Parenting Through a Tantrum


With four kids, I’ve seen my fair share of tantrums. In fact, I can bet you the winning lottery ticket that there will be one this week. And I’m sure that if you have a toddler, you have seen one or you’ve seen another toddler having a tantrum at one point. And side note to mothers — when another child is having a tantrum, aren’t you usually soooo glad that it’s not your kid? In fact when it’s another kid, I kind of smile and find it cute.  Not so much when it’s mine!

How should we handle a tantrum? Should we punish the toddler and put him in time out for having a tantrum? Should we ignore the tantrum and hope it goes away soon? Should bribe the toddler with some candy if they stop right now?

Here are some tips for parenting through a tantrum.

1) Realize that a child having a tantrum is a distraught and frustrated child.

Have you ever felt so frustrated and aggravated and can’t seem to get the right words to express yourself? That pretty much sums up what a toddler feels like when having a tantrum. But, even worse because they simply don’t have the words to explain all those emotions. Basically tantrums are a release of frustration, confusion, anger and sadness all balled up into one. And no words to tell others exactly what you’re feeling.

2) Validate your toddler’s feelings.

A tantrum can be really scary for a toddler. They are expressing so much emotions and often times feel at a loss. It’s during these times that your toddler needs you to make him feel secure and that you’re there even if he’s mad at you. Some children respond well to a hug or touch during a tantrum and some children don’t want to be touched at all. Follow your child’s cue, you know your child best. Validate her feelings by voicing them for her. For example, you can emphatically say, “You’re so mad because you couldn’t have a have that spoon. You really wanted that back, I know. And now you’re mad that you don’t have it.” If you’re finding that your toddler is getting more upset by your presence, you can simply step away and allow her to have her tantrum until she’s calmed down.

3) Give your toddler alternatives to a tantrum.

After your child is calmed down, you can teach her how to use words when frustrated. Since  a toddler’s vocabulary is limited, you’ll want to keep it simple. One example is to teach her how to say “I’m MAD! I’m so MAD!” and perhaps even stomp when you say it. Teach her how she can use words when she’s mad or upset about something. Do it together so she can model the behavior.

Notice how in neither suggestion are you giving in to the tantrum? It’s with the assumption that your “No” meant “No”  And that you have saved those “No” situations for when you really are not able to say “Yes”. Many unnecessary tantrums can be prevented by saying “Yes” more and saving your ‘No” for when you really cannot say “Yes”.

I hope this helps the next time your toddler has  tantrum. And wouldn’t you know it…it’s pretty much what we’d want done to us at times of frustrations – understanding, validation and support.

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