Saturday, April 28, 2012

Toddler Tantrums... Ways to Deal

If you haven't yet, make sure to read my favorite tip for calming tantrums!



(photo of my youngest son who is now a toddler) 

My daughter is in the throes of tantrum times. She is around 17 months and is quite dramatic. I don't remember my son starting this early, but I actually think he knew more words by this point and that's why he tantrumed less.

Anyways, I always thought I was a patient person before I became a parent. In fact, the staff that worked with me always remarked at how well I handled even the most insane behaviors from kids.

Fast forward a few years and my patience isn't as incredible as it used to be. I've mentioned how I struggle with getting angry in a previous post called Eight Ways to Deal with Anger as a Parent.

So tantrums have been the bane of my existence this week. Some have been completely warranted on the part of my daughter... some that my son has had have been completely and utterly irrational and seemingly out of the blue.

So, why do tantrums happen and how do you deal with them?

I am going to share some basic reasons for toddler tantrums and some ideas of how I deal with them. Pass along your advice too. Some of you are wayyy more creative and experienced than me!

Basic reasons for toddlers tantrums:

1. Can't express what they want/need
2. Trying to assert their independence
3. Want to be in control
4. Too many limits
5. Basic needs not being met- tired, hungry, thirsty, etc.
6. Overstimulated
7. Bored

Ways to deal:

1. Acknowedge

This strategy is probably my favorite and the most effective with my kids, which is why it is first. I even wrote an entire post about here ==>> My favorite tip for calming tantrums. Make sure to check it out!


2. Distract, distract, distract

Toddlers have notoriously short attention spans. This can occasionally be used to our advantage as parents. Today my daughter threw a tantrum at gymnastics because she wanted a turn on the trampoline and another kid was jumping right then. She doesn't understand waiting and turn-taking yet, so she just gets mad.

I explained in short phrases that he was going to take 10 jumps and then it would be her turn. I acknowledged that it was hard to wait her turn and she must be frustrated. I talk a lot with my kids about how it is ok to get upset or cry when you are angry/frustrated. That conversation wasn't cutting it though, so we moved over to another thick mat and I pretended that it was another trampoline and jumped on it. She got distracted having fun doing that and stopped screaming long enough for the other kid to get his 10 jumps in and move off the trampoline. Distracting doesn't mean that you don't acknowledge your child's feelings and recognize they need to express them. You can do that first and then help them find something else to do while they wait. In my daughter's case, I showed her another option of what we could do while we waited instead of standing around screaming. If I were an even better mom, I would probably say something like, "When I am waiting my turn for the trampoline sometimes I like to practice jumping to get ready for my turn..." or share another tool my daughter could use while she waits her turn.

Update: I have read this post on distracting toddlers by Janet Lansbury and I love many of the points shared in the article. I still redirect my toddler from time to time, but also have tried some of her ideas! I definitely recommend reading her post.


3. Give your child the words

A lot of toddler tantrums stem from the fact that the child doesn't know how to tell you what they want. I think it is really important to be aware of this and slow life down so that you have time to model the words they should use when they are frustrated and need something. My daughter throws tantrums when she can't climb up on a chair or reach a particular toy. Just giving her words like, "Help me mama" or "up" really alleviates her frustration. As you do this over time, toddlers will need less and less modeling/prompting and will begin to use their words more and behavior less to communicate. This is so easy to forget in the busy pace of the day... especially when you have more than one child or other things pulling at your attention. Fortunately your child's tantrum can easily help remind you if you forget :)


4. Ignore (the behavior, not the child) 

Sometimes there is really nothing you can do as a parent to snap a kid out of a tantrum, so I ignore my daughter's tantruming behaviors as best that I can and focus on teaching the appropriate behaviors/ways to express her feelings/needs. I acknowledge my child's feelings (mad, frustrated) and make sure my child knows I am trying to help her. Then I focus on the positive behaviors that she can use to get help (use words, gestures, etc.), ignore the negatives ones, and give attention to the other kids/adults around me that are acting/behaving the way that I want my daughter to act/communicate. I stay close by as she tantrums and intervene if she is going to injure herself or others. I use words to tell her that I know she is upset but I won't let her hit/kick/throw, etc. I don't talk much because while she is raging she isn't really able to process what I am saying anyway.

5. Take a break

When my daughter woke up from her nap today she was grumpy about everything. Nothing made her happy and everything my son did (even silly or nice things) made her cry or throw herself on the floor and get mad. After trying to help her cheer up for about 30 minutes, I put her back in her crib with her stuffed animals and let her take a break. She cried, she talked to herself, and after about 10-15 minutes she was calling for us and happier. Toddlers can't really say things like, "I'm still tired" or "you got in my face too much right after I woke up and I needed to be left alone for a little longer..." so sometimes they just tantrum or cry. In my daughter's case, I think she needed to have napped for longer. Giving her time to be alone gave her the opportunity to wake up the way that she wanted.

Sometimes taking a break also just means removing my daughter from a situation that is hard (like sharing toys) and giving her some extra love. When she is calm, we'll return and try again.


6. Use Humor

This mostly works when I have my son or husband around when my toddler is tantruming. It is so much easier to deal with her silly antics when my 4-yr-old looks at me and laughs quietly at how crazy his sister is being. We kind of share a little inside joke together and it is fun. It totally makes dealing with crying and screaming so much easier.

