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4 min read

Yelling, hitting, sometimes biting, and throwing themselves down on the ground for seemingly no reason at all are all key features of a toddler meltdown. In public, these tantrums can be embarrassing for parents. And in private, meltdowns are still far more stressful than a calm, happy baby.

 

For some people who are not actively in the throws of the toddler years, it is easy to pass judgment on these parents. In fact, the amount of stigma surrounding how children should behave in public is a very real cause of parenting guilt among the toddler parent crowd who feel powerless at stopping or preventing their children from having a meltdown.

 

Understand What Causes Toddler Temper Tantrums

Before you can effectively stop a toddler from throwing a fit, you have to get a handle on what is causing their irrational meltdowns. Sometimes, out of complacent oversight, parents expect toddlers to live in their world full of busy schedules packed with activities. A missed nap or forgotten snack can make a big difference in how adaptable your little one is to frequent changes and busy schedules.

 

Keep in mind that toddlers have not yet fully developed their communication skills. They may be unable to identify or express their emotions. Poor behavior like whining or throwing themselves down on the ground might be the result of their inability to communicate what they are needing or wanting.

 

Tips for preventing temper tantrums:

 

  1. Maintain nap or quiet time schedules. Make sure that your toddler is getting adequate rest. Set an appropriate bedtime and stick to it. Schedule activities around nap times. And, for toddlers who are no longer taking naps, build in quiet time to your routine so they can get a break from stimulation and relax.

 

  1. Bring Snacks. Dips in blood sugar or just a hungry feeling can make anyone’s mood a little crummy. Eliminate this possible cause of trouble by packing a few easy to transport snacks to dole out to your toddler on the go.

 

  1. Beat Boredom. Little kids have short attention spans and they are not likely to want to participate in a day full of boring grown-up errands. Bring a book, tablet, or toys with minimal pieces that travel easily. Bring a couple of options and switch between them to hold their interest.

 

How to Respond to a Toddler Temper Tantrum

Sometimes, despite your best intentions, you will find yourself forced to deal with a temper tantrum. At that moment, you will have a choice to either contribute to the chaos or constructively resolve it. Many of us are programmed to fight fire with fire, meaning that if we can raise our voice louder or speak more sternly, we will somehow win the battle.

There is no rationalizing with a toddler. They are inherently irrational so forget the idea that you can use logic to reason with them, or even that you can defeat their willpower with sheer force. Taming a toddler tantrum takes a different approach.

 

  1. Stay Calm. In any altercation, the fire is fueled by resistance. If your little one’s bad behavior is earning them attention, they are likely to keep at it. By contrast, if they do not get a reaction out of you, they will lose their motivation to continue the fit and it will simply play itself out.

 

  1. Validate their Feelings. Even if the cause of the tantrum seems to be ridiculous, we have all seen the viral posts about the toddler who threw a fit because someone at their snack (and that someone was them), try to find a way to validate their feelings.

 

Toddlers have big emotions and they have not yet developed the coping skills to handle them. What might seem small to an adult with adequate coping skills can feel insurmountable to a toddler. Validating their feelings isn’t so much about normalizing ridiculous complaints as it is about teaching your toddler that it is ok to feel what they are feeling.

 

Use the opportunity to dig a little deeper and try to identify what the tantrum is really about. On the surface, it might appear to be because ‘someone’ ate their snack. But the true problem is that they have suddenly realized they are out of a snack that they enjoyed. They are either still hungry, they are thirsty and have confused that sensation for hunger, or they enjoyed the snack and are disappointed that it is gone.

 

Rule out the physical causes of distress by offering a drink. This will alleviate thirst and temporarily alleviate hunger so that you can ask more questions. Then, move on to the more likely culprit of disappointment.

 

Try phrases like “I know that was a really good snack. It is disappointing that there is not anymore. We will have another snack after we go to the playground”.

The next time that your toddler has a snack, prepare them by letting them know this is only a small snack. They can eat it slowly and make it last or they can eat it quickly, but you won’t give them anymore.

 

  1. Take Control of the Situation when Needed. Sometimes it is ok to let the tantrum play out. But if the tantrum occurs in an unsafe place like while crossing the street, you may need to intervene quickly. If you are in a store and have the ability to step outside with your toddler, do so. Otherwise, as long as your toddler is safe and not a huge inconvenience to others, it is ok to let it play out.

 

Conclusion

Toddlers have unpredictable meltdowns all of the time. Some are caused by physical needs like a missed nap or hunger. Others are caused by unmet social or emotional needs. And, some are caused by overstimulation. In addition to numerous causes, every child is different. Some cope better than others, some adjust new stimuli more easily. Handling a tantrum is really about finding the cause and alleviating the pressure point.

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