If you have been hanging around here for a while you will know that my girls made tantrums their national past time. Both of them let us know, loudly and forcefully what exactly they wanted. Taming toddler tantrums was never really possible with either of them.
I read every article on how to deal with toddler tantrums. I tried out all the suggestions and tips. My girls were not about the tame life. Kiara outgrew her tantrums and is now the calmest, most peaceful teenager ever, which does give me hope that eventually Emma will calm a little too.
I know that the articles shared on toddler tantrums have probably helped millions of moms to get through the tantrum stage. They worked with my boys but I have put together a real life list of suggestions for those moms out there who have fierce little people with fire in their bellies.
Taming Toddler Tantrums
Get down to their level
I understand this tip and it does make complete sense unless your toddler is flailing around on the floor. When they are running faster than Usain Bolt while you try catch them to actually get down to their level, it’s not that easy. If you do manage to get down to their level (and keep your balance) what are you supposed to do? Ask them nicely to please stop? Has this ever worked for anyone? Seriously I am asking?
Distract and Redirect
This makes me laugh out loud. If you catch your child’s tantrum before it actually starts this may work but once they have crossed over, you can over them a pony or all the chocolate they can eat and you will get a big fat scream in your face. I am not one to give up easily so I still try this, despite the years of failed attempts. The result is I end up baking when I don’t want. I have done numerous crafts I hadn’t planned on. The pool got clean, the car got washed and the garden tided – all to the soundtrack of a child screaming.
The best part about my attempts at this is, is that I will end up doing the thing that I am trying to distract them with, they will eventually calm down and then want to do that thing as well.
My research has led me to conclude a child can only be distracted if they want to be distracted.
I know tantrums often come from a place of overwhelm or when the child is over stimulated. Trust me I can definitely empathize with that. When I am tired I am not pleasant to deal with and I am 41 years old.
But let me tell you a little story about how well empathizing worked out for me. Emma gets hangry. It is a daily struggle to get her to eat, if she doesn’t eat, she goes a little crazy. We know this so we try really hard to prevent it from happening but some days we get it wrong.
She is freaking out. Yelling, kicking stuff, throwing pillows. The dog is cowering in the corner. The other kids have retreated to the safety of their rooms. The neighbor has sent a message asking if we are being attacked. It is chaos. So I kneel down, eye level and say “I understand you are frustrated because I don’t have any food you want to eat but let’s see if we can’t figure out something”
She looks at me straight in the eyes and yells “You NEVER FEED ME properly. There is NEVER FOOD IN THIS HOUSE!” and storms off.
I love this one. This is probably why moms started drinking in the 50’s to stay calm during their child’s tantrum. It is easy to stay calm when your child throws a tantrum and a few minutes later gets over it, moves on and calms down.
Kiara once threw a tantrum that lasted 49 minutes. Yes I timed it. FORTY-NINE minutes of crying, screaming and general pure rage. Staying calm gets a little tough during that. It is especially hard when you have tried to distract, you have gotten down to their level and you have empathized. You have probably even taken a time out, let your partner take over. Still the child is adamant they want what they want. Emma has raged for a few days over things – a FEW DAYS! She forgets then will remember and it starts all over again.
I am not evolved enough to remain calm while my kid screams and throws things and kicks me for almost an hour. If you are, huge respect to you. Seriously, well done.
Make a game out of it
So this is actually a cute idea. It does have some success, again you have to catch the tantrum thrower BEFORE they get going.
It does also assume your kid doesn’t realise what you are doing. Unfortunately for me, Emma is a rather smart. So the few times I have tried to make a game out of bath time, getting in the car, putting clean clothes on etc, she tells me (angrily) I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND I STILL WONT GET IN THE CAR!”
So what CAN you do?
I have told you what doesn’t work when it comes to taming your toddlers tantrum, so what does work?
Honestly after being a parent for nearly 18 years, I have now real answer but this is what does work for us (sometimes, like 60% of the time)
Figure out the triggers!
Find out what triggers your child to act out. For Kiara it was mainly sensory things like the room being too bright, her clothes being itchy or irritating, crowds. These things still bug her but she has learnt how to cope with them. For Emma it is when she is hungry or tired. We have explained this to her, she knows it but if we don’t manage to get her to eat while she is calm, it is virtually impossible to get her to agree to eat anything.
It is easier to prevent a tantrum than it is to calm one. So if you are battling with terrible tantrums, watch your child. What happened just before the tantrum? Did you enter a loud shopping centre? Did they miss their nap/snack time? Keep track of the tantrums until you find the common thread. It might take some time because it may seem like it is something different each time. It took us a while to figure out that Emma’s main trigger is not eating.
Don’t ignore the possibility of Sensory issues. This was a major contributing factor to all 4 of my kids tantrums. It might seem like they are just being naughty by not wanting to put their shoes on or screaming at the shops but it might be sensory related.
Once you know what causes them, you can prevent them and that makes life easier for everyone.
The truth is you will never actually tame your toddler, definitely not if they are fierce and determined and you shouldn’t really want to. It is important to remember to be kind to yourself and in the tough moments remember you are doing the best you can!
I can also say, with 100% certainty that it DOES GET BETTER!