How to Deal with Toddler Tantrums
Toddler temper tantrums humiliate parents every day.
As he wails and stamps his feet in the store, you feel dozens of pairs of eyes homing in on you: the incompetent parent. Relax; it happens to every parent. Curbing tantrums depends upon understanding why they happen, planning ahead to prevent them and learning effective means to curtail them. Imagine if you were dropped on a strange planet of giants who spoke an unintelligible language and made insensible rules. That’s the toddler’s world. They’re frustrated little people who want to be heard.
Give a Pause to Listen
Stop to listen and validate his thoughts but not his behavior. Do not reward bad behavior by granting his request, even if it’s a reasonable request, until he calms down and improves his attitude. Sometimes, that means removing him from the site so he loses his audience. Other times,
that means distracting his attention from his ridiculous demands to something different (but again, don’t reward bad behavior and make it clear that’s not acceptable).
Don’t leave the options open-ended or grant an unreasonable solution. If he hates wearing his “itchy” pants and wants to go nude, offer the red or blue pants. Toddlers often cling to unreasonable demands because they can’t decide from among too many options.
Avoid reasoning with a toddler.
Briefly explain cause-and-effect (“If you climb too high, you could fall and hurt your arm.”). Children tend to understand specifics better than generalizations. But don’t allow it to turn into an argument that he’ll be careful, but you don’t think he will be, but he’ll hold on tightly, and so on. Include a more immediate negative consequence (“Try that again and we’re going in the house.”). Don’t give in.
Only mention consequences you would really carry out. Empty threats undermine your authority and display mean spiritedness. Also, don’t try to convince a toddler that his bad behavior hurts your feelings. Your feelings don’t matter; your rules do. Rules and consequences are not cages, but guardrails helping children feel more secure. They know what to expect and that their parents care about what happens to them. Keep rules simple and enforce them consistently.
Maintain a consistent schedule. You can’t expect children to behave perfectly if they miss naps and skip snacks. You likely can’t cram in grocery shopping, coffee with a friend, your family photos in Irvine and a stop at the dry cleaner’s between lunch and dinner. As an Orange County photographer, I advise parents to meet with me for a family photo shoot when their children are fresh from a nap and snack. This strategy helps ensure their smiling faces for beautiful family photography. Children thrive on consistency.
Warn before transitioning. For example, “In five minutes, we’ll start picking up so we can go get our family photos taken.” works better than abruptly snatching them from enjoyable playtime.
Say “yes” whenever possible. Remember, toddlers hear “no” a lot.