Preventing Toddler Tantrums
Why toddlers have tantrums
Ah, the joys of toddlerhood. Walking, talking…and tantrums! While tantrums are a normal part
of development and a natural response to anger and other strong emotions, they can be pretty
hard to take, especially in a public place.
Many toddlers have tantrums around the time of language development. Before they’re fully
verbal, they’re frustrated, and tantrums can be a way for them to try to get what they need,
especially if they’re hungry or tired.
At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we’ve seen lots of tantrums over the years and lots of
harried parents. To help, we’ve come up with some tips for preventing them, and when that’s
not possible, some ways to survive them.
How to prevent tantrums
1) Establish and keep a regular schedule that includes enough time for sleeping and eating.
Having a predictable routine can help your child stay in control of his/her emotions.
2) Know what to expect from your child based on his/her age and abilities. Parents who
expect too much often correct their child more than they need to, or ask the child to do things
that he or she isn’t able to do. This increases the child’s frustration which can lead to tantrums.
3) Allow your toddler to make simple choices, such as what to eat or which clothes to wear.
Being able to make their own choices reduces frustration and helps children develop self-confidence.
4) Set fair, consistent and firm limits on your child’s behavior. “No” needs to mean “no.”
And when you say “no,” don’t change your mind and give in to your child’s demands. This
confuses children and teaches them that “no” sometimes means “yes.”
5) Praise and thank your child when he/she behaves appropriately and does things you
would expect from a child that age.
6) When your child is calm, listen to his/her reasons for having different ideas about
things than you do.
Eight tips for surviving a tantrum
Sometimes in spite of your best efforts, your wonderful little toddler is going to throw a nasty
scene and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. However, here are 6 things you can do to at least
survive it with your sanity intact.
1) Ignore it. Walk away. The more attention you give a tantrum, the more fuel you give it.
2) Distraction. Move to a new room. Sing a song. Break out the blocks.
3) Choose your battles and accommodate when you can. Sometimes you have to give in a
little; that’s ok. Just don’t make this a habit, otherwise you’ll quickly lose control of your
toddler and his/her tantrums.
4) Know your child’s limits. Obviously, some days are harder than others. Sometimes the to-do
list is just not going to get done.
5) Do not allow behaviors like hitting, kicking, biting or throwing. Have a zero-tolerance
6) Plan ahead. If tantrums tend to happen when your toddler is hungry, keep snacks with you
when you’re away from home. If they peak when your child is tired, build in more nap time
during the day or sleep time at night.