How to Deal With Toddler Tantrums

How to Deal With Toddler Tantrums

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.

Temper tantrums can be extremely difficult to handle, especially when they happen in public.

It’s all too easy to get frustrated and lose your patience but child experts say in order to learn how to deal with temper tantrums, parents have to understand them first.

And as much as you probably don’t like them, temper tantrums are a normal part of physical and emotional maturity for a child.

Young toddlers aren’t yet capable of reasoning and their verbal communication abilities are often limited, so when a need or desire goes unmet, they easily become overwhelmed by emotion and… cue the epic temper tantrum.

Instead of losing your cool, it’s helpful to think of a temper tantrum as a reaction to something your child can’t respond to maturely.

This is where they need your help.

Sure, there’s no secret formula to dealing with toddler temper tantrums. but there are things that you can do that could help keep you and your toddler a bit calmer.

Deep breaths, mama.

You’ve got this.

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.

Be consistent

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.

Keep calm

When your toddler loses his mind at Target and you feel yourself about to lose yours, take a moment to breathe, focus on yourself, and try to remove your frustration/anger/shock or whatever you are feeling at the moment.

Remember that you are your child’s best example of how to deal with emotions and that it’s very important to be calm.

Try not to feel guilty or embarrassed if a temper tantrum happens in public.

Know that you are being the best parent you can be for your child and the fact that he’s having a tantrum right now does not reflect any failure on your part.

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.

What do they need right now?

A temper tantrum is a response to something, usually an unmet need or desire.

So, it’s helpful to just take a moment and figure out what your child needs.

Maybe your little one needs a nap, is hungry, or feels anxious and needs comfort from you.

Or they could just be having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that you said, “No” to the toy he wanted to take home with them.

Everything’s so important at that age!


One of the most effective ways to deal with a temper tantrum in a pinch is to use a distraction.

However, this tactic usually works best at the very beginning or the end of a temper tantrum.

If your child is upset because he can’t have something, offer something they can have instead.

Or if your tot is getting angry due to frustration, introduce a new activity to replace the frustrating one.

When all else fails, try removing them from the situation and introducing a brand new environment by going to a different room or heading outside.

Give them some space

We all need a little personal space sometimes.

Simply stepping one step away from your child or sitting in the room with them during a temper tantrum can be highly effective.

But you shouldn’t leave them alone to work it out.

Strong emotions can be scary for children, so staying with them will help them feel safe and secure even while they’re angry, sad, or frustrated.

The important thing to remember is that it’s okay for your child to have feelings and to experience those feelings.

You want to give them the space they need to work through their emotions but still be there to reconnect when they’re ready.

Reasoning probably won’t work

When a temper tantrum is in full swing, any attempt at reasoning is likely to backfire or have no result whatsoever.

Instead, keep your chatter to a minimum and stay calm.

Acknowledge and affirm your child’s emotions by saying something like, “I can see that you’re very upset.”

Then follow it up with, “I am here when you’re ready.” or “Just take a deep breath. You are safe.”

Take them to a place they feel safe

Some young toddlers can become a danger to themselves or others when they explode and have a massive temper tantrum.

During a temper tantrum, they may kick, bite, thrash around, or bang their heads on the ground or walls.

If this sounds like your toddler, you’ll want to focus on physically moving your kid to a safe and quiet place where they can take some time to calm down.

This is especially important when meltdowns or tantrums happen in public places or near other children who could potentially be injured.

Use your words

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.

And if you want to vent or swap tips with other moms who get it, you’re always welcome to join us on Peanut.

Popular on the blog
Trending in our community