Coping with Toddler Tantrums

09:44

''Reasons my child is crying' only a few weeks ago could be related to any or all of the following reasons:

  • his sippy cup was empty
  • there were dried apricots in his sultanas
  • his daddy looked at him
  • I picked up the wrong bedtime story to read
  • I opened his cheese stick at the wrong end
  • I wouldn't let him throw his toys down the stairs
  • I wouldn't let him dance on the laptop

You get the idea. All ridiculous reasons to cry but all very genuine reasons for a toddler to be upset and even descend into an all out tantrum.

We had an utterly exhausting whingy whiny period of nonstop tantrums and tears over absolutely everything recently and I have to admit that to start with, it was killing me and I would get so frustrated with the behaviour. It was everything I could do not to have a tantrum myself and some days in Toddler Town were hellish with me just about bolting for the door the second S walked in from work.

I tried everything starting with reasoning with him - have you tried reasoning with a screaming red-faced tear stained 18 month old? No? Let me save you the time and tell you now, don't bother! I tried ignoring him while he carried on and doing whatever I was doing, holding him till he stopped, talking to him calmly while sitting on the floor at his level, distraction, bribery ... you get the idea.

Then thankfully, a few articles started popping up in my newsfeed and on news and parenting sites I regularly read about toddler tantrums. Hoping one of them would have the magic cure, I happily read away. Well, as you no doubt know, none of them have the magic cure but what they did give me was some understanding of where and why which lead me to acceptance.
As soon as I stepped back from the drama, made a conscious effort in myself to stay calm and looked at it from E's perspective, I found it so much easier to cope and not get worked up myself.

Most of the worst tantrums come from frustration I find - in trying to make himself understood or trying to do something, E would become frustrated and upset and then the tantrums would start because I either couldn't understand what he was telling/asking me or because he wanted to do something himself, not with my help. In these instances, I have found the best approach to diffusing or minimising fallout is by acknowledging how upsetting it must be for him through talking calmly about it and even apologising for not understanding him, keeping it light and relaxed by sitting at his level with my arms open and out to him so that he can come to them when he is ready.

Other times when the tantrum was/is because he doesn't get his own way or puts him at risk, rather than become infuriated, I crouch down to him and try to talk him through it and explain why he can't have/do etc. I use a short brief sentence and also act it out a little like patting my head if its because he will fall down and then I ask him for a cuddle and sit with him till he is ready.

For parents, there is nothing worse than that feeling of guilt that comes if you happen to lose your temper at your child by raising your voice. So in the case of toddler tantrums and meltdowns, I think the key is before you get exasperated at another 'performance', you need to talk yourself down from your own mini-tantrum and recognise that their little brains are so overloaded at that moment and they have no idea how to regulate emotions or handle what they are feeling. Adding to that confusion won't help anyone so the best thing to do for them and for you is to try and diffuse the situation by giving them a safe place to let it out and calm them down.

For me, understanding that E is at a process of learning his emotions and how to regulate them and is so overloaded with thoughts and new experiences, it became easier to cope with the tantrums by realising that this was the time he needed me most to supply a safe harbour and anchor for him to have these outbursts of emotion.

I think another contributor often overlooked in the reason for tantrums is the environment or surroundings. Its not fair to expect a toddler to sit still for hours at a time in a pram or a trolley or at a table. They are children and they want to run and play and explore so to confine them for long periods and suppress their natural urges is only going to lead to belligerence, tears and poor cooperation because they are bored and feel punished.

If I go to the shops with E for example, I have a plan of attack that usually involves visiting the main shop I need first then a milkshake break followed by one or two more stores, a run around the shopping centre playground, one more store and then home. I try and ensure its a fun experience for him rather than having to sit quietly in his pram indefinitely while I browse as that's just not fair.

Its all about balance I guess and realising that they don't act up or have tantrums just to be brats or make our life hard. There is always a reason for their behaviour, even if it seems like a silly reason to us and a little patience and understanding will go a long way to making for a happier mummy and toddler.

Of course I'm no expert, just a mumma with a tantrum throwing toddler and this is what works for us.

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3 comments

  1. Distraction is all I have up my sleeve. LOOK HUGO A DOG! LOOK HUGO LOOK IN THE SKY! Works about 80% of the time.

    Your list sums it up ... 'his daddy looked at him' hahaha

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    Replies
    1. Practicing distraction here too.

      SSG xxx

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  2. What a brilliant post! I will be at this toddler stager all too soon (where are the months going?) and this is very helpful. Sounds like you're a very empathetic and understanding mother to E x

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