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8 tips for handling toddler tantrums

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Klara King
Positive parenting facilitator and Montessori specialist

Tantrums can be so tough for us parents and can feel completely overwhelming, exhausting and embarrassing. But, as a mum of three, I want you to know that you are not alone and you are not a bad parent if your child has tantrums.

Nevertheless, it’s nice to have some techniques in your back pocket, so here are my eight tips that may help avoid or deal with a tantrum before your child starts to lose control.

1. Note what triggers a tantrum

Is your child usually hungry or tired when they have a tantrum? Are they usually in a new circumstance or transitioning from one place to another? Are they over-stimulated? In time, we can learn what triggers our children to have a tantrum and try to stop the tantrum before it starts. Remember: behaviour is communication!

2. Connect with your child by naming and validating their feelings

Psychiatrist Dr Daniel Sielgel says, ‘name it to tame it’, and it’s so true! By validating your child’s feelings you will allow them to feel heard and understood. You could try something like: ‘you look sad, it’s ok to feel sad. Mummy gets sad sometimes too.’ By doing so, you are creating a safe space for them to process their feelings.

3. Redirect your child

Rather than labelling certain behaviours as intrinsically bad, try creating alternative options where those behaviours are appropriate. For example, you could try saying, ‘we do not hit people. You can hit your cushion if you are feeling cross.’ The same goes for biting - simply offer them something that they can bite.

4. Get down on to their eye level and talk

Help your child to effectively communicate with you by getting down to where they can see and speak to you calmly. This will help your child to feel connected and secure. Try saying, ‘you look sad. Would you like to show me what is making you sad?’ and then taking them by the hand and letting them lead you.

5. Offer a choice

Giving your child options that they can choose between gives them a sense of control in a time where they’re probably feeling quite out of control. You can try saying things like ‘It is time to leave the park now. Would you like to skip to the car or stomp like a dinosaur?’ You can change it up depending on what you’re doing, and turn it into something fun!

6. Establish routine

A predictable routine helps children to feel safe and secure in their environment. Routines also provide an opportunity for children to develop independence and self confidence. Visual timetables can help children to understand what is next and what is expected, e.g. ‘first we have lunch and then we have a nap.’

7. Offer a positive calm/cool out space

Depending on your child’s age, you can create this space together. The aim is to make a space where your child feels safe enough to go when they’re feeling sad or angry. This is not an area to be sent to when being punished - this is all about making it a safe space for your little one.

8. Stay calm and consistent

As difficult as it might be, the best thing you can do for your child when they’re having a tantrum and feeling out of control is act calm and behave in the same way you did last time they had a tantrum (if positive of course)! This will help your child feel secure and calm them quicker.

Tantrums can often catch us completely by surprise, especially through the toddler years. But it’s important to remember that they are completely normal behaviour for children and can occur anytime but particularly between the ages of one and five, usually coming at a time when children are beginning to make sense of the world around them.

Although it might not feel like it, this stage will pass but in the meantime, you’ve got this!