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How do you manage toddler tantrums?

(51 Posts)
OliveCane Tue 19-May-15 15:06:25

My LO has started tantruming. Whats the best way to manage them? She will scream for 30 minutes just because she didn't get her way! What do I do? Is it best to ignore, cuddle or distract?

sahdad2 Tue 19-May-15 19:23:57

i try to anticipate what they need and get it to them before they ask for it or start hanging out for it. (so this covers e.g. food/drink/treats - going out and playing - having nice quiet story/t.v. time - endless cuddles). i have 2 pre-school boys (5 and 2) and neither of them have thrown tantrums. i notice regularly that little ones get most fussy and prone to getting cross when you are giving them treats: they often totally freak because the treat is not exactly what they want, and however hard parents try to get the treat right, they never succeed, and the little one gets angrier and angrier. i tell them 'you don't get a treat because you ask for it; you get a treat because you're good (or kind or nice etc.)'. and if they moan about the treat they've been offered it is immediately taken away and replaced with nothing.

the crucial thing - i think - is that if they start to get cross when they shouldn't, or if they're moaning and whining when they shouldn't (it is possible for them to moan reasonably or even get a bit cross reasonably) you have to make something happen that they really don't want to happen - something that really gets through to them. my older boy once started moaning and whining when we were all out in the park playing together and having a great time. i told him that if he didn't stop i'd take him straight home (something he really did NOT want). he didn't stop. so without saying another word i took him straight home. he was very very upset and very apologetic - but we walked home anyway (about five minutes). i was genuinely amazed at how positive the long term effects of this single event were. it was as if i'd shown him that he really had to take me seriously. its losing all authority by busting yourself to placate them (when they are being unreasonably demanding) that really messes things up - in my view.

Lonz Tue 19-May-15 20:16:32

Don't give in or cuddle because they will think that's what they need to do for the attention or to get what they want. It's a learning curve. They need to know that not everything goes their way in life. (ever think that that's maybe why 'naughty kids' at school get what they want? Parents give in)

If they're throwing a tantrum because of something you want them to do (ie bedtime) but they don't, carry on with what you're doing, normal bedtime routine. If still upset, leave for a while until they calm down. Then say Goodnight/read book, and leave.

Persistence is vital. It will eventually get into to them. But of course every toddler is prone to having tantrums (no matter what any parent says) so try not to let it stress you out so much. You don't need to deal with it until they've calmed down.

karmagetsyou Tue 19-May-15 22:09:50


Every tantrum needs an audience!

Mehitabel6 Tue 19-May-15 22:18:47

Ignore- pointless doing anything else.
Talk to them about it afterwards.

BlackBettyBamALam Tue 19-May-15 22:31:52

Ignore! My DD is 2.4 and will have a wobbly about something regardless of what I do. If we're in a safe place (home) I'll walk away but keep an eye on her; if we're out, we head home if she doesn't behave. The tantrums are exhausting though!

BlackBettyBamALam Tue 19-May-15 22:33:24

Meant to add that we do have a cuddle and a chat when she's finished.

Snooksbury Tue 19-May-15 22:48:47

Sometimes it helps to acknowledge what they want right when they start crying, eg 'I know you want those chocolates, they do look yummy, but you can't have them as we are just about to go and have dinner' because then they know you have understood what they want, even though you've said no. Works for my DS, he seems to calm down when he feels like he's been heard. Then I'd distract him into something else. I think being calm yourself really helps too.

sahdad2 Wed 20-May-15 13:27:56

the whole policy of ignoring displays of very very strong feeling seems way over the top to me. the thing is to stop them before they start happening. you do not want your child to learn that it doesn't matter how strongly they feel about something their parents will ignore them - indeed, that the stronger they feel about something the more likely it is that their parents will ignore them. (the behavior you are modeling here is this: when you're really upset - i.e. about the toddler throwing a wobbly - act as if nothing is happening. that is a very bad way to deal with being very upset...)

on occasions when they are very very upset and it is perfectly legitimate that they are so - i.e. when they fall and hurt themselves - its crucial to show them that you understand what has happened (or even to help them to understand what has happened better by going over the incident with them in detail) and that you dig why they're upset ('empathize' if you like). not being allowed to hold the sunglasses can make them almost equally upset, and they don't understand the difference between this sort of case and the falling over case.

it is - it seems to me - of the first importance that they emerge as say ten year olds knowing that their feelings are typically perfectly legitimate - that they don't have to learn to act as if they're not having the strong feelings they really are having. i know endless adults who have obviously learned this 'lesson' very young, and there is nothing worse (it seems to me). (it is the british disease par excellence) the classic example is pretending that you're perfectly fine (or even mildly amused or pleased) when in fact you are really irritated or annoyed or angry about something (passive aggression).
this is why i work so hard to pre-empt tantrums so they don't get in the habit. once it starts its almost impossible to find a way to cope with it that is not very damaging.

OliveCane Wed 20-May-15 14:25:33

sahdad2, so are you saying that tantrums shouldn't be ignored?

