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Five Ways to Calm a Toddler Tantrum

Updated on November 1, 2013

Introduction

Sometimes known as the terrible two’s or the terrible three’s, or as they are called in my house the terrible tantrum throwing two’s and three’s (or the ugly 5T’s), the toddler stage of child development is full of mood swings. While many parents claim to love all the stages of heir child’s life, without some type of strategy, raising a toddler can easily steal your joy and crush your soul. Here are five tips that can help stop the downward spiral of ear splitting screams of “I want a cookie” and replace it with the adorable giggles that remind you of why being a parent is the greatest thing, ever, except for being a grandparent (or so I hear).

ONE: Give Them a Bath

When their world has come crashing down for one reason or another, few things are as soothing as stripping down and getting in a nice warm bath. This works best if you don’t ruin it by turning it into a time to get water and shampoo in their eyes. Just let them sit in the bath and play. Often giving the toddler a small cup or washcloth to play with will help them forget about whatever had rocked their world five minutes earlier. For some extra fun give them a bubble bath, if you don’t have bubbles, you can always put a few drops of liquid dish soap in. The bubbles are huge and frothy. Another fun addition is a few drops of food coloring. Kids love to watch the color spread through the water in the tub. Add red and blue and show them how to make purple.

Lots of Reasons to Cry

Toddlers Are Undergoing Tremendous Mental Development
Toddlers Are Undergoing Tremendous Mental Development | Source

TWO: Feed Them

Strange as it may seem, toddlers don’t always know when they are hungry. They are going through a period of tremendous physical and mental growth. All that development burns a ton of calories. If they are irrationally cranky, try to feed them something. I said try because I have had toddlers. Sometimes even when they are starving they refuse to eat. If that is the case try one of the other tips first and once the little darling has calmed down, feed them before their inner rage resurfaces. The foods that work best are fruits and proteins like those found in nuts or peanut butter. These will often have the most immediate impact on hunger and mood.

Why Toddlers Throw Tantrums

Toddlers understanding of the world is outpacing their ability to express their thoughts and feelings. There are frustrated. They don’t yet have self-soothing mechanisms or inhibitions against kicking, throwing, and screaming. The immediate cause may be anything from hunger, lack of attention, lack of motor skills to accomplish a goal, or anger and frustration and not understanding something. Research suggests kids are actually hardwired to throw at least an occasional tantrum. Click here to read a great article about the science on tantrum from Parenting.com.

THREE: Be Silly

Sometimes when you're feeling down, you just need a good laugh. The same is true for your toddler kicking and screaming on the floor. You probably cannot solve their problem, but you can distract them. Physically get down on their level and do something silly. Sing a song, tickle them, make faces, or pretend to slip on a banana peel, anything to make them laugh. Once they start laughing they often can’t stop. Laughter is great for health. It produces all kinds of healthy chemical reactions in the brain. Laughing with your toddler will help both of you feel better, and will actually help you feel a stronger bond.

Toddlers Moods Change Quickly

It's Hard to Remember How Happy Toddlers Can Be When They Are in the Middle of a Meltdown.
It's Hard to Remember How Happy Toddlers Can Be When They Are in the Middle of a Meltdown. | Source

Fast Feedback

The most embarrassing place my toddler has thrown a tantrum is:

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FOUR: Ignore Them

Not all fits are equal. Toddlers are canny creatures. Once they begin to learn the basics of causation, they try to manipulate you. The push you until you cave. If the tantrum is about trying to get you to reverse a parental decision, it may be best to just ignore it. Time and place are obviously key here. We tell our children they are welcome to be upset or angry, but if they are going to throw a fit, it needs to be in their room where it won’t disturb the rest of the family. Letting the toddler cry it out a few times can work wonders in their compliance. Sometimes it even leads to naps.

Change the Environment

Calming a Tantrum is Often a Combination of Distraction and Change in Environment
Calming a Tantrum is Often a Combination of Distraction and Change in Environment | Source

Don’t Negotiate With Toddlers

There is no reasoning with an angry toddler, literally. Toddlers have not yet fully developed the part of the brain that processes cause and effect. They do such crazy things because they are just learning that their actions have consequences. They know some of what they do affects the people and things around them, but they have not yet figured out the likely results of their actions.

