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“NO!”, “NOOOOOOOOO!!!”, “Me no like it!!”, “It’s MINE!!” and “I want DADDDYYYYYY!!” are just a few of my tiny terrorist’s favourite phrases at the moment. In fact she’s almost had the whole house under lockdown a few times in recent weeks. Sometimes it’s rather amusing and other times (or most times) it’s just plain tiresome!!
The official age range of a toddler (according to Google) is from 18 months to 3 years. This kind of ‘does away’ with the old saying of ‘terrible twos’, because in my experience the tantrums can appear at any time during this stage of their growth and development (and if you’re unlucky – the whole time). Older children can still chuck a good wobbly too, but these tend to be for entirely different reasons to that of a toddler.
I’m more than knee deep in the toddler stage right now and if there is anyone out there with me, here it is Toddler Tantrums! A parents survival guide.
5 reasons why toddlers tantrum
- Frustration. Toddlers are still learning the art of communication and every day skills that we take for granted. If they can’t find the words to express something, they will just scream. They could also get frustrated if they are trying to do something (like put on a shoe) and their fine motor skills are just not allowing it. Again, they will just scream. Finally they are striving for own little bit of independence and if you say blue, I guarantee you they will want pink.
- Change. Toddlers like routine. If they find themselves in a new situation which they don’t recognise, they will often react with a tantrum.
- Low blood sugar. Toddlers don’t always communicate when they are hungry or thirsty and just like us, if their blood sugar level drops too low, so will their tolerance of every day situations.
- Tiredness. Well this one explains itself I think. However, NEVER tell a toddler that they are tired!! Believe me, it will not improve the situation.
- Insecurities. If a toddler is feeling scared or insecure, perhaps in a new daycare for the first time or trying something out they haven’t done before (like swimming lessons) they may react to these feelings with a tantrum.
Toddler tantrums are totally apart of their normal development and there really is not much you can do as a parent to stop them. My biggest advice would be to try and see the funny side and just know that you are not alone. We are well and truly in the tantrum zone in our house and my big kids have started taking bets with each other as to when she’ll throw the next one – or how many she’ll throw in one day. Other than just ‘rolling with the punches’ here are a few more tips I have to share.
10 things to consider when dealing with toddler tantrums
- Do not feel embarrassed if your toddler is throwing a tantrum in public. It is no refection on your parenting skills.
- When your toddler is mid tantrum (quite possible laying on the floor kicking and screaming), stand back a little and count to ten in your head (or even twenty) before you step in and deal with it. There is no point in rushing in straight away and trying to pick them up as you will only make it worse. Give them a chance to calm down first. They are often in some kind of screaming trance and NOTHING you say or do will fix it in that moment.
- Make sure they are not in a position to hurt themselves during a tantrum. You’ll be amazed at the damage these tiny dynamites can cause!
- Never offer a toddler more than two choices at any one time. If they don’t want either, then let them scream it out rather than rush to give them a third or fourth choice. Chance are they won’t want either of those either!
- Always reward the positive behaviour. Never reward the screaming.
- As they are coming out of a tantrum offer them a big cuddle first before resuming your negotiations.
- Toddlers don’t really understand time frames. When giving them a warning for example “In 5 minutes we are going to put the toys away and get in the car”, always use the same time frame. If you alternate between 5 minutes, 2 minutes or 10 minutes, they will have no idea which is which and your warning will become meaningless. If you use the same time, every time, they will start know that what to expect next. It doesn’t always stop the tantrum, but it does help.
- Never give a toddler a choice if there isn’t one. For example if you want them to come and eat their lunch now, then say that….. “Come and have your lunch now”. If you say “Would you like to come and have some lunch now?” they might just say no! Then if you try and force them to have it now, it could result in a tantrum (which could have been avoided).
- Pick your battles. Think about how many times you say no rather than yes. We often say no to our toddlers a lot more than we realise. By increasing our tolerance of certain things and not fighting over the ‘little things’, we are giving them a bit of that independence they are so desperately flighting for, which can result in fewer tantrums. Remember, it is a problem if they want to eat ice-cream and teddy bears for breakfast but it really isn’t a problem if they want to wear their underpants over their trousers!
- Keep things that you don’t want them to have access to OUT OF SIGHT!! You are asking for trouble if you try to take a pair of scissors away from a toddler when you have left them right out for them to find. This one is especially helpful to explain to older siblings (can you tell I’ve had the craft scissors and colouring pens fight before??).
Toddler’s can also be the cutest, funniest and loveable little people, so while the tantrums are hard work, try not to dwell on them too much.
If you’re in the middle of toddler tantrum central, may the force be with you! And remember it’s JUST A PHASE!