Toddlerhood is an exciting time for your little one. They’re growing fast and learning new things even faster. They have boundless energy and are curious to explore their surroundings. Of course, there are times when they can’t do whatever they want. The Big Bad Parent (that’s you) sometimes has to spoil their fun, and a screaming meltdown is often the unfortunate result.
But there are some surefire ways to calm little ones who are in the middle of a meltdown (or prevent them altogether). While managing toddler tantrums are difficult at best, these tips can help harried parents curb bad behaviors and maintain control.
How to deal with toddler tantrums: Planning ahead
One of the best ways to stop toddler tantrums is to divert them before they begin. Tots like routine—it helps them feel secure and safe. Each morning, discuss your plans for the day with your wee one. Don’t make it too complicated. Offering an explanation like, “This morning we are shopping, then we’ll go to the park after lunch,” will likely be enough for your toddler to know what to expect.
Some children get so involved in playing they find it hard to stop and do something else. After all, racing cars and fighting dragons is far more interesting than anything mom and dad may need to do. Try giving them a five-minute warning before you change activities to give them the chance to finish up.
Stay calm during public meltdowns
Social gatherings are often magnets for tantrums. If they’re used to being the focus of your attention, a meltdown is the best way (in their mind) to make sure you don’t get distracted. But it’s possible to shorten an attention-driven tantrum by removing their target audience. If you’re visiting friends or family, take your screaming little one into a quiet room away from everyone else. Tell them they can rejoin the others when they’re calm and collected.
If you’re out in public, pretend to be distracted by window displays or your phone. Tell them you’ll talk to them again when they settle down and give them a few minutes to compose themselves.
Above all, don’t raise your voice to shout over them. Speak in a normal tone so they have to stop screaming to listen.
Toddler discipline at home: Help cranky kids find their chill
Many times, our little tykes have mood swings at home. While it’s far less embarrassing to have a toddler throw a fit in private, it’s not any less frustrating. Luckily, browbeaten parents still have some recourse.
If it’s safe to do so, simply leave the room. Just stay within earshot so you can hear when they’re starting to calm down. Sometimes tantrums are caused by sheer frustration, communication problems or being emotionally overwhelmed. To address these issues, create a “chill out” area in your home where they can safely vent. Explain to your child that this is a safe space where they can cry and yell and slowly calm down. They may start to use it for comfort when they get cranky.
Always bring a nibble
A sudden drop in energy levels can trigger major mood swings. Sometimes tots simply get a serious case of “hanger” (hunger and anger make a nasty combo), which can result in a tantrum.
Luckily, a healthy snack can give them a welcome distraction and provide them with a positive energy boost. And because diverting meltdowns can be draining for you as well, don’t forget to pack some tasty treats for yourself.
Take some notes
Are tantrums becoming a regular occurrence? Make a note of what triggers them by keeping a log (it doesn’t have to be anything formal—jotting down a few details on a notepad is just fine).
When your kid gets into a huff, pause for a moment and ask yourself a few questions. What time of day do the tantrums happen most often? Are these outbursts happening just before nap time each day, or leading up to lunch? You may notice some obvious patterns, such as a tired tyke melting down whenever they’ve skipped their nap, or when they’ve had too much sugar. From there, you can make adjustments to their diet, schedule or whatever is contributing to their emotional explosions. Small changes to your daily routine may make all the difference.
Set some rules (and stick to them)
Boundaries and consistency can help small children feel safe. While we’ve all heard this before, it’s worth repeating: Consequences for bad behavior and appropriate follow through can help curb emotional flare-ups before they begin.
On the flip side, praise your little ones when they’re well behaved. If they manage to control their temper when they otherwise would’ve gotten upset, immediately tell them how well they’re doing.
Don’t play the blame game
Don’t feel bad if your kiddo only seems to have tantrums in your presence. They might be an angel when friends or family care for them—but that’s irrelevant. You’re their parent. Because your child feels safe with you, they can express strong emotion, test boundaries or lose control, and they trust that you’ll still be there for a cuddle afterward.
Do you have other foolproof methods for managing your kids’ meltdowns? Share them in the comments below.