Toddler tantrums are possibly the worst part of parenting a small human. The screams, hysterics and crazy demands of an irrational, tired, mini-dictator who lacks any impulse control whatsoever are the stuff of nightmares. Thankfully, brilliant ways to respond to your toddler's tantrums actually exist. You just, you know, have to learn them. (Easier said than done, I can assure you.)
For years I weathered tantrum storms as an impartial observer. Working as a teacher and nanny, it was always so much easier to follow all the recommended courses of action when I wasn't related to the screamer. Since having my own child, I've realized that although it's an unnecessary anxiety, most of my selfish worries surrounding tantrums stem from a well-known yet unnecessary and unrealistic fact: they make me look like a bad mom.
One of the worst tantrums my little tot has thrown involved him stripping at an indoor soft play center. He had managed to climb high up into the rafters where only children under five could squeeze, and then decided to take all his clothes off (including his diaper) and run around like a loon flashing everyone from the mezzanine. He refused to come down the brightly colored vinyl stairs, forcing me to squeeze myself through a ridiculously small space and carry him — kicking and thrashing over my shoulder — while gripping all his clothes in the other hand as he behaved like I was kidnapping him. We exited the building while my son was screaming, "Get off me lady!!!" as loudly as he could. We have yet to return.
We all know tantrums are a normal part of the toddler stage, as little ones have no other way of expressing their frustrations. With limited resources at their disposal, lying on the floor and kicking their legs at the injustice of the adult world probably seems like an appropriate course of action. Still, as a parent, how you react can drastically alter the potential course of a meltdown. So, with that in mind, here's 10 ways to respond to your toddler's tantrums that will guarantee you two make it out alive.
If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em
Most people grow out of tantrums by the time they start school, but if you watch any kind of reality television you will have noticed some adults can (and do) give tantrum-throwing toddlers a run for their money.
It may not be the mature response, but sometimes having a tantrum all of your own can shock your toddler from their outburst, and if nothing else it might make them laugh.
Just Say, "I Can't Hear You, La La La"
Sometimes the best course of action is to pretend you cant hear your toddler's screams, no matter how loud they get. Reacting to an outburst teaches your child exactly how long they have to act up in order to get you to notice them. By ignoring all that noise, you allow it to pass naturally without attracting any negative attention.
Most of us have two reactions to our child's antics — the public kind and the private kind. Things that totally don't jive in the privacy of your home may get a pass when every judgmental mom in the park is watching your every move.
When faced with an embarrassingly defiant child, laying on a big grin and talking in a ridiculously sweet voice will guarantee that you look like the recipient of the "Mom of the Year" award, while you wait out the tantrum.
Find a toy, a snack, or ask for help with a simple task; literally anything to take your toddler's mind off the fury they're currently feeling.
I'll often randomly ask, "Whats this on my nose?" as I hold my hand over my face, so my kid just has to take a look and stop fixating on whatever is ailing him. This works well for runaway toddlers too; the nosy little boogers can't resist coming back to check your nose.
Pretend You Don't Know Them
Picture the scene: you're grocery shopping, trying to grab everything on your list, replying to a handful of texts and e-mails and chatting to your toddler and basically being a multitasking ninja, when out of the blue some unknown infraction has sent your child into a downward spiral that has resulted in said child flailing around like a maniac and attracting quite the crowd.
Embarrassing public meltdowns may make you wish you could simply disown your kid, if only for a moment. Back away slowly from the mess whilst muttering, "Who's kid is that?"
(OK, don't actually do this, but we can dream, right?)
Hide, And With A Lot Of Chocolate
I was a chocoholic before I became a mom, but since having a child I have found myself sneaking away to eat "the good stuff" in secret. Part of the reason is just to enjoy some blessed alone time, while the other part has to do with simply not wanting to share my hoard with my son.
When faced with any sort of pressure, I can be found in the kitchen pantry or washroom, locked in and scoffing some chocolate. Luckily chocolate is good for you, so after you get your daily dose of endorphin's, catch your breath and calm down you'll be more prepared to deal with your kid's tantrum (or if you're lucky it would have passed all by itself).
One of the best things about being a parent to a young child is that, although they are demanding and at times exhausting, you are never that far away from a nap or bedtime.
Count the hours until your kid will be fast asleep and you'll be finishing off a crisp Sauvignon, or a fruity Merlot or literally anything fermented and wet.
Move Up Your Kid's Nap
Tantrums, just like a newborn's cries, often have a biological motive.
Check to see if your child is hungry, needs the bathroom, is hot or cold or is sleepy before you presume it's a behavioral or developmental stage. Taking care of these physical needs can often completely solve the problem. Being angry is exhausting, so if you can't fix the problem, try holding your little one close while the tantrum passes. More often than not, the meltdown will pass while your kid is in your arms, and you both can appreciate the "break" that follows.
We all bribe our kids from time to time, especially when faced with any sort of social shaming. A trip to the park, some candy, screen time; whatever your child sees as a "naughty luxury" can be used to convince them to calm down and chill out.
As long as you don't make it a regular occurrence, bribery can shorten tantrums and help you get back on with your day.
They say laughter is the best medicine and, when it comes to taming tantrums, sometimes the best course of action is to be goofy and try to inject some levity into the situation.
Children love to laugh — whether its a silly noise, a joke, a song or a tickle fight — so helping them turn that frown upside down by playing the clown can be the difference between an epic meltdown, and a relatively short blip on your otherwise happy-day radar.
Tantrums are stressful for both child and parent, so being able to diffuse the situation and turn it into an opportunity to share a joke together is a real skill. When it's all over you can have a hug and remember how much you love this kid, even when they are throwing a conniption fit.