Thurlow Wed 20-May-15 14:31:09

Ignore, but keep an eye on them - occasionally they get to a point where they are just upset that they are upset and have forgotten what they were tantrumming about in the first place, and then they lose the ability to calm themselves back down.

But other than that - ignore, and then carry on as normal afterwards.

tidyupandeatyourgreens Wed 20-May-15 19:29:31

I think it's simply impossible to be able to pre-empt all tantrums, they can come out of nowhere and over the tiniest of things! If I don't ignore (which I can find hard) then I just get wound up and can tend to shout as it's so frustrating, stressful and exhausting! Surely ignoring is better than shouting and getting angry and what is the alternative when a tantrum is in full swing - they're so tied up with their emotions that nothing works until they've calmed down. My 2 girls are very prone to tantrums and I don't think I'm a bad parent overall, I'm not perfect but who is!? - are we saying that I've done them irreparable damage? Tantrums are tough, everyone knows it and it's easy to moralise when your children don't have the same temperament. It can be difficult to tell between nature and nurture sometimes and not always as straightforward as it seems.......

fortunately Wed 20-May-15 19:30:34

Ignore. If the noise grates on me I put her in her room and shut the door.

TheBookofRuth Wed 20-May-15 20:05:53

I have a zero tolerance policy. Out of the home, she is immediately picked up and removed from the situation - taken home if necessary, but it rarely is because she will normally try to calm down instead of missing out on whatever we're doing. At home she is taken to the "naughty step" or her bedroom and told she's staying there till she calms down.

I always stay with her and explain to her, quietly but firmly, that she needs to calm down now, but it's important to me that she realises nothing good comes of this behaviour. I'm not going to just ignore it though, especially in public, because I don't want to inflict her screaming and screeching on others.

Whatever approach you chose, I think the most important thing is to be absolutely consistent with it. Nowadays, I can usually stop a tantrum in it's tracks by asking her "does this ever work on mummy?"!

Lonz Wed 20-May-15 22:23:23

A tantrum over wanting something they've been told 'No' to is different to a 'tantrum' went they've hurt themselves. Obviously trying to distract before the tantrum rears its head but that doesn't always work. Then full swing tantrum occurs. Ignore. Calms down. Explanation. You don't get attention by throwing a paddy!

Mehitabel6 Thu 21-May-15 07:48:43

You can't preempt it all. If they are in the mood for a tantrum they will have one! If they have one because you gave them the red cup when they wanted the blue cup they will still have one if handed the blue one!
I don't think it is good to always preempt- they are learning to control their emotions. They grow out if it. I think it helps them feel better- when I was widowed I longed to have a full blown tantrum- I would have felt so much better afterwards - but sadly I had to do the adult thing and manage without.
You can try and avoid the situation but once they have started there is nothing you can do until they have finished.

sahdad2 Thu 21-May-15 18:51:56

its better to ignore than to implore - i'm just stressing that all the real work should go into stopping them before they happen. and before your little one acquires the habit.

and of course i do very well understand that this is nearly impossible to do

sahdad2 Thu 21-May-15 19:12:54

i think we really do - as a culture - profoundly mistrust strong feeling. there's a case to be made for that view (if you've lost a leg in battle you may as well grin and bear it as make a big fuss - it won't get you anywhere....) but i don't think its a good case.

and of course you can't pre-empt it all. but you can do your best to. i think it really is a bad thing if you regularly find yourself in a situation in which your little one is freaking out and you are refusing to take their freaked-outness at face value (refusing, that is, to even try to understand how things seem to them that they should freak out so).

today after busting a gut to get his bike and his little brother's scooter to pick-up so they could play for half an hour in the yard (ds2 is just 2 and he can't really do his scooter yet - so walking to school was very hard) - and after playing and playing and playing with the two of them and their friends - and handing out pb and banana sandwiches, apples and juice and finally - to bribe him into coming home - a bounty bar at the school gate: after all that (and some more) on the way home (i've got the little one on my shoulders and the scooter in one hand - so ds1 had to push the bike himself!) he freaks out because we do not take the turn into our back-alley that he wants to take, but continue along the main road to the front door.

if he'd managed to tell me before we got 100 yards past the turn i would have obliged him (even though i really wanted the bikes stored round the front) - as it was, i did not. so he got really upset. but i just about worked out in time how things seemed to him. initially i could not see it AT ALL - what the hell is he loosing his thingamies for here???? - no idea. so - very firmly indeed i explained to him what he already knew - exactly why he wanted to go round the back. (he wanted to do a glide round a corner he really likes going round and then over some bumpy ground that he used not to be able to negotiate - but now can) this totally stopped all upset - instantly. and generated a very big and sincere hug.

they've always got a reason - its just very often not a very good one from a big person point of view.

NinjaLeprechaun Thu 21-May-15 21:08:39

they've always got a reason
No, sometimes they really, really don't. Not one that can be reasoned with, or sometimes even preempted, anyway.

You can briefly acknowledge that a child is upset and then proceed to ignore them, that seems to work perfectly well. There's nothing wrong with having feelings, but that doesn't mean that you get to impose on everybody else.

