Anybody who has parented a toddler will know that tantrums are a struggle. They can happen seemingly out of the blue and can last anywhere from 1 minute to half an hour. When you are in the thick of it, it can be hard to know how to tame toddler tantrums.

When your kids are yelling and screaming because they wanted another cookie or because you cut up their sandwich or, any other reason really, it can be so hard to know what to do. Should you leave them to it, walk out of the room, punish them or ignore them?

Let’s discuss why tantrums happen and also how to tame them.

Why toddlers tantrum.

When we understand why toddlers tantrum it can help us determine the best ways to respond as a tantrum is in progress. Toddlers tend to tantrum when things aren’t going their way. It is not premeditated but is uncontrolled anger or frustration. Whether they have been told no or their food came in the wrong colored bowl or their sandwich was cut instead of whole. They haven’t planned their response but are struggling with their emotional reaction to the event.

Tantrums can be quite common from 15 months to 6 years of age. My 6.5 year old still does his own version of a tantrum – not screaming and yelling in quite the same way as he did as a toddler but still having trouble controlling his emotions when things aren’t going the way he hoped.

The thing is, that kids this age can’t control their reactions, their emotions just take hold and they can’t think through their feelings or the appropriate way to react. They also can’t put their feelings into words, so they come out as actions.

Tantrums can be exacerbated by a toddler who is tired, hungry or over-stimulated as well. It is worth checking that none of these things are causing the behavior so that you can quickly provide the food, rest or reaction that their behavior is showing they need.

Taming toddler tantrums can be difficult, but with these tips you'll be on your way to taming them appropriately in no time.

Taming toddler tantrums.

I’ve seen many different suggestions on the appropriate responses to tantrums from walking away and ignoring them to providing punishment like taking a toy away. The problem with these things is that we are punishing a toddler for behavior that they can’t control. In hindsight that sounds a bit unfair, doesn’t it?

When toddlers are in the throes of a tantrum what they need is us, their parents, to be there. You can sit with them and let them know that you are there to hug or otherwise provide comfort when they are ready.
If you can help them get through to the other side of the tantrum to a level of calm, you can help teach them new ways to cope with feeling emotionally overwhelmed.

Your child also needs to know that you understand how they are feeling, that you can name that feeling for them when they can’t. You can do this by validating their feeling. This will help them see that you are there for them and understand but also teach them to name their feelings in the future.

If you feel like you need extra help with how to manage your child’s tantrums or any other child behavior concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact Building Confident Families and we can set up a consultation. Each family we work with gets a recap of all the tools discussed during the consultation to refer back to down the track.

Mylee Zschech, Child Behavior Coach