Real Moms Talk: How I Handle My Toddler’s Tantrums

There’s a lot of hype surrounding the toddler years. When I had my son, friends and strangers warned us of “the terrible twos” and “threenagers,” and I braced myself. For me, the hardest part of this phase was remembering that my son was a toddler. It seemed that he would learn new things every day and sometimes it caused me to have unrealistic expectations for him based on his level of comprehension.

We went through a few tough months with reports from daycare happening almost every day. They assured us it was just toddler behavior, but it seemed to be the first emotional part of parenting we would have to work though. So, I took to social media and gathered up our readers’ best advice for taming toddler behavior.

 

Be consistent

“Keep it to the point, and be consistent. Discipline won’t work if it’s 50% of the time. With my daughter, I have learned that I need to be right next to her and make eye contact for her to listen. Lastly, ignoring the behavior works a lot of the time. If she knows she will get a rise out of us, she will keep doing it. In the end, toddlers will be toddlers and change their little minds daily just to keep us on our toes!”

Heather B., Mom of Annabelle, 2, and Nolan, 1

 

Treat each child as an individual

“I have opposite children. My oldest daughter is kind, polite, and is a little more introverted. My youngest daughter is a sassy spitfire that is loud and very comical. I have my days with both. Recently, my oldest has started saying, “I can’t,” when it comes to doing things like writing her name on her own (which she can totally do) and or riding her big girl bike (which is a newer skill). I don’t want those two words to be part of her vocabulary. So, I insist that she can and she will, whether it’s with my guidance or oversight–I coach, encourage, and cheer her on along the way.

My youngest daughter has recently started requiring a little course correction in terms of her “back talk.” Telling me things like “go away,” or “I don’t like that,” or my favorite, “you’re a bad girl.” I’ve had to tell her that these words are not very nice and that she shouldn’t be saying them to me or to others. But, she’s two, and two-year-old’s test the limits so reinforcement and follow-through with course-correcting are necessary daily, whether it’s a two-minute timeout (I base timeouts on their age), or asking her to apologize to those that she said the back talk to.”

Stephanie B., Mom of Sophia, 4, and Gianna, 1

 

Slow down

“My best tidbit for dealing with toddlers is to simply slow down. Toddlers don’t do anything fast (unless it’s coloring on the walls as soon as you turn your back). I kept trying to rush my daughter to finish her food, rush her to put on her shoes, rush her to get in the car — and what I finally learned was that all that rushing always ended in chaos. There are certainly times we need to hurry through things, but for the most part, I learned to slow down and allow extra time for everything. We got fewer things done in a day, but the things we did get accomplished were done in a calm way with far fewer tantrums.”

Brittany D., Mom of Hailey, 6, and Kaitlyn, 4

 

 

Walk away and take a breather

“My biggest tip in dealing with toddlers is to “step away from the vehicle.” Like business, nothing gets solved in the heat of the moment. When it comes to toddlers, that is a phrase that describes what is known as a toddler meltdown. I have learned to walk away and tell me daughters that I will be in another room when they calm down and are ready to talk. Sometimes my kids lose their minds due to fatigue or hunger. A few minutes by themselves brings them back to me with an apology. Unprovoked. And you save yourself the mom guilt when you can avoid raising your voice and losing your temper.”

Johanna G., Mom of Lola, 6, and Olivia, 5

 

Give them the power of choice

“My three-year-old daughter is very strong-willed and opinionated. A simple question or command can sometimes quickly lead to an epic meltdown. We have found that offering her choices helps us maintain control while letting her feel involved in having an opinion. For example, when she is starting to argue about going to the bathroom to brush her teeth before bed, we say, “We are going to the bathroom to brush your teeth. Would you like to walk there by yourself or would you like me to carry you?” This cuts down on a lot of fights about silly things and has been working well with her!”

Amanda B., Mom to R, 3, and J, 1

 

Honor their independence as much as you can

“Toddler tantrums always seem to boil down to three things: hunger, fatigue, or lack of independence. When my toddler is struggling with his emotions, I consider his sleep, if he’s hungry, or if is he frustrated that he can’t do something on his own. For my child, it’s usually the last, so I try to have patience and give him many opportunities to do things on his own regularly to try to meet this need for independence.”

Martha P., Mom to Theo, 2, and Vincent, 2 months

 

Remember that you’re learning together

“I think my best advice would be to remember that they are just as new to this as you are. When I find myself frustrated with my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, I try my best to take a deep breath and put it into perspective. This is her first time, this is my first time, and we’re figuring it out together. A little bit of grace goes a long way.”

Sarah I., Mom of Adeline, 2, and a baby boy on the way

 

 

Turn to affection

“I sometimes (or let’s face it, often) find it hard to not get frustrated with toddler behavior. When they seem unreasonable or nothing will make them happy, I often turn to affection. I can’t solve everything with hugs, but usually, when I get down to their level and offer a snuggle or hug, it often helps diffuse the situation. If that doesn’t work, I will try to redirect their attention towards a favorite toy or offer a snack. When they can’t fully understand consequences, I find it much easier to reward good behavior and try to move on from the bad.”

– Kelly W, Mom to Patsy, 4, and Hank, 2

 

Set house rules

“I started a house rule with my very young pre-toddler: No crying about food or clothing. At any moment my young toddler would look questionable or upset about the clothes I pulled out or food I put on his plate. I would remind him in a calm, but authoritative voice that, “We don’t cry about food or clothing.” I would provide various explanations of why this rule was in place. We are a fortunate family to have safe, healthy food and lots of clothing to wear. It’s worked very well, and anytime I get push back on food or clothing, a tear welling up in his eyes, all I need to do is repeat this house rule and he clams down. Not once in five years have we had a blow-up over these two items. And in general, have had very few of these moments.”

Lisa J., Mom to Zed, 5

 

And know that this too shall pass

“For me, when we are facing tough toddler behavior (or any tough phase), I remind myself that the phase will pass. We’ve been through phases of no sleep, sickness, and more thus far, and we’ve survived it all. Remembering that each situation is temporary helps keep my patience level high and keeps me grounded.”

Katie A., Mom to Buel, 2

 

Do you have any tips for handling toddler tantrums? Share in the comments!

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