Are You Smiling Through Your Toddler’s Tantrums?

Are You Smiling Through Your Toddler’s Tantrums?

Wait. Don’t answer that. Temper tantrums are par for the course of toddlerhood. They are a sign of independence. But…that doesn’t mean that they aren’t difficult, challenging, and frustrating for parents.

Through time and experience in motherhood, I’ve come to learn how to anticipate my toddler’s tantrums. Like quiet storms, I, like most parents, can see the first glints of lightning and feel the first drops of rain before disaster strikes. Usually.

Are You Smiling Through Your Toddler’s Tantrums?If you’re struggling with a temper tantrum-prone toddler, give these strategies a try:

Keep a sense of humor. There’s nothing that makes a toddler’s meltdown worse than a parent’s “bad” response to a tantrum. When your toddler begins to “melt,” take some deep breaths, tell yourself that you can handle whatever storm may come your way, and try not to overreact.

Listen to your child. Usually, or 95% of the time, tantrums are caused by miscommunications. Most toddlers are not able to be as vocally expressive through words to communicate their demands and needs, so to hear them you must pick up on their bodily cues. For instance, if your toddler begins yawning an hour before a planned dinner outing at Olive Garden, know that this probably means they’re tired. And from experience, please know that tired toddler = a disastrous restaurant outing.

Ignore it. When your child is in the thick of a tantrum, the best thing you can do is ignore it. Tell your child that you’re going to do something else that involves you physically leaving the “line of tantrum” or distract them with something else.  Of course, if you’re in public, and in an effort to prevent a call for CPS, the latter tactic, or distraction, usually works best.

Watch your body language. Often, we as parents, subconsciously react to our children’s tantrums by tightening our jaws and sweating profusely. that just me? Okay. Um. Disregard that then. When your toddler is going through a tantrum, relax your body, and think calm thoughts about the ocean or something else lovely.

Play fair and stick to your guns. Most well-rested and well-fed toddlers are reasonable, so long as you agree to play by the rules. So, give them fair warnings and be honest and usually they’ll play along. What does this look like in real life? Well, for instance, if you want them to leave the playground soon, give them fair warning: “Honey, we will need to leave in five minutes.” As the minutes progress, tell them how much more time they have. When their time is up, leave the playground, even if they protest, leave the playground. This will teach your toddler that you mean business and that you care and respect their rights to a fair game.

Do these things and I promise that you’ll find that your toddlers tantrums are a lot more bearable and manageable.

 Parents of toddlers: How do you mange your children’s tantrums?

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Jessica lives in the Washington, DC metropolitan area with her husband and two girls. Once upon a time, pre-motherhood, she did many things as a “serious-looking” woman who managed to successfully balance a reality TV addiction with a career and academic pursuits. She's now a serious-acting woman whose primary job is raising her children. She writes, reads, fantasizes about minivans, and takes midday naps. She enjoys (among many other things) dancing to 80s music, photography, laughing out loud (at, usually, inappropriate moments), and writing about writing, being a writer, and becoming fearless on her blog Jessica F. Hinton


  1. “Pre-teaching” is something that that really helps my 2 1/2 year old. It’s very similar to giving a fair warning. If I take a minute to explain where we are going and what kind of behavior I expect, she is more likely to follow my directions. If she does misbehave I can remind her of the “rules” for that place/event and she is more likely to follow them. This doesn’t always work of course, but it helps. Here’s an example: It is time to brush teeth before bed, something my daughter detests. I remind her beforehand how to be cooperative; open her mouth wide, don’t fight, hold still, etc. Then she gets to choose who helps her (mom or dad) and she gets a turn to brush and then the adult gets a turn. When she is done I can praise her specifically (you held so still! thank you for being cooperative) and she is proud and knows she can do it. I hope this makes sense, maybe it can help someone. )


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