FIVE: Go Outside

Occasionally what is needed is a change of scenery. Going outside can put a stop to tantrums. Again this distracts the child by giving them something new to focus on. Nobody in our Internet Age spends enough time outside. Take your child outside and let them play, or take a walk together. Don’t let bad weather be an excuse. If it’s raining or snowing out on appropriate clothing and go outside for even a few minutes. Remember nature and weather are still new to toddlers. The wonder on a child’s face when you tell them it’s okay to play in the rain this time is priceless.

Tips For Preventing Tantrums

Conclusion

Parenting is the ultimate improvisational art. Much of what has worked for my children was an experiment created out of desperation. Toddlers are not little adults and cannot be talked into being happy or compliant. They can and need to be taught good behavior and appropriate boundaries, but no teaching can happen during a tantrum. I certainly don’t have all the answers. My youngest is now a toddler and is trying me in ways my other three didn’t. I would love to hear other thoughts in the comments about ways to deal with toddler tantrums.

© 2013 Jason McBride

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    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 3 years ago from Tennesee

      A very informative Hub and your suggestions are intelligent. Voted up.

    • blueheron profile image

      Sharon Vile 3 years ago from Odessa, MO

      One of the main symptoms that it's a child's bedtime or naptime is hyperactivity, crankiness, or weepiness. A parent can often prevent all kinds of problems just by maintaining a regular eating and sleeping schedule. A good schedule for all kids is to feed them breakfast, make sure they get a ton of exercise (outdoors, if possible) all morning, feed them lunch, and put them down for a nap.

      If they got enough morning exercise, the little ones will often fall asleep with their little faces in their little lunch plates.

      After lunch: Alternate food and vigorous play until bedtime. Bedtime should involve an interval of playful story-telling and soothing attention.

      Kids mainly have tantrums when their schedule is disrupted--usually by shopping, dining out, or visiting.

    • yuliss profile image

      yuliss 3 years ago

      Great hub with well presented information and pictures! These methods really do work!

    • rohanfelix profile image

      Rohan Rinaldo Felix 3 years ago from Chennai, India

      Very good tips that I could use on my niece who's 2 and a half!

    • angryelf profile image

      angryelf 3 years ago from Tennessee

      I love to make use of toddler ADD in this case LOL. It's easy to ignore them for about half a minute, then distract them with something, and turn the distraction into a giggle AND a better mood!

    • profile image

      rcorcutt 3 years ago

      Thanks for the HUB

    • profile image

      rcorcutt 3 years ago

      When my brother was little and he had tantrums I just had to remain calm and speak to him with respect. I would tell him that I would appreciate it if he would stop and that he is wasting his time. Usually using bigger words and explaining things to them almost as if they were an adult can really help.

    • JPSO138 profile image

      JPSO138 3 years ago from Cebu, Philippines, International

      No wonder this has earn the hub of the day. Very informative and very effective.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 3 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      As you have said, toddlers are smart -- canny was the word you used. So if they notice they are getting away with this or that kind of behavior they will push the envelope. The main thing I learned through trial and error and finally by reading and seeking good guidance, is do not ever give negative reinforcement. That's a big topic, so I won't delve into it here. But simply put, it means don't be reinforcing their tantrums and bad behavior by caving into their tantrums just because your ears are reverberating and you're ready to give in. Always let them know they are loved, but firmly stick to your guns. For instance, the warm bath is a nice idea as long as they don't think it's a reward for their tantrum in some way.

      Enjoyed your hub. I'm so glad I'm a grandma now. I've survived all the hard stuff.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Great hub, Jason. I could have used these tips this past Monday when I babysat my great-grandchildren, one of whom is less than two years old. Fortunately, her uncle came along, and she decided she liked him better than she likes me anyway. LOL.

      Voted Up+++

      Jaye

    • Your Cousins profile image

      Your Cousins 3 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      When mine were toddlers I would often try acting silly, but usually ending up ignoring them until they calmed down. It's hard to ignore in public though, when people are staring and wondering why you aren't being a better parent! Congrats on HOTD. It is well done and the honor is well deserved.

