How should I handle toddler tantrums?
Real Mom Problem
“I have a 2 year old. He's so adorable. I love him to death, but sometimes I want to put him in a box and send him back. I've done everything I can think of to get him under control but nothing has worked. Anyone have ANY suggestions? I'm at the end of my rope.”
- 1. Never give in to a tantrum
- 2. Provide your toddler with a safe place to express their frustration
- 3. Identify tantrum triggers -- hunger, fatigue, etc -- and stop tantrums before they start
- 4. Help your toddler understand their feelings by naming their emotions and offering empathy
- 5. If tantrums make you lose your cool, give yourself a time out and come back when you're feeling calmer
Real Mom Solutions
Tantrums may be a normal part of toddler life but that doesn't make them any easier to handle! Lucky for you, the moms of CafeMom have been in your shoes and have shared successful strategies for tackling tantrums.
Never Give In to a Tantrum
One main reason he's throwing tantrums is because he's mad and can't tell you in words, so he's acting it out through body language and ear piercing screams. It will take time to get over this phase. Whatever you do, don't give into the tantrum. If you do, he will figure out QUICKLY that if he wants something, all he has to do is kick and scream. Just try to redirect him with another toy, change of scenery, snack etc. Also, ignore the tantrum when you can. They are trying to get your attention when throwing a tantrum and if you're not there to give them the attention, they'll eventually stop. I have been known to put the kids in their rooms and just leave. Or just leave them where they are and walk away. And always remember to be consistent! Stand your ground! DO NOT give in! And please know, it is a totally normal part of toddlerhood. Your child throwing a tantrum at that age does not at all reflect how you are as a parent. All toddlers do it and I wouldn't worry.
My advice is just to be patient, if you feel like you are losing your cool---walk away & calm down. If she is acting up because she wants something, don't give it to her. She will only learn that she can cry or throw a tantrum to get her way. Also, try to reward good behavior! If she does something sweet, tell her! Go on & on about her good behavior but don't reward her for bad behavior!
My daughter went through a stage where she threw crazy fits. She learned quickly that she would not get what she wanted when she did it - even after she calmed down. Once she realized that, it got better. My main rule of parenting is: Never reward bad behavior. It's like giving a dog a treat for crapping on your rug.
Ignore the Tantrums
I simply ignore my 2 year old's tantrums and walk away. It makes her mad so she will follow me and I just ignore her again. That hurts her feelings and I tell her I don't like when you act like that. You have to use your words and tell me what you want. You only get to do big girl things when you act like a big girl. I also never give in to tantrums. All that teaches her is to do it more. Be firm and stick to your word.
As a mother and a childcare professional/teacher, when I run into children who throw tantrums, I make sure they are in a safe place (away from a wall or other object that could hurt them) and let them throw their tantrum - I tell them, that I love them and when they are done with their tantrum, they can come back and talk to me, then walk away. In the store, just ignore them. If you keep talking to them, pleading with them, making empty threats, it only fuels the fire.
Help Them Feel Heard
They will hit a stage where they are frustrated. They have so much to say but no way of saying it, and that frustrates a toddler to NO END! I bet much of the throwing, tantrums, etc has a ton to do with it. Just try your best to understand her and ask her many yes and no questions about what she's trying to say if that helps. When they get mad, they can't express their feelings any other way and so they resort to tantrums and violence. My best suggestion is to help her validate her feelings. Instead of getting mad back, just say "I know you are mad because you can't have X." The more you validate it, the more she has words to use. So, later, when she is mad, she will use her words more than her actions. If she's a more expressive mad person, you may want to give her a pillow or a stuffy she's allowed to toss around. Tell her it's the "mad-cow" or whatever and allow her to pull it, tug it, toss it around the room - whatever allows her to get the "mad energy" out.
Tantrums start because they get frustrated and don't know how to control the feelings. If you think about it when we get mad we feel like kicking, screaming and hitting something. But we've learned there are better ways to deal with that frustration. Toddlers haven't learned that yet. We need to teach them.
