Tips for Toddler Tantrums
By Becky Freeman
The best cure for toddler tantrums is often prevention. When kids are tired or hungry, they tend to 'crank' easily. (Not unlike us, only they are much more theatrical about it.) So if you sense your two year old is on his last emotional leg, skip the grocery store and pick up only what you need at a convenience store even if milk is a little more expensive there. Try to work high-energy events after their naptime or first thing in the morning.
However, when a full-fledged tantrum is in play and you know their basic needs have been cared for and creative diversion (see Understanding Your Preschoolers’Brain) has not worked:
Ignore it, especially if you are at home. Sometimes a good hollering is what they need to do to get the frustration out of their system. Whistle a tune; casually move from room to room. If they follow and stage a floor-flopping fit, just keep moving on until they run out of steam.
If they are throwing a tantrum because you said "No" do not let their fit change your answer. You may say, "If you would like to talk to me in your nice voice, I can stop and listen to how you feel. But I can't hear screaming or whining."
For a very small toddler, often picking them up and whispering in their ear causes the tantrum to stop. They can't hear what you are saying, or singing softly, if they keep yelling.
Set a timer and tell them they have until the bell goes off to cry, and then they'll have to stop or go to their room with the door closed until they are ready to behave.
Time-Outs -- one minute per age of the child. You can use a chair or a bed or a couch; just make sure the area is away from fun.
If you are in public, immediately pick up the child and take him to the restroom or car. Don't say a word, just pick up the child and remove him from the crowd to a place where he has no audience but you. If people are staring at your little screamer, smile weakly, shrug and say something benign and humorous like, "Aren't children a joy?" Then proceed to either care for his needs or enforce discipline, whichever you sense is the greatest need of the moment.
If a toy or chair 'caused' your toddlers frustration (he ran into it, it won't work) I've found that humor is a great diversion. 'Scold' the chair or the toy in mock disapproval. Your child will likely dry his tears and start laughing.