When my daughter had tantrums I'd ignore them if we were home, but if we were out then it was straight home (or at least out to the car, if we couldn't leave altogether). Despite being a very determined (that's a euphemism for pig-headed) child, she had very few tantrums. Because she learned that they did her absolutely no good at all. Mostly they happened, when they did, because she was overtired or overwhelmed.
Although she was prone to them when she got a bit older, but that was mainly hormones.

She's managed to grow up to be a perfectly considerate, emotionally well-balanced young adult. So I must have been very lucky done something right.

Mehitabel6 Thu 21-May-15 21:54:49

Sometimes they are just tired.
I agree that you get to know your child and can try to avoid situations that you know will bring them on, but a family shouldn't be tiptoeing around on eggshells because on child will be 'difficult'.
They are a phase, as they mature they grow out of them as they learn how to manage their emotions. Some take longer than others.
I agree with Ninja.

sahdad2 Fri 22-May-15 13:23:56

we shouldn't learn how to 'manage' our emotions - or hide them - or control them. that view only makes sense - as it does to most of us in this sort of culture - if you think of emotions per se as something dangerous and anti-social. they need not be - and are not with well functioning healthy happy people. the paradigm of a strong emotion in our culture might well be intense rage - which we see as something that overcomes us - consumes us - and leads us to behave in ways that will cause others to protect themselves from us and even punish us. but even intense rage can have its place - e.g when you're in a crisis in a battle against evil storm-troopers, or you come home to find someone trying to take your family away. equally obviously it very very rarely - if ever - is appropriate in ordinary life circumstances (e.g. even in a very big traffic jam). but in the appropriate circumstance intense rage can be the only way of being genuinely in touch with what is really going on around you. when we are really healthy and happy our emotions are not something we should protect ourselves from or have under control - they are our ways of being sensitive to a complex inter-personal world - a world which requires us to be now sympathetic, now curious, now worried, now amused, now grateful, now excited, now euphoric (if we're lucky), now mildly irritated etc. etc.

the reason little ones throw tantrums is that they are starting to have a proper will - starting to discover that they can make things happen - and they find themselves in a world in which they have almost no control of what is going on. if we teach them in their very early formative years that the burst of feeling they experience when things go exactly as they don't want them to must at all costs be resisted - treated as a kind of alien force that is overpowering them and that will lead them to harm others they should respect - we are teaching them to distance themselves from their own responses (and their own most intense responses too - when they first start having them!). as i said above this is very bad - and it leads to adults who cope with their responses to the complicated world they live in by pretending that they don't feel anything (or at any rate nothing very much - nothing that could cause 'a scene'). (it really will be difficult for many of us to see that this is bad because so many of us have learned to cope with ourselves only by learning to 'control ourselves' - i.e. to pretend that we are not undergoing strong feelings when we are because we are so terrified of 'making a scene')

what is needed is the loving and intelligent education of the emotions - so they feel scared when things are scary - annoyed when things are annoying - determined when they are difficult but not impossible - grateful when someone has really helped them - remorseful when they have wronged someone - frustrated when silly things spoil important projects etc. etc. if this process goes well you can learn to trust that your emotional responses will - by and large - be appropriate so you don't have to be on constant guard against yourself.

NinjaLeprechaun Fri 22-May-15 16:16:50

I really, really think you're overthinking this, sahdad. It is perfectly possible to teach a child to control their emotions without denying them.
I've lived with adults who were never properly taught to control their emotions - they're generally self centred and volatile. A lot like very large toddlers in fact. And I suspect that's not the sort of thing that any of us want our children to be.

I've raised a strong-willed, heart on her sleeve child into a strong-willed, emotionally intelligent, compassionate, heart on her sleeve young adult. And one of the parenting methods I used to do that was to never indulge a tantrum. I'm absolutely in favour of discussing it after the fact though - I had the advantage there in that my daughter was very verbal at an early age.

Mehitabel6 Fri 22-May-15 17:18:27

Way overthinking it. It is a normal phase that passes.
The best way is to teach that they get you nowhere and you need to find other ways to express yourself.

AGirlCalledBoB Fri 22-May-15 17:25:50

I ignore my son when he throws a tantrum because he does it for attention and to get what he wants. I make sure he is safe with nothing around him and then generally he will lie down kicking and screaming for a while and then calm down. If he does something naughty while throwing a tantrum like hit me or throws something then he will be put in time out where he will sit until he calms down.

We then have a cuddle when he has calmed down. It works well for us and slowly he has stopped throwing as many tantrums.

Mehitabel6 Fri 22-May-15 17:29:21

The saddest case that I know of is the mother of my mother's friend. Her parents didn't deal with her tantrums when little and she used them to get her own way. She carried on the same when married and her husband gave in to avoid them. Needless to say she had a terrible relationship with her own daughter, who was very resentful that life revolved around not upsetting her mother and left home as early as possible.she eventually ended up in a care home and for the first time in her life came across people who were not bothered by the tantrums and ignored them until she got over it. Very hard for her and all her parent's fault for not dealing with early on.
My way works- I have 3 very emotionally well balanced, caring,communicative,adult children.
Ignore. Hug and discuss afterwards.

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