Handling Toddler Tantrums
Emily is upset here because I wouldn’t take a picture of her toes...
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been around a TTT, a.k.a., toddler temper tantrum...? Anyone?
Staying at home with two toddlers everyday can be rough. One minute they adore each other and are cuddling, dancing, and giving kisses to each other and the next minute they’re hitting, screaming, and crying, running to me for comfort. I feel bad for Emily more because Brody is in the stage where he can’t speak what he’s feeling so he has to physically show it and poor sweet Emily gets a lot of the anger. He’s a smacker and Emily isn’t. It’s gotten to the point sometimes where he’s just in a mood and I have to tell Emily to hit him back, but she won’t.
In the past four years as a Mama I’ve learned a couple things that help me when one or both of my kiddos is going through a tantrum, so here we go:
First off, remember that your kid isn’t a robot. They can’t be expected to sit there and be quiet. They have all kinds of energy and couple that with curiosity to learn about EVERYTHING, it’s just not possible for them to sit and relax. Remember that kids are allowed and supposed to have feelings. They will get upset, cry, scream, not understand, not be able to reason. That’s part of why we’re here, to help them learn to do all those things.
Kids love time, not things. My kiddos have way more fun just being outside with me running around playing with a $1.00 spray bottle full of water rather than a pricey toy that I picked up at Target.
Quality time doesn’t have to be only at home of course. When I need to go grocery shopping I’ll tell Emily what we need to get, where we’re going, why were going and kind of prepare her to know that we’re actually going for a reason, not to get toys, not to run around all crazy. She seems to respond well to that and can understand our purpose a little bit!
To initially try to avoid as many tantrums as I can, I don’t say no. I know that sounds crazy but it’s true unless they’re doing something that would actually harm them or someone else. Why say no so much anyway? Is it so we don’t have to explain things? Kids are supposed to learn “what happens if...” and I try my best to give them that option. If Brody is pulling out pots and one falls on his foot, as long as he’s not injured he’ll actually learn not to do that again.
I encourage independence from my kiddos. Emily knows that in order to get more juice later, she has to put her cup on the counter. If her cup isn’t on the counter when it’s time for more juice, she gets no juice. That potential meltdown over juice is avoided because she knows she has to do something in order to get it. Brody knows that in order to get his morning bottle after waking up, he has to get his diaper changed (duh). He used to throw a FIT, kicking and screaming, but now we avoid that diaper change tantrum because he knows what’s expected.
I give choices for most things. Do you want ham sandwiches or chicken nuggets for lunch? Do you want apple or orange juice? Do you want 20 minutes on your LeapPad or one PJ Mask episode before bedtime? I give options while still staying in charge and on schedule. Options give the kiddos a sense of independence and control over themselves.
I follow a schedule (for the most part). Schedules help a ton! The kiddos pretty much know what to expect, when snack times are, nap time, tv time, etc. Of course not every single day and second of each day is planned out but it’s nice to have some sort of schedule for the day. It’s replicable by spouses and grandparents, prepares them for kindergarten schedules, helps regulate their bodies, etc.
So, what do I do when a tantrum finally happens, which they happen daily!
I get on their level and let them know I’m there. I offer them my shoulder, my hugs, my love, my empathy. I offer space but I stay close to them. I don’t try to send Emily up to her room to “calm down”, I don’t tell her she’s crying too much. I scold Brody, in a sense, in front of her so she knows he’s told what he did wasn’t right.
I stay calm and say what I see tell them I love them. This one is a big one, if I overreact, Emily will overreact. Staying calm lets your kiddos feel that they’re safe.
I know that I have no control over their emotions, and I try my hardest to remember that. I can’t control why they get upset or what sets them off. I know their minds aren’t formed nearly enough to process a lot of the feelings they’re going through.
I provide comfort. I talk to them and want them to know they can talk to me. They can cry to me and we can work through these things together!
I DON’T do time-outs for tantrums. Tantrums aren’t a cause for punishment! I want my kiddos to know that it’s okay to not always be happy, to cry, to not understand why things happen, to be let down, to not get everything they want, and to understand that there are consequences to things they do.
Lastly, and one of the most important things I do is being consistent. I can’t stress this enough because kids are so smart! If you give into something just once, they’ll always want it done that way. If Brody gets “in trouble” for doing something, Emily will be “in trouble” for doing the same thing too.
Oh and if you’re wondering whether or not I caved and photographed Emily’s toes to make her happy... yes, yes I did.