How to Help Your Toddler Prevent Tantrums
I’m sharing a few ideas to help prevent tantrums in toddlers – make sure you pin the infographic for reference!
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We’re right in the thick of the tantrum stage over here – 2 1/2 years old, big emotions, and no clue how to handle them.
If you’re like me, you hate watching your toddler struggle through the emotions that come with tantrums, and you understand that he’s learning to process emotions and frustrations. But also, if you’re anything like me, tantrums can tear at your already-stretched nerves too.
So how do we keep our calm and help our toddlers navigate this big, emotional world? Here’s what we’re doing to help our little man over here. (Although, I promise you, there are many moments where I don’t do or say the ‘right’ thing, too!)
Why do toddlers throw temper tantrums?
Isn’t that the million dollar question? Toddlers have temper tantrums and meltdowns for a huge, infinite number of reasons. Some of the most common reasons for a meltdown are:
- frustration at a situation
- being told she cannot do something she wants to do
- feeling like he has no authority over himself/his choices
- not understanding what is going on
- being overtired
- being overstimulated
- feeling confined
- not being ready for a transition
What can I do to help prevent tantrums?
I got a tip from a popular website that suggested I should prevent my child from ever becoming frustrated in order to help keep tantrums at bay. Y’all, that’s bonkers! My toddler needs to feel frustration to learn how to deal with it and work through it.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some ways to help avoid tantrums. An obvious one is making sure your toddler isn’t overtired; crankiness leads to less self-control and ability to manage emotions (we’ve all been there, not just toddlers!).
Teach your toddler to clean up
Helping your toddler avoid overstimulation is another way to help keep tantrums at bay. Overstimulation can come from being around too many people, but it can also come from being around too many things. If your toddler starts melting down out of nowhere, look around. Is she surrounded by a mess of toys and objects? Clean them up and give her a neat space to start over with. We’re working on making sure Camden cleans up after each messy toy (think blocks, magnet tiles, etc – things with lots of pieces) before moving onto the next.
Offer choices whenever possible
Tantrums can stem from your toddler feeling like he has no control or power over his choices. We make choices hundreds of times a day – what we wear, say, eat, watch, feed our families, etc – and it’s a natural process of life. But we often take those choices from our children and just order them to do something without even realizing it. Try giving choices (even when the outcome is the exact same for both, a choice still gives your toddler power):
- Would you like to pick up the books or the blocks first? (You’re still picking up both toys, but they choose when.)
- Do you want the monkey fork or the rocket fork to eat with? (They’re still eating, but with choice.)
- I need you to choose if you want bubbles or no bubbles in the tub.
Sometimes, they don’t have a choice about what you need them to do, but you can still offer them a choice to go along with it. For example, they may not want to go for a car ride, but you have to take a sibling to practice, so offer something to accompany what you need them to do. Try: We have to go for a car ride. Would you like to choose a book to read in the car?
Prepare them for transitions
Toddlers throw tantrums when they don’t feel prepared to deal with the emotion they feel. Preparing them to transition from one activity to another (playtime to dinner time, or bath time to bed time, etc) helps them feel prepared to deal with the emotion that comes along (often disappointment or sadness).
There are so many ways to embed transition prep into your routine. Some of my favorite ways are:
- use a song (Daniel Tiger has one that says ‘it’s almost time to go, so choose one more thing to do’ that works great)
- use a visual countdown timer (I used a TimeTimer in my classroom and now I use it with Cam too. Best thing ever.)
Whichever you choose, make sure you prepare them to understand (a) a transition is coming and (b) what you are transitioning to. For example: You have 3 minutes on the timer, so choose one more thing to do. Then we’re going to eat dinner.
When the time is up, offer a choice to help move to the next activity. For example: Okay, it’s time to eat dinner. Would you like to choose your plate?
Add fresh air or water
Whenever I notice Camden is getting really frustrated or cranky – and overtired is not the reason – I try to add fresh air or water. By that, I mean we go outside or play with water. Those things just work on another level to eliminate toddler stress and find some fun. We bundle up when it’s cold and go play outside; pretty much the only thing that stops us is negative temps or thunder and lightning. Or we play with water: sensory bin, bath time, water table, or even just playing in the sink.
Give it a try! The next time your toddler is headed toward a meltdown, add water or fresh air!
Raising toddlers isn’t easy, but you’ve got this mama! We can’t prevent all tantrums, but we can provide toddlers with a sense of power and choice to navigate their own way.
Coming Soon: Tantrums Part 2 – Helping your Toddler Navigate Their Tantrums
I’ll talk about how, when the inevitable tantrums happen, we can help our toddlers deal with their feelings and emotions!