Having your little mini-me scream, cry, kick or fuss is not fun. Period. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the grocery store, at home, church, or the park. A tantrum always follows their toddler no matter where they go.
Prior to being married and having children, I will admit to seeing toddlers throw tantrums in the grocery store and think, “what’s going on over there!? I hope the child is okay!” Now, after children of my own the same situation comes and my heart goes out to the parent.
We aren’t here to talk about people’s mentality of, “why can’t the parent control their child” because as a parent speaking to a future parent, it’s difficult to explain situations that require experience. It’s like trying to explain what salt tastes like.
Out of all of my children, I have one child in particular who is the master tantrum thrower. This child is a scream-crier and a very loud one at that. I have found through experience 8 ways to successfully navigate a toddler’s tantrums.
These tips can be difficult to practice in the heat of the moment, especially when you’re tired, stressed, and overworked. I promise as you stay strong and practice doing one or all eight of these tips, you will notice a huge difference during tantrum time.
As a side note, not all of this tips will work for your little one. Cater to your child’s needs first. Also, these tips are primarily for toddlers. As your little one grows up into childhood, you’ll need to reevaluate these methods and change them to suit your older child’s needs.
8 Ways to Successfully Navigate Your Toddler’s Tantrum
1. Always Speak In A Calm, Soothing Voice
This one is definitely easier said than done, but it works! Children respond to someone who has a constant, soothing voice over someone who is going to shout-match with them. Speaking in a calm voice takes a lot of practice during tantrum time.
Be consistent in the level of your volume. The second you raise your voice is the second everything you worked towards unravels.
2. Selectively Engage In Gentle Physical Touch
This tip is completely dependent on the child and how far along in the tantrum they are currently. For example, my screamer-crier child does not want to be touched with a ten-foot pole during the tantrum process.
By the end, when we are working on the resolve, this child is quickly calmed by having a gentle back rub, hugs, or hand holding.
3. Deep Breaths
Not every tantrum starts and ends quickly, nor are they created equal. Some go for a very long time. You can encourage your toddler to take deep breaths but this tip is primarily for the parent.
You will want to keep yourself calm to avoid saying or doing anything you’ll regret later. Don’t get caught up in the passion and heat of the moment. Coping and dealing with a toddler’s tantrum should not be scarring or play damage control by the end.
A toddler throwing a tantrum is their way of communicating because they are unable to fully communicate the way they want when they wish to be understood and heard.
4. Words Of Affirmation
As you give your child space to throw their tantrum and help them process their feelings, you will also want to speak to them in a calm voice. No threats. Threats never amount to anything good and never have a good outcome. Threatening to take away a favorite toy will always add fuel to the fire. This is rarely a good idea.
Speak to the child calmly, calling them by name often. Use phrases such as, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” “let’s work this out together,” “let it out and tell me more.” Yes, your child might scream for a bit longer than you’d like, but by using those phrases you’re giving your toddler permission to more fully express themselves.
5. Stay Strong, Firm In Your Resolve
Do not bribe a toddler just so they will be quiet and end their tantrum. Do not start screaming back at them, physically striking them, or any other avenue that would cause them discomfort or pain. Your goal is to help your toddler process their emotions safely. Do your best to keep calm.
6. Silence Can Be Golden (Sometimes)
Sometimes toddlers really want to just scream for no reason. My scream-crier, when attention isn’t on them, will scream louder and louder and louder until they’re acknowledged. Instead of returning the screams, I turn to this child and give my planned answer, “(name), you need to stop your screaming if you want my attention.” I then turn and go back to what I was doing.
I will advise keeping a close eye on your toddler to make sure they keep their end of the deal. Usually, this answer must be repeated several times. Toddlers need and learn from repetition, so don’t feel bad or think you’re doing something wrong when you’re repeating the same action again.
7. Conclusion, Resolve
Don’t let a tantrum abruptly end. I know by now you’re exhausted and want to get as much space as you can between you and your child. Do your best to stay strong for a few more minutes.
Have a quick conversation, such as, “(name), what were you hoping to achieve from this?” Listen intently to their broken mumbling and attempted speeches. Briefly express your feelings of love towards them, how you know and believe they’re a good child, and encourage them to be better.
Do not belittle or give any personal attacks against the child. If a punishment is needed, calmly say, “(name) because you (action – didn’t listen, screamed at, pulled x’s hair, etc) you will be sitting in the time out chair (or other reasonable punishment) for 2 minutes (time).” Then immediately carry out this punishment. If your toddler restarts their tantrum because of this punishment, again speak in calm and soothing tones.
8. Help Identify, Name Feelings
After they serve their punishment place your child on your lap, or next to you, and help them identify and name their feelings and emotions. Most children don’t know they’re “angry” or “sad.” They don’t know the appropriate name to call their emotions. They just know what they’re feeling and are following the seemingly natural response they feel is appropriate.
As you speaking in a calm voice, engage in a gentle touch, take deep breaths, use words of affirmation, stay strong, use silence as needed, and help your child resolve and identify their feelings, you’ll be successful in navigating your toddler’s tantrums. The key to success in this is consistency, repetition, and resolve. Stay calm and parent on!
Leave a comment and let us know what you do to successfully navigate your toddler’s tantrum.
Micah Klug is a wife, homeschooling mother to five children, and author. She teaches time-tested solutions to help parents remember what matters most in life, including strengthening their home, faith, and family relationships. To learn how a child who grew up in an authoritarian home is now creating an environment of peace and joy in her own home visit this page. If you want to contact Micah, send her an email here or email [email protected].