This is the bit you were not looking forward to, right? Whether it happens during the “terrible twos” or your child throws their first tantrum while they’re still just a one-year-old, every toddler tantrums at some point.
In this article 📝
- Why does a toddler tantrum?
- Do two-year-olds have meltdowns?
- How do I deal with my two-year-old’s tantrums?
- Should you ignore toddler tantrums?
- How to stop toddler tantrums from happening
Why does a toddler tantrum?
Even though it might seem like toddlers tantrum over everything from the weather to their snack to their sibling to their socks, it usually boils down to a couple of things:
Because they know what they want
At this age, their understanding of the world outstrips their vocabulary.
Even if they can explain, there’s still a massive developmental leap between that and understanding that you can’t always say yes.
Because they get tired easily
Even what seems like a light day for us can really take it out of them.
The grocery store and a birthday party in one day?
That can be surprisingly tiring for a two-year-old, and it’s so much harder to process big feelings when you’re tired. Which brings us to…
Because they’re overwhelmed
The world is full of sights, sounds, and sensations, and it’s easy to become overstimulated.
Because sometimes, we all have a really bad day
Quite frankly, you’ve probably had days as a grown-up when you wished you could throw yourself down on the floor and scream, too.
Do two-year-olds have meltdowns?
Are meltdowns normal for two-year-olds? YES.
And should you worry about it? Probably not too much.
But if your two-year-old’s tantrums are out of control and your gut is telling you that there’s something more going on, a professional will probably start by asking you for as much information as possible about your child’s social and linguistic skills.
They’ll also be interested to know when your child reached milestones like smiling, making eye contact, and saying their first words, or if they’ve recently “lost” skills they’d mastered before.
The sheer scale of a two-year-old’s “big feelings” can be shocking, but it’s a normal phase, and it does not mean that you’re a bad parent.
It’s actually an opportunity to be exactly the parent they need, and to reinforce your bond as they’re trying to become more independent.
How do I deal with my two-year-old’s tantrums?
It’s sometimes more useful to think of what not to do:
- Don’t shout or lose your own temper – making your child afraid is not going to make them calm down.
- Don’t ever use physical punishment – where’s the logic in hitting a child to show them that it’s not ok to hit?
- Don’t focus on your feelings – they can’t understand that they’re embarrassing you or making you feel mad. What’s more, you’re responsible for regulating your feelings – they’re definitely not.
Our best piece of advice on how to stop tantrums is this: be consistent and do whatever you need to do to get through this delightful stage.
Consistency: If you give a warning (“if you take it off the shelf again, we will leave the store”), always follow through. If part of the reason behind the tantrum is learning how the world works, show them that it works the same way every time.
Consistency: Use a low, calm tone and get down on their level every time you talk them through a tantrum. Short sentences and specific instructions usually work best. And remember, “be good” really doesn’t mean a lot when you’re two and it’s already all too much.
Consistency: If they’ve had a meltdown, talk to them about it when they’re feeling more like themselves. This is a great time to remind them that anger, disappointment, and sadness are all valid emotions that we shouldn’t squash down, but should talk about with the people we love.
Should you ignore toddler tantrums?
This is a really common piece of advice, but the answer is yes and no.
Yes, you should ignore toddler tantrums in the sense that if you’ve already said no, you shouldn’t give in because your toddler loses it.
No, because they need to know that they’re not alone in their feelings. Talking them through what’s happening is important. As they get older, the things you tell them now will start to become their coping strategies.
And obviously, don’t ignore them if they’re physically endangering themselves or others. In this case, you should remove them immediately, without a warning (and then focus on the child who was hurt first, if that’s the situation).
It’s okay to scoop them up and carry them if you need to. It’s okay to move them away from a public place to somewhere you can deal with the tantrum without an audience. Like we said: whatever you need to do to get through it and be the parent they need right now.
🧒 You might also like: 21 Fun and Creative Things to Do With Toddlers
How to stop toddler tantrums from happening
Here are some more strategies on how to deal with toddler tantrums, or maybe even avoid them in the first place:
Let them have as much control as you can. Little things aren’t little when you’re little. So let them choose their new toothbrush, or whether they want toast or cereal for breakfast, or which bedtime story to have, or whether they want to be carried to bed or walk there themselves, or…
Listen to them and consider their request – as long as it’s not in the middle of a full-on tantrum – instead of getting into a pattern of saying no automatically. Maybe you could go outside in the rain and splash in the puddles? Maybe you could listen to their favorite song twenty times in the car?
And if the answer is “not right now,” tell them that, and come back to the suggestion later (“it’s not time for ice cream now, but we’ll have some for dessert”).
Plan in advance to avoid the tantrum. If grocery shopping is a flashpoint, consider making a list and letting them pick one or two things that they want, which you can then use to reward them when you’re done. This is positively reinforcing good behavior – a very different thing to bribing them to stop a meltdown when it’s already started.
Always tell them what’s going to happen next. “We’re putting our shoes on in five minutes.” “Three more pushes and then the little boy gets a turn on the swing.” It’s harder to get overwhelmed if you know what the plan is.
Smile at the other adults around you. If they have kids, they understand. And if they’re really judging you, who cares about their opinion anyway?
We’ve all been there, mama, and you’ve totally got this.
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