5 tips for dealing with a temper tantrum

Thinking & Learning   |   Age: 1 year 7 months

5 tips for dealing with a temper tantrum
It’s hard to keep your cool when your toddler starts boiling over during a temper tantrum. One minute, she may be sitting happily in the shopping cart, but the next, she’s screaming loud enough for everyone in the store (and parking lot) to hear. So where do your little one’s big feelings come from, and what is the best way to handle a tantruming tot?

Facts about fits

Tantrums can start as early as the first year, and, according to the Mayo Clinic, are typically a result of frustration due to toddlers’ inability to effectively express themselves. For a toddler, something as simple as not being able to figure out a task or say the correct word is enough to trigger a tantrum. However, as parents, it’s important to remember this behavior isn’t your child’s way of being “bad.”

Learning to appropriately address your toddler’s meltdowns is the first step toward minimizing the tears and making your days run more smoothly.

  1. Provide structure and consistency: Toddlers thrive on routine.  The more deviation there is from her regular schedule, the more likely she is to react negatively. Because toddlers often struggle with transitions, it’s helpful to keep your days consistent, which will allow your baby to know what to expect next. It will be much easier for her to pick up her toys before her bath if she is used to that being a part of her daily routine.
  2. Plan your day wisely: Wheeling a screaming toddler through the grocery store is basically a parenting rite of passage. Still, keeping your baby’s schedule in mind when you’re planning your day can greatly reduce your chances of dealing with a public tantrum. Planning outings after meals to ensure that she is not hungry, and avoiding heading out just before naptime or bedtime can help you keep the peace, as many meltdowns are simply a result of your toddler being tired, hungry, or uncomfortable. Of course, oftentimes, it's not that you don't know that it can be a bad idea to plan big events for certain times in your baby's day, it's just that no one else is scheduling around your baby's schedule. Some days, for certain events, you may decide that it's worth risking a tantrum, but on those days, you'll also be on the lookout for signs of trouble.
  3. Encourage communication: It can be frustrating for a toddler when her caretaker doesn’t understand her needs, and she doesn’t know how else to communicate them. Maybe she is finished with her meal, wants more juice, or needs help completing a task. If your baby’s vocabulary isn’t very broad just yet, teaching her sign language can help her communicate a little better until her vocabulary catches up with her thoughts and reactions. She’ll be able to let you know what is troubling her, which will help cut down on outbursts of anger that come from frustration.
  4. Remain calm: Tantrums aren’t fun for anyone.  Think of how you feel when your baby is angry and crying, then imagine how upsetting it is for her. Remaining calm during your baby’s tantrum can help her calm down, too, while getting upset with her may just escalate the situation.  The last thing your baby wants to think is that the person she relies on the most to help her calm down is losing their cool.  
  5. Remember this, too, shall pass: At this age, your baby is experiencing the need to be independent, and it can be difficult for her when she realizes she isn’t completely in control. As your baby gets older and can express herself better, you’ll see that tantrums will happen less frequently. Until then, find a method that works for calming your baby down, and remind yourself that tantrums don’t last forever.

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