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Toddler Hiding Face with Hands

In chatting with parent friends, there’s one subject that comes up constantly. What to do during a tantrum? It’s a tough one because toddlers don’t have a great reputation for their sense of calm or logic. Besides that, tantrums hit on some very real parent nightmares. Is my kid really terribly behaved? If my child has a tantrum, does that mean I’m just an awful parent?

When dealing with my toddler, I try to see these outbursts from his perspective. As a reasonable and logical adult, sometimes I still have moments where I just need a minute to calm my emotional energy, gather my thoughts, and return to being a civilized individual. I assume it’s the same, only harder, for my little son who doesn’t have nearly as much experience working through heightened emotion.

So, my tactic is to leave him alone for the few minutes it takes for him to scream silly until he calms down. Once he starts a fit, I make sure he’s safe (usually that means plopping him in his crib), and then I walk away until he’s finished.

When he’s so lost in his anger or disappointment, it’s impossible to reason with him. Explaining why he can’t have what he wants would just be a waste of breath at a point when he’s too upset to listen or comprehend. Besides all of that, I’m a pretty terrible parent when I’m irritated, and stepping away while he calms down allows me to do the same.

I’ll slip into the other room and start some tea, or pick up a book I’d recently left until I hear him calming. When he’s finished his outburst, I can rationally explain the hows and whys and the “That’s not how we act when we’re angry” bits, which are so much better understood when he isn’t mid-yell.

How do you manage a toddler tantrum?


Liz Moorhead

Liz Moorhead is an English teacher-turned-writer and illustrator. She paints stationery, writes for a top wedding site, and blogs at Happy Sighs between walks to the park with her two boys.