Tips & Tricks

How To Deal With Toddler Tantrums

Bubs Australia


The toddler years can be fun and exciting, but while your little one is still learning to regulate their emotions, tantrums are, unfortunately, common. They can be stressful experiences for you and your child, but with a few strategies in your parenting toolbox, you can help minimise their frequency and duration. Read on to learn how to deal with toddler tantrums.

Understanding toddler tantrums

Toddler tantrums are common, often occurring when young children cannot communicate their feelings effectively or regulate their emotions. Between one and three years of age, a child’s language and reasoning skills are still developing, meaning that tantrums may occur more often at this time.

Tantrums can be triggered by various internal and external factors, from hunger and exhaustion to stress, anxiety, overstimulation and general frustration. Strong emotions can be overwhelming for children, triggering tantrums, as are new situations they haven’t yet learned to cope with.

What are the signs of toddler tantrums?

While every toddler is different, there are some signs that may signal that your little one is about to experience a tantrum. These may include:

  • Finding it difficult to make a point or express their needs
  • Yelling and screaming
  • Physical signs of frustration, such as throwing, hitting or kicking
  • A shortened attention span
  • Body tensing and breath-holding
  • Crying.

The signs listed above may not always eventuate in a tantrum, but de-escalating the situation and helping your child regulate their emotions can prevent prolonged distress for you and your little one. Read on to learn more toddler tantrum tips and how you can manage them as they happen.

How to deal with toddler tantrums

Tantrums are a normal part of toddler behaviour. Although you may not always be able to stop them from occurring, there are a few ways you can work towards preventing them as well as managing them in the moment.

Effective communication

One common reason why toddlers have tantrums is because they are unable to communicate what they want or need effectively. To help reduce the frequency of tantrums, encourage your toddler to use the words they know, pointing gestures and other forms of communication to better express themselves. As your little one develops, so does their vocabulary, helping to reduce misunderstandings and tantrums as they get older.

When speaking to your child about the emotions they’re experiencing, consider labelling their feelings (sad, scared, tired, hungry, etc.) and discussing what triggered their reaction. This can help them learn to associate their feelings with words that you both understand.

Prevention tips

Although not every toddler tantrum is avoidable, some strategies can be used to help prevent them. These may include:

  • Ensuring your little one gets enough sleep.
  • Offering regular meals, drinks and snacks throughout the day.
  • Taking steps to give your toddler a sense of control over some elements of their life, from offering food and drink choices to the order in which they get ready for bed.
  • Keeping items they can’t have or shouldn’t touch out of reach and view, where possible.
  • Knowing your toddler's limits. If your child is tired, irritable or hungry, it might be better to start a new activity once they’ve napped, eaten or taken some time out to calm down.

Managing tantrums in the moment

You may not be able to prevent every meltdown, but learning how to deal with toddler tantrums can make things easier for you and your little one. Instead of complicating the situation with your own emotions, the most important thing you can do is stay calm. Modelling the type of behaviour you’d like your toddler to display can have a positive flow-on effect.

Using the art of distraction and redirection can help move your toddler’s attention away from what’s frustrating them, diffusing any big feelings along the way. This might involve encouraging them to take part in a new activity, moving to another room or simply talking about something different.

During a toddler tantrum, look to reinforce any boundaries you’ve set for your child, doing so in a calm yet firm manner. Try not to give in to your toddler’s demands or change your mind if you’ve already given them a response. Doing so can signal to your child that tantrums help them get what they want.

Positive reinforcement and encouragement

In an effort to decrease the frequency and severity of tantrums, look to praise your toddler and offer positive encouragement when they are well-behaved and self-regulating their emotions. You might choose to give them verbal praise, hugs or other forms of recognition that let them know that they’re doing well and that this is the type of behaviour you’d like to see more of.

Self-care tips for parents

Dealing with toddler tantrums can be stressful, so it’s important to take steps to minimise their impact on your own mental well-being. A good starting point is to develop a clear plan for dealing with a tantrum. Having a strategy up your sleeve can reduce some of the stress involved and can ensure some consistency for your little one, too.

It may not always be possible but try to pick your battles when it comes to disagreements with your toddler. Triggering a tantrum over a tiny, non-consequential matter isn’t worth the stress or hassle.

Remember that tantrums are a normal part of toddlerhood, and this phase will pass. Ensure your child is safe and focus on how you can help your little one learn to regulate their emotions.

If you find disciplining toddler tantrums difficult or need help managing your little one’s behaviour, remember you’re not alone. Reach out to friends and family for toddler tantrum help and support.

Learning how to deal with toddler tantrums takes time and patience. Be kind to yourself and your toddler, and remember that there are many strategies out there that can help minimise and manage tantrums. If you are concerned about your toddler’s behaviour, seek help from a qualified healthcare professional.

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