Oh my GOD – what do I do about toddler tantrums?

By Kaz Cooke
From the latest edition
of Babies & Toddlers

Oh my GOD – what do I do about toddler tantrums?

Tantrums, or hissy fits, can start before 2 and last well past 3 years old. They are mainly a toddler’s reaction to not getting their own way, and part of their development. Having a tantrum is an immature reaction to a problem, and many adults haven’t yet grown out of such behaviour. Always make a kid safe by clearing the area around them, ensuring they can’t hurt themselves or anyone else, and hug them if they’ll accept it.

Tantrums start off as the best way a kid knows to express anger or frustration or tiredness: you need to help them learn other means. Here are some ways to do that.

  • Tantrums should be ignored whenever possible.
  • A tantrum chucker who gets what they want learns that tantrums work.
  • Reward the non-tantrum chucker and good behaviour.
  • Try to avoid tantrum ‘recipes’: tired kid, bright supermarket with lots of temptations, having to get in the car and be somewhere immediately, a toddler not being given any choices at all . . .
  • Try one of these: walk away (if at home); count to ten; do a meditation exercise; sing your favourite song to yourself, even if it’s got a funny phrase in it such as ‘Climb Every Mountain’; pop into the backyard for a moment. Use the ‘time out’ technique.
  • After a tantrum, the kid could be in need of a cuddle because they’ve freaked themselves out.
  • Don’t meet a tantrum with your own tantrum.

There’s more on avoiding and defusing tantrums in the book Babies & Toddlers: The Sequel to Up the Duff.