How do you overcome toddler tantrums?

Elizabeth - posted on 09/01/2011 ( 5 moms have responded )




Hi Moms!

I have a 21 month year old son. He is my first. My husband and I provide him with a loving and wonderful environment. I'm a stay at home mom, and my husband is a loving and hands-on dad. That being said, my once very happy and sweet baby has turned into an angry and frustrated little boy. I understand that tantrums are very common at this age, but I would like to know what you do to handle these tantrums? I do not believe in spanking, so that's not an option. Lately, he loves to stomp his feet, cry, kick, and the occasional thrown object. What I've done so far is to pull him away from the situation so he could calm down, or ignore him all together.

If anyone has any other suggestions, I would love to hear them. He isn't verbally communicating yet, so it's hard to understand why he gets so upset. Thanks for the help!


Jenni - posted on 09/01/2011




Sounds like you're doing the right things. It is simply a developmental phase all children experience. They haven't learned how to express themselves appropriately (by adult standards) and control their strong emotions yet.

When things don't go our way as adults we have our own coping mechanisms. Maybe we have a good cry, vent our frustrations to a loved one, shrug it off, distract ourselves.

But of course toddlers haven't learned the appropriate coping mechanisms and even if they did, the simply lack the impulse control to contain a 'fit' or 'tantrum'.

So with that in mind, you want to be sure you are effectively teaching them how to handle these strong emotions.
First, you don't want them to think tantruming gets them what they want. Of course, this is why you ignore a tantrum. Getting what they want could just be attention from you. But that is not how we get mommy's attention. You can address the tantrum at the start: "I see you're really upset right now, you can't.... I will talk to/help you again when you calm yourself down."
Once the tantrum subsides you can say: "Good job calming yourself down."

You said he isn't very verbal yet. So I would start providing him with the language to express his emotions. Identify out loud to him his emotions. "Eric's happy!" "Eric's soo sad!" "Eric's very angry right now!" Be his voice for him. Also identify your own feelings to him and others feelings.

Model timeouts yourself. When you are feeling especially stressed say: "Mommy is really mad she broke her favourite mug. I need a timeout to calm down". This will teach him how people deal with their strong emotions appropriately.

Give him choices over the little things if you don't want the big things up for debate. "Time to get dressed. (not up for debate) Do you want to wear the blue shirt or the red one? (choice)"

Avoid unnecessary power struggles. Reserve "no" for issues of safety. Let the little things slide, at this age so much is being learned through cause and effect. Sometimes they just gotta figure it out on their own (as long as nothing is being damaged).

It's all in the language. Find ways to say 'no' positively. "Oh colouring looks like fun! Can we colour after lunch?" instead of "No you can't colour right now, were going to eat."

Here's an excellent article by Dr. Sears on saying "No Positively":

Also, I'd like to invite you to our community Positive Behaviour Strategies:

JuLeah - posted on 09/01/2011




Well, from the day he was born, before that actually, he had a need (hunger for example) and that need was met.

At birth, he cried and whatever he needed was provided - to be held, played with, changed, fed .... and this is a good thing as he has learned to trust his world, learned he is safe in his world, attached and bonded with you ....

But, now he is big, 21 months. His needs are bigger, but he has still just the same system of getting his needs met.

He wants to go outside for a walk to swing on the swing and pick the yellow flowers like he did yesterday and pick up the rocks and put them in his pockets and feel the wind on his face and run in the grass ... how does he communictae his wants and needs? He fusses. When that doesn't work he cries.

This system has been working for over 21 months! What up now?

He is doing his part, he is fussing and even crying, why can't you understand exaclty what he wants and needs, why can't you snap your fingers and make that all happen for him?????

If you were him, wouldn't you throw a fit too?

So, what can you do? This is a rite of passage, we all deal and work through this. Give him language ... read to him, talk to him, help him label the things in his world so he can ask for them by name

It is okay to be upset - normal human emotion, but kids can get so upset it frightens them ... show him it is okay. Don't freak out when he is upset, stay calm.

Teach him over time that he is in control of his body, even when mad. He can be mad, but we don't use our bodies to hurt people or things

He can stomp his feet, in my opinion. He is expressing anger and it is okay to be angry.

It is just going to be hard until he has a bit more langauge ... kids this age do appreciate choices in life and in, "Do you want to use the red cup or the blue cup at dinner?"

"Do you want to play blocks or puzzles?"

Never give options you can't live with and never make it open ended and is, What do you want to wear today? He will pick swim trunks in Dec.

Never ask questions you don't want an answer for and is, "are you ready to go to bed?" His answer might be 'no' and you will have to live with that

Offer transition time. He is a busy guy with things to do. It might look like he is building a tower to you, but in his mind .... so say, "In five minutes we will put the blocks away"

Then, "In three minutes we will put the blocks away"

Then offer choice there too. Do you want to pick up the yellow blocks and Mommy pick up the blue? Or do you want to pick up the blue?"

A person can't really say 'no' of no is not a choice

Also, the basics, if he is over tired, hungry, has not had enough running and jumping time he will be cranky, so that is not the time to take him to the movies and ask him to sit for two hours ... yah, duh, but ... I've sat my kid up like that without really thinking things through


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Amy - posted on 09/08/2011




The most important peice of advice I can give matter what follow through! My son threw his last tantrum at the age of two, I had told him that if he didn't listen he would be in trouble, he started kicking & yelling...I told him we do Not act like that in this house & if he kept it up he would lose his favorite toy. He yelled at me (I never yelled back) I calmly told him that if he did not stop by the count of 3 I was throwing his toy in the trash & it would not come back. He continued his tantrum. I counted to three, picked up his toy & right away he stopped and said "ok I'll stop". I said thank you then threw the toy away. He wanted to know why I threw it away when he said he would stop & I explained to him that I appreciated that he had stopped but that he did not do it when he was told nor did he do it it the time frame given so I had to follow through (it was sooo hard). He learned that does not make idle threats & he still knows this @ the age of 8. Btw...I also Never promise something I can't give it helps because he know that I always mean what I say. Hope this helps! Good luck :)

Beth - posted on 09/08/2011




ah yes, we use time out for these moments and i tell him he can come out when he wants to be a nice boy..but he just turned 3..when he was your sons age it was time outs and ignoring him..also i changed his diet and took out as many artificial colors as possible..he seems to be very sensitive to them and they made him irritable and that also helped for me..all i can say is hang in there they will get better everything else it too is a phase and he will be a sweetie again soon :)

Stifler's - posted on 09/01/2011




I walk off and ignore him. It lasts about 3 seconds when he realises I don't care how much he screams he's not getting more juice when I've said no.

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