    • ashelladyhawke profile image

      Nancy 3 years ago from California

      As my youngest granddaughter is a month shy of being two, and her sister turning four in 11 days, I found this article with some great tips. Thanks for the advice. Voted up and useful. It is a very nice, quality, w/ quantity to boot, article that is fluid in its writing. Very well written--cannot say that enough.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

      As the youngest child in my life is now one of my granddaughters, who lives an hour away and is in kindergarten, I no longer have to deal with these issues. (Thank goodness; I don't think I possess the stamina or patience anymore!)

      When mine were young, I definitely used #4. "Go to your room with your fuss; I don't want to hear it." And then I would ignore it.

      Rarely did I have a problem when out in public, because I usually did not bring them with me to the store at that age. I shopped when my (now ex) husband was home, and avoided any scenes in public.

      The other tactic, which I guess relates to 'being silly,' was to get down on the floor and imitate their every move and noise. It wasn't long before they'd see that as funny, not realizing they were being mocked; only that mommy was acting goofy.

    • bn9900 profile image

      Clayton Hartford 3 years ago from Alger WA

      Number 4 is the most effective. The others just show him that by throwing a tantrum gets him attention that he wants. I have a 2 1/2 year old and we fed him on a schedule, plus snacks. Batheing them is alright especially if they are ill, but normally No 4 is the most effective.

    • greatstuff profile image

      Mazlan 3 years ago from Malaysia

      These are tips that I must remember. As my 4 month old grandson grows up, he will be going through these phases. So now I am well prepared to face the battle (am I?)

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Very nice hub with great suggestions! Thanks!

      I remember my days, when my children were toddlers. Now of course they are old enough to have their own toddlers.

      Great hub and congratulations for getting the HOTD!

    • dianesing profile image

      diane sing 3 years ago from Madison, WI

      As someone with a toddler... great tips. I practice almost all of these and they help a lot. Never thought to give her a bath, but might try that in the future. Thanks!

    • Tyler Funk profile image

      Tyler Funk 3 years ago from Waterbury, Connecticut

      Great hub! My son is two and a half years old and the most embarrassing place he has thrown a tantrum was just last night at a neighbor's house while trick-or-treating for Halloween! Luckily it was a kid-friendly atmosphere though, and they understood that he was just overwhelmed by the confusion and novelty of it all. When we got back home we fed him after engaging him on his level, etc, and voila - high-protein food works magic!

    • KoraleeP profile image

      Koralee Phillips 3 years ago from Vernon British Columbia Canada

      These are great tips for calming down a toddler, and a frustrated parent is practically guaranteed that one, or two, would work. My youngest was more inclined to temper tantrums, and I found that a change of environment or being silly worked best.

    • Camille Harris profile image

      Camille Harris 3 years ago from SF Bay Area

      While I do not have children, I use number four when dealing with my puppy. We do not reward negative behavior with our attention and we have found it very effective. At any rate, great effort. I will share your Hub with my sister, who is the mother of a future toddler!

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 3 years ago from the Ether

      These are brilliant! Thank you. I'm planning on having my second child soon and these will be wonderful reminders when he/she hits the toddler phase. Lord knows I wasn't wonderful at handling my last baby's tantrums. LOL. Thanks!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 3 years ago from sunny Florida

      Good tips. So far I have not encountered this... I have seen tantrums in stores...and some, most, were not handled successfully. Hopefully many will read this hub.

      congrats on HOTD

      Angels are on the way. ps

    • sprickita profile image

      sprickita 3 years ago from Reno

      In side an arcade because we had to go, only he was 7 not so toddlery 8-) but oh my gosh lol

    • abidareacode profile image

      abidareacode 3 years ago from Areacode , Kerala, India

      I used to plwith my toddler. She becomes my mum and asks to study this , to sing etc from which she ,me and whole family members enjoy.Nice hub to read.

    • CampbellLena2013 profile image

      Lena Campbell 3 years ago from Maryland

      I ignore my daughters tantrums when she screams about Time out or going to bed. These tips are really nice thank you for sharing.

    • Hezekiah profile image

      Hezekiah 3 years ago from Japan

      Nice tips, I find No. Four - ignored has the best results for me.

    • Kevina Oyatedor profile image

      kevina oyatedor 3 years ago

      My sisters do the same things to their children and it works. Great hub.

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