comfort once they start to calm down. Your presence can be reassuring for them.

Teaching Your Toddler Coping Skills

An important part of dealing with toddler tantrums is helping your child cope with things that may cause a tantrum. Managing and preventing tantrums isn’t just an “in-the-moment” response - it may be the result of something deeper. Let’s assess how you can teach your toddler to cope with emotional situations that cause tantrums:

  • Model Calm Behaviour - Demonstrate how to handle frustration and anger calmly and quickly. Toddlers learn a lot by observing their parents, so your behaviour should be exemplary, especially in emotional situations.
  • Teach Words for Emotions - Help your toddler express their feelings by teaching them words for emotions, like “sad,” “angry,” or “tired”. This can reduce frustration-related tantrums in the future.
  • Encourage Deep Breathing - Teach your toddler simple breathing exercises. Encourage them to take deep breaths when they start to feel overwhelmed. This is something which adults can also learn from!
  • Create a Calm-Down Space - Designate a quiet area with comforting items like a favourite blanket or stuffed animal where your toddler can go to calm down.

Post-Tantrum Strategies

The aftermath of a tantrum is a telling period for reducing future outbursts. Monitor how different strategies influence the length and intensity of the tantrum, as this may slightly change your approach after an outburst. Here are 3 post-tantrum strategies to try:

  • Discuss the Tantrum - After your toddler has calmed down, talk about the tantrum in simple terms. Explain why the behaviour was not acceptable and suggest better ways to express emotions.
  • Praise Good Behaviour - Reinforce positive behaviour by praising your toddler when they handle a situation well. Positive reinforcement encourages them to repeat good behaviour in the future.
  • Be Consistent - Consistency in your responses to tantrums helps your toddler understand expectations and consequences. This is particularly useful when you find the best approach to use during a tantrum.

When Should I Worry About Toddler Tantrums?

The vast majority of tantrums are nothing to worry about. However, if the tantrums seem more severe than usual, last longer or are more frequent, then it may be worth talking to a healthcare specialist about what to do next, as there may be something else that’s causing the tantrums. If your child is injuring themselves or others, damaging items around them (at home or in the nursery), and having headaches or stomach aches during or after the outburst, it is also worth visiting a GP or psychologist.

It is important to note that your feelings are completely valid during and after a toddler tantrum. You may find you blame yourself for the outburst, even if it’s not anything you’ve remotely caused. If you’re feeling lost, speak to family, friends, work colleagues, parenting support networks or your local GP.

Our Nursery Provides a Safe Space for Toddlers to Grow

At Abbey Wood Grange, our friendly team is well-equipped to deal with toddlers as they grow up. Our toddler room is designed to be safe and engaging for young minds, so why not come and visit us to see our facilities? Get in touch with us to discuss your child’s needs today!