Toddler tantrums: 5 tips to cope

Dealing with a toddler can get even the most patient mom hot under the collar. Here’s how to keep your cool when your tot throws a tantrum. By Kate Sidley


1. Take timeout

Yes, you! Timeout is excellent for parents. When you feel exasperated, frustrated or angry, you’re unlikely to cope well with an altercation. Ann Richardson, co-author of Toddler Sense, says, “If it’s safe, walk away and leave your child to learn how to self-calm. He’ll see that you’re not feeding the behaviour, and you’ll have the opportunity to calm down too.”

Try something like, “I’m going to sit in the garden for a little while. When you’re ready to play nicely, come and call me and we can go to the park. “

2. Let someone else take charge

If you’re struggling with your emotions and your responses, it may be a good idea to step out of the conflict and let another – calmer – adult take over. If your partner is around and not involved in the fray, he may be a calming influence.

3. Change your perspective

Do you find yourself saying things like, “She really knows how to push my buttons” or “He’s just trying to wind me up”? Understanding toddler development helps you recognise that while your toddler might be infuriating at times, he’s not trying to drive you crazy. He’s a busy, energetic little person who is trying to exercise control over his world. He wants his own way and is often frustrated. He doesn’t have patience and he doesn’t have empathy. He’s acting like a child because he is a child! Ann says, “Also ask yourself if what you’re expecting is reasonable for your child’s age. You can expect him to sit for 10 minutes in his high chair and eat lunch with you, but not to sit quietly in a restaurant for two hours.”

4. Recognise your anger signals

Be aware of your own anger signals: a raised heartbeat, sweaty palms, etc., and act before the situation gets out of hand. Take some deep breaths and then take a step back and survey the situation. What are you really upset about? Is it that important? Is it still possible to defuse the situation and restore calm?

5. Let it go

Maybe you can’t win this battle. Maybe you don’t even need to enter into it at all. “Pick you battles” is good advice. Some things are non-negotiable, like brushing teeth, using a car seat, and not pulling the cat’s tail, but there’s a big grey area in which you have a great deal of discretion.

Ann is a believer in ignoring bad behaviour. She says, “When siblings bicker, it’s tempting to step in and be the referee, but unless it gets really nasty, it’s often better to let them sort it out themselves.” Ignoring bad behaviour can be effective – after all, your toddler loves attention, even bad attention.

There may also be times when having your way isn’t the most important thing, and when just gathering up your toddler for a cuddle feels right.


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