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How to Help a Screaming Toddler - Dealing with Temper Tantrums

Updated on February 6, 2015
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Ms.Treadwell is a licensed attorney and the author of "How Do Hurricane Katrina's Winds Blow: Racism in 21st Century New Orleans."

Me and my son Michael dancing.
Me and my son Michael dancing. | Source

Let's just say I have a lot of experience with children. I was the neighborhood babysitter in my teens, I have three adult children, and a granddaughter. Let’s face it - it is not easy raising children and it takes a great deal of patience. When the children are screaming it can be hard to maintain control and keep your cool.

When dealing with a toddler you need even more patience because most 2-year olds cannot verbalize what they feel. Rule of thumb: when a 2-year old is screaming, whether it is a full blown solo tantrum, or at a sibling or you, most of the time he or she is expressing frustration. Usually, it is best to ignore the tantrum but there are some occasions when it can't be ignored. Here are my top 10 ways to help your screaming toddler get over a temper tantrum.

Ten Ways to Help a Screaming Toddler

1. Be the example. Always maintain your cool. You are the parent; you are the adult; and you are in control. Your anxiety, anger, and frustration will just escalate the problem. The child needs to know that you can comfort him or her in their “2-year old crisis.” You can handle this. Take a deep breath and get ready for the rest of my suggestions.

2. Rule out any basic factors: Is the child is tired, hungry, thirsty, wet, tummy hurts, etc. Lower your body so that you’re eye to eye. Interrupt the screaming, “Excuse me, Sweetie, are you tired, etc.?" Go through the list one at a time if you have to. If the answer is “yes,” take care of those basic needs first. The child will likely calm down on his or her own.

3. Soothe the child: If number 2 doesn’t apply, soothe the child by rubbing their back, stroking the child's hair or hands. Again, bring yourself down to the child's level and ask the child to talk to you. “Tell mommy why you’re so upset, mad, crying, screaming. We can fix it.” Use soothing words, “It’s ok sweetie.” “Mommy can’t understand you when you’re screaming.” "Use your words, ok?” Encourage the talk. It teaches children to express themselves verbally.

4. Find the culprit: Find out if the toddler has been aggravated by someone else in his or her immediate area. Siblings can be notorious for instigating a conflict.

5. Physically remove the toddler from the aggravating factor. Sit him or her on your lap or take the child into another room or involve the child in another activity.

6. Distract the toddler: Suggest a toy, a snack, or a book, maybe their favorite kid’s movie. Take the child outside for fresh air. These ideas teach them how to refocus on positive things instead of remaining frustrated and angry.

7. Give the child love. When the child has calmed down, give hugs and kisses and tell them you love them. “I’m so glad you’re feeling better.”

8. Encourage talking and not a tantrum. Let the child know that it’s not nice to scream and how important it is to “use your words.” Hopefully, the child does not see you scream and throwing your own tantrums during the day. If no screaming is allowed in the house, that means you too.

9. Silliness works like a charm. Sometimes you may have to break out the “big guns” – act silly, make up a silly song with the child's name, make funny faces, funny noises, act like a monkey or a chicken. Just be a clown for a couple of minutes. Try putting on some music and dance with the child. Nothing better than getting a good laugh after being upset. I’ve often made a fool out of myself to keep the peace.

10. Keep children on a regular schedule. Make a chart for yourself if you need to. It keeps life organized and peaceful. Children will learn quickly what is going to happen each day. I made a chart for myself when my kids were babies. I had a 2-year old, 4-year old, and 6-year old to manage. Those kids knew when everything was going to happen; and I rarely dealt with screaming. Keep them busy.

Watch Supernanny Jo teach a Mom how to handle this 2-year old's temper tantrum.

These tips reinforce positive behavior, teach your children how to communicate, and they will learn how to handle their emotions. I watched my son put some of these tips into practice with his child. I have to admit that it was a riot to watch a 25-year old man (6 feet 7 inches tall) act like a monkey to entertain his 2-year old. He even broke out the entire stuffed monkey collection and acted out a “barrel of monkeys.” His daughter’s laugh at the ridiculousness of the scene was just priceless.

Special thanks to savanahl for inspiring this hub.

By Liza Lugo, J.D.

© 2012, Revised 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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    • lawdoctorlee profile image

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 2 years ago from New York, NY

      Robin St Andrews, thanks for taking the time to read this hub and for commenting. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • Robin St Andrews profile image

      Robin St Andrews 2 years ago from Vancouver, BC

      Thank you for the great article & Supernanny video.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 6 years ago from New York, NY

      You're welcome savanahl. Thanks for following me, reading this Hub, and for your comments. I think #10 is key :-)

    • savanahl profile image

      savanahl 6 years ago

      These are some really great tips. I especially like # 10. I find that when I keep my 2 year old on a regular schedule the tantrums decrease significantly. Thanks for sharing.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 6 years ago from New York, NY

      KrystalD, as always, thank you so much for your following and for your comments. I appreciate your kind words.

    • KrystalD profile image

      KrystalD 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      lawdoctorlee-Thank you for sharing your experience. Toddlers are quiet a hand full and I applaud all parents, baby sitters and relatives that can keep their cool! As I teacher I have to admit that the tantrums of 2-3yr old have definitely kept me from working with this age group.

      I hope when and if I become a parent, I will be as patient and gentle as your suggestions encourage.

      Always good to hear from you! Whether talking about law, social justuce or child rearing you are always practical and useful :)