Coping with temper tantrums, handling a child that hits or bites, disciplining your youngster—they’re three of the most nerve-racking and emotional topics in parenting toddlers and certainly ones with no easy answers.
Usually tantrums appear sometime in the toddler years and present yet another challenging chapter in the book of parenting. If your toddler hasn’t displayed such behavior, you are not out of the woods yet because some kids don’t produce a tantrum until they are closer to three or four years.
To help you understand why your precious buttercup turns into a writhing, screaming monster before your eyes, it is important to understand what is happening developmentally. Again, issues of control and independence are paramount at this age. Whether or not a toddler can put on her shoes by herself or get a desired object out of a tight spot are important problems for a young toddler to solve. These issues can lead to frustration and culminate in an explosion of behaviors, from the typical falling to the ground and kicking feet to holding breath until passing out.
Language development may also set the stage for a tantrum. Around this age, a toddler is just developing the skills to express to you her needs. Unfortunately, you may not be able to understand all of her blossoming, toddler-like language. Her frustration explodes into a tantrum.
One way to prevent tantrums is to try your best to maintain the daily routine, even if away from home. Routines help children feel safe and in control because they know what to expect next in their day. The smallest change in a child’s routine can produce large changes in behavior. Also, anticipate frustration. Right now, try to avoid saying “No!” to your child’s requests, and instead offer alternatives. Giving your toddler choices that are OK with you, will help her feel more in control and may ward off that impending tantrum.
Try to refrain from reinforcing the behavior—that is, try not to give your toddler attention during the tantrum so that the behavior is not being reinforced. Instead, calmly wait until the tantrum behavior(s) has subsided and then attend to your child. Your response depends on your child and the situation. For some, just let it pass and move on. Others want to be held and may be able to briefly talk about what caused the tantrum. For more helpful tips and insight read our Toddler Tantrum Guide.