My Top 3 Strategies To Effectively Manage Toddler Tantrums

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“Oh honey, just wait until you hit the terrible twos. It only gets worse!”- said the lady behind me last week at the grocery store as my son squirmed around our shopping cart. 

UGH. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this phrase and many alike. There is so much negativity infused in this statement and quite frankly, this approach to motherhood. 

When we approach mom life with a negative mindset and continually point out all of the challenging moments and day to day events, it’s almost as if this negativity becomes our central focus and new way of motherhood. 

Can you relate? Maybe you’re the mom RIGHT NOW who’s struggling with tantrums and mega meltdowns. If this is you, you’re in luck today chica because I’m pulling out the occupational therapist in me to share my top 3 strategies for effectively managing those toddler tantrums so you can get back to enjoying a meaningful, joy-packed motherhood!!

My Top 3 Strategies To Effectively Manage Toddler Tantrums 

Strategy #1: Prevention

It’s important to remember that tantrums are totally normal and developmentally appropriate. You’ll typically see trantrms between the ages of 1-3 then 3-6, when your children are learning how to communicate and express/control emotions. Tantrums may look different for each of your kids, so knowing your children and their tendencies (you may have a child that screams, or kicks, or holds his/her breath, or maybe he/she shuts down… like I said, each child is different!) is going to be helpful for you in preventing and managing their behavior! 

Prevention Checklist: 

  • Am I aware of my own emotions and temperaments? (This can and will influence your children’s behavior!) 

  • Am I having positive, hands-on  interactions with my children? 

  • Am I communicating clearly to my children both expectations and consequences AND am I consistent with these principles? 

  • -Am I structuring our days with consistent routines, ensuring basic needs like sleep, food, play, and emotional health are being met? 

    Remember, tantrums do NOT make you a bad Mom or your children bad kids! They’re a normal part of life! 

Strategy #2: Identify Tantrum Types 

The next step is about learning how to identify tantrums. There are a ton of different variables that may cause different kinds of tantrums (things like age, personality, reasoning etc) so knowing how to identify the tantrum type is SO helpful! 

Tantrum Identification Checklist: 

  • Are my child’s basic needs met: hunger, rest, love and attention, over/understimulation, emotional and mental support? 

  • Is my child upset because he/she didn’t get their way? 

  • Is my child refusing or avoiding? 

  • Is my child seeking out my attention? 

  • Is my child going through a developmental growth spurt? 

  • Is my child trying to manipulate me, using behavior to get his/her way? 

  • Is my child frustrated? 

  • Has my child lost complete control? 

Strategy #3: Solutions For Effectively Managing Tantrums 

So now comes the FUN PART! (kidding. LOL) How do you manage those tantrums?! Although it won’t always be possible to identify, it’s important to at least try to understand what type of tantrum your child is throwing so you can effectively help him/her move through it. Let’s work through the list I shared with you above so you have the exact strategies for each tantrum. 

  • Are my child’s basic needs met: hunger, rest, love and attention, over/under stimulation, emotional and mental support? 

    • Feed your child nourishing foods. Make sure you’re not competing with nap or bedtime. Know what your child’s love language is and what they need to feel supported emotionally and mentally. If your child struggles with feeling overwhelmed in certain environments, look for ways to help him/her feel more secure. Is your child getting enough activity and movement?

  • Is my child upset because he/she didn’t get their way? 

    • Explain to your child (age appropriate explanation) why things didn’t go his/her way. Identifying their emotion “i.e. I know you’re upset that you can’t have a second ice cream bar, but if you do, you’ll get a tummy ache” helps to validate their emotions while explaining the reasoning behind your decision. Often times distraction and redirection works great here too! After you explain how they’re feeling, try distracting your child with a new object, item, room, or activity!

  • Is my child refusing or avoiding? 

    • This is really dependent on the age of your child and the task he/she is avoiding. Typically instilling consequences “i.e. If you don’t put your clothes away, you will lose your privilege to watch 30 minutes of tv tonight” can be very helpful in redirecting behavior. Implementing a behavior/rewards chart (utilized as a positive reinforcer) can be helpful too!

  • Is my child seeking out my attention? 

    • Have you spent enough quality time with your child? Is he/she competing with your phone, social media, or your latest netflix binge? Pay attention to the QUALITY time you are spending with your children.

  • Is my child going through a developmental growth spurt? 

    • Growing up can be tough! Make sure you’re loving a little extra when you know your kiddo is growing through a physical and emotional developmental growth spurt.

  • Is my child trying to manipulate me, using behavior to get his/her way? 

    • Know the behaviors your child tries to use in order to get a certain outcome. This is where being consistent with your discipline and consequences is super important, even if it is the 100th time. Stay firm to your boundaries, Momma!

  • Is my child frustrated? 

    • Acknowledging that your child is frustrated and relaying those feelings back to him/her is a great place to start! I.e: “I know you’re mad. It’s frustrating when we can’t stay up past our bedtime, but if you do, you’ll be tired in the morning”. Then, help them by distracting their attention to a different task or transitioning to a new room if possible. 

  • Has my child lost complete control? 

    • It happens, Momma and when it does (biting, kicking, screaming, putting him/herself or others in danger) you need to take action immediately! Getting your child to safety and helping him/her calm down (i.e. hugs, singing, rocking, removing him/her from the situation, etc) is going to look extremely different per child and will also depend on the situation. Bottom line, take control and help your child gain control of his/her emotions. 

Remember- these strategies may or may not work every time for you. Be consistent. Keep calm. Don’t get angry. Be firm with your boundaries and set realistic expectations on yourself and your children. Your goal is to help your child learn and manage his/her emotions and impulsivity. 

Occupational Therapy Bonus Tip: If the tantrums continue to get worse or you feel like you can’t get a good handle on things, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to see if there is an underlying health concern! 

XOXO, 

Jennifer


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