Honey, he sounds like a normal toddler and if he is meeting all of his developmental milestones with no concerns, he will grow out of it. All I can offer you in the way of advice at this time is to listen to him and make him feel validated, even a 1 year old knows when they are being "heard". Once you know what it is he trying to tell you, associate that feeling or object with the word and an action where appropriate to help him learn how to communicate with you.
This was the age where we started to help name the feeling they had when they were upset. A simple "You feel sad?" or "You seem like you are angry" would go very far in helping calm down. Even though they were not always able to express themselves, they felt better when they knew their feelings were at least understood. Didn't mean they got what they wanted, but we validated the feeling. It was also at this age we started teaching some calm down techniques - both my boys at that age could take deep breaths to calm down. By teaching come "calm down" techniques, we really never got to melt downs. By focusing on how to manage strong feelings and validating their feelings, we managed to raise 2 kids pretty much tantrum free - worked for us - best wishes!
Tantrums Are Normal (and necessary)
It sounds like he just needs to know you are there for him while he works out his emotions. My daughter is almost always that way. She doesn't need/want to be alone. She wants comfort, but she also wants to cry to release the emotions. There is nothing wrong with that.
A tantrum is a healthy way for a young child to deal with their emotions. It's hard being a small child where you are so physically and verbally limited. It's got to be incredibly frustrating. Tantrums, most of the time, at that age are how children deal with it. Some kids need to have a safe place they can be to cry and vent their frustrations. Sometimes they need hugs and cuddles. It really depends on the child and the situation.
I have found that punishing a tantrum sends the message to the child that they are bad for having such intense emotions. They never learn how to deal with their emotions constructively and are more likely to be angry and aggressive as they get older.
If the tantrum is an attempt to get what they want (crying to get a cookie) I have found its best to acknowledge what they want, empathize that they are sad they cannot have it, and then move on. Pay it no more attention.
We give our daughter, a safe place she can go in the house to cry and vent when need be. It really helps to diffuse the situation quickly and we can all move on. I know it can be frustrating to see our children out of control like that, but I can guarantee you its 100% more frustrating for the child who is out of control.
Try These Successful Strategies
We give our daughter choices so she feels she has some control over the situation. Like we say you can have a cheese sandwich or peanut butter for lunch...which one do you want...so she knows she has to have lunch, but she gets a choice. This might help.
I like to use the quiet approach, meaning that when a child becomes excessively loud or begins acting up, I begin very quietly speaking, almost in a whisper instead of the natural instinct to get riled up myself. I use non-aggressive words and body language. The child soon calms down so they can watch what you are doing and hear what you are saying. Once I've gotten their attention, I try to calm them down the best I can given whatever situation we are in. I might promise them something they love once we get home, praise them for stopping the outburst, hug them if I feel that's what they need, give reasons why I'm proud of them for behaving appropriately now. I worked professionally with children with emotional difficulties and this does work.
It's a phase, but that doesn't mean it should be ignored or "allowed." He needs to be put in time out for each and every out burst - no matter if he ends up sitting in time out half the day because he throws so many fits, no exception. After a few days he'll catch on that he doesn't get what he wants by throwing a tantrum. And NEVER ever give in. If he thinks for a second that you will cave, then the behavior won't stop.
I had those problems with my daughter until I threw a fit louder, harder, and longer than she did. Boy was she mad. She stopped screaming and looked at me and said "that's not funny mommy." I said "that's what you look like" and she walked away.
At this age they are learning a lot about themselves and their belief systems are forming for the rest of their lives. I think it is a mistake to over control at this age. Calm, repetition will eventually work most likely. The trick is to keep him safe, use calm repetition, and don't worry about what other people think. If you do this, it will work. When you use your power to over power him and make him act a certain way socially you are shutting down his will power which does not make a successful adult. Use the word gentle when he hits, tell him you love him when he screams and that is okay, etc. Treat him with respect instead of control. And yes, this is a different way of parenting but it works. It honors the person that your child came here to be, and he will respect you and feel respected which will make the relationship much easier. If he is being hit or threatened with fear though, then this won't work. That's my advice and that is what I teach parents... And it works . Much peace and love to you and your son.