How To Deal With Tantrums And Meltdowns In Toddlers

Square sandwiches?! But I wanted triangles! Even when you always cut them into squares, how could you do such a thing? Tantrums swing between being a bit understandable to downright ridiculous, but regardless of that, the ‘I want it and I want it now’ eruption is still going to hit you with full force every time. You’re not a mind-reader though, so just remember it’s not your fault and you couldn’t predict their behaviour before it happened. What you can do is get to know your kid’s reactions and wise up to how they might behave in similar situations. Are they stubborn or easy-going? While easy-going might get you off a bit more lightly, don’t expect them not to throw tantrums: everybody goes through the terrible twos.

Is there a storm brewing?

The first time it happens, it’ll come out of nowhere. You’ll be enjoying your day and ‘bam!’, it’ll feel like the world is ending. For the first few occasions, you still will not know what’s hit you. They were playing so calmly… how could that just happen? Next time, you’ll get a bit more savvy. Yes, they were playing with building blocks but it then started the light tapping on the floor, which slowly turned into banging…. then 10 seconds later the whole tub of blocks were thrown across the room. Shut them down early, if you can.

Your immediate reaction matters

It’s horrible to watch your toddler being upset, we know. And it’s made even worse by the fact they can’t communicate what’s getting to them so much. While kicking and screaming just like your child may sound satisfying, it will not get anyone anywhere and it’ll make them think that’s a reasonable reaction.

  • Learn the art of distraction: ‘Look! There’s a cat!” (Cats move quickly, right?)
  • Tell them what you want, rather than what you don’t
  • Finally, if you’ve said ‘no’ to something, don’t change your mind to stop them screaming, as tempting as that can be

Do some sleuthing

“Dad, you were in the room at 11.04am eating a banana, right around the very time of the tantrum. Suspicious, don’t you think?” Figuring out the source of the tantrum will help you find the solution. Who was in the room? Who wasn’t? Yes, the bricks might have fallen over at the same moment but the envy of seeing someone eating was more likely is issue.

Reduce the odds of a future tantrum

This can happen anytime, not just after the meltdown moment

  • If you’re angry that your friend let you down or sad that you missed your TV show, tell your kid about it. If they get why you’re unhappy, that’s a step to understanding themselves
  • Let them feel like they’re in control. “Teeth clean or toilet first?” Both need to be done but giving the option makes them think they’re running the show
  • Let other adults know how you react. You’re all in it together, so you need to shut these things down in the same ways

Know what to do next time

You might be able to prevent it, but then again, you might not. The terrible twos happen. You’ll put your ace parenting knowledge into practice and come out of the other side. It might be in a year’s time, but it’ll feel good, we promise.