I thought after years of watching Supernanny this would come easily, but my 20 mo has started having tantrums and I don't know what the hell I'm supposed to do with her! The majority of the time I don't really know what she is so frustrated about so find it hard to distract her or diffuse the situation, then it just ends up with lots of screaming and crying and I do find I feel really sorry for her and just want to cuddle her. Is that the wrong thing to do? Should I just completely ignore her until she's calm (around an hour sometimes). Also what do I do when we are out? We were in a cafe for lunch the other day and she wanted to leave which ended in her crying and shouting, hitting me and me in tears and praying for the ground to swallow me up. HELP
The key thing is to be consistent with whatever you decide to do and carry through with whatever you say you will do.
With DS who is the same age if he is tantruming I just ignore it and normally it resolves itself within a few minutes now as he knows he won't get attention. If he is somewhere he is likely to hurt himself then I move him to somewhere safe!
I use a How to Talk type strategy. Whenever I can, I try to describe how he's feeling and why, offer sympathy, explain why we can't do what he wants and try to distract ("You sound really frustrated. Did you want to leave the restaurant? We need to stay here now, but after we've had pudding we'll leave. Look - can you see that bus outside?")
I often find that stopping and taking the time to listen and acknowledge how he's feeling is enough to stop the 'tantrum', even if he still isn't happy about not being able to do what he wants. He is very verbal though so it's often relatively easy for me to identify the problem. (He's 19 m.o.)
'Tantrums' are about frustration at this age rather than manipulation. It's really hard when you can't work out what the matter is.
DS's outbursts are much more likely when we're in a busy / noisy place because I'm not able to concentrate and really understand what he's trying to tell me.