Now, when they are both throwing tantrums, that is a different story. With my son I can randomly say something goofy and usually snap him out of anything. With my daughter I can give her a tuba kiss on her tummy or cheek and sometimes that will get her giggling and distract her from a tantrum for a minute or two.


7. Change the situation

This is my favorite thing to do. It kind of goes along with distracting. If kids are having a rough day, we get out of the house or leave wherever we are (if that is possible) to change things up. Usually once we've moved locations my toddler with the short attention span forgets about why she was throwing a tantrum and gets interested in something else. This is one of the reasons that we like to make sure to get out of the house several times a day! Helps me stay sane too!


8. Set the limit... and follow through

Toddlers are always testing boundaries and trying to figure out the rules. There are so many rules that they don't understand or don't know about yet. As a parent it is our job to teach them how things work and set expectations and consequences.

For example, in our bathroom we have a large jacuzzi tub that my kids like to bathe in. My daughter loves to climb up the sides and stand on the wide edge of the tub. I spend a lot of time showing her all the things that are fun that she can do in the tub and then remind her not to stand on the edge of the tub because it is slippery and dangerous. She still loves to stand on the edge, so when she does, we give her a warning. Usually the second time she does it, we remove her from the tub and she is done with her bath. This usually causes a tantrum, but as we continue to be more consistent, she tantrums for less time because she is beginning to learn the rule.

Being consistent is critical. If you change the rules, then toddlers get so confused and more frustrated! Be consistent and make your limits simple, reasonable, and enforceable.

9. Plan Ahead

Bring snacks if you'll be out running errands and you think your child will be hungry/thirsty, don't plan events for when your child should be napping/in bed as much as possible, don't over-schedule your day, and bring toys or other items to distract your child when you are out and about. These are pretty basic, but it easy to forget these things as a busy parent. I am guilty of often wondering, "Why is she so annoyed?" only to remember that lunch was at 12 and now it is 3:30 and my daughter hasn't had a snack or even a drink since then! Adults can get stuff for themselves, but toddlers are reliant on us... I'd be grumpy too if I didn't know how to ask for something and I was starving or thirsty or bored!

Now these ways to deal don't cover ways to respond to all of the many reasons above why toddlers throw tantrums... but these are a start. They also aren't anything super new or unique... but I need these reminders daily! I could do a whole other post on dealing with aggressive toddler tantruming behaviors like hitting, kicking, etc. too. Toddlers definitely keep us on our toes as parents, don't they?!




(Disclaimer: In the photo above my toddler is incorrectly strapped in due to thrashing and anger from a tantrum where she pulled her seat belt down. The car is not moving and we did not drive with her strapped in this way. When she calmed down, I strapped her in correctly and we were on our way.)


  • How do you deal with toddler tantrums? 
  • What are your creative tricks or tips?
  • What causes toddler tantrums at your house?

** As always, just a reminder. I am a parent and an educator. I am not perfect. This post shares my opinions. I am not a parenting expert. Please use what works for you and leave what doesn't. I love to learn from others, so feel free to share resources with me that have been helpful to you. They may also be useful to other readers!

PS- Do you need some extra parenting tools? Amanda Morgan of Not Just Cute has an awesome e-book that I am devouring right now called Parenting with Positive Guidance. I highly recommend it. 

Also, my friend Alissa over at Creative with Kids has a wonderful Positive Parenting pinterest board that you should check out. She also has a great series on her blog with Positive Parenting resources that you can find online and in stores. I can always use new tools in my parenting tool belt, so these are great places to start.

Lastly, I am part of an amazing collaborative pinterest board called Parenting With Presence led by Zina over at Let's Lasso the Moon. There are so many great parenting resources on this board. 

Toddler Approved also has several parenting posts that you can find in our Best of Parenting Section.

Happy Saturday!

56 comments:

  1. When my little one was 10 months old he lay on the floor and beat at it with his fists...I knew it was going to be bad!! Now, at 19months, he has plenty of tantrums, and because he is such a determined little soul, he refuses to be distracted. Proving to be very testing for mummy (I find singing to myself a very good way of getting through). And I always remind myself that determination is a wonderful trait (for an adult, that is!!) Thanks for a reassuring share.

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  2. We have pretty good success with taking a time out (giving him a break in his room). One method that I read about that I also like to use is giving them something to comfort themselves, kind of saying here is something to help you calm down and then stay in sight for when they are done. This has worked pretty well for us. I also read one idea that was to talk like the toddler and be upset. In other words you are empathizing with them on their level- I have not gotten this to work. Thanks!

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  3. WONDERFUL post!!!! Thank you!!! As soon as my daughter hit two the tantrums came more and more frequently. It can honestly drive me insane!!

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  4. I think the biggest thing is being there and understanding what your child needs: every time it will be different. I would hate to be forced to keep up with a super-quick person, or be told what I am thinking, so I refuse to do that. But I will ask questions that allow her to decide what she`s feeling, and give plenty of time, patience and reminders, for tasks that she may want to do independently or is prone to taking her time completing.

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  5. Just came across your blog via pinterest and I'm loving it. We are (mostly) over the tantrums with the 3 year old, but I have a 13 month old, and I know the tantrums are coming!!! Great reminders.

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  6. Great post. I've had one of those days today! x

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  7. Your daughter sounds very similar to my second son. He is almost 20 months and doesn't have the verbal skill that my eldest son had at that age, so we have lots of meltdowns. Even though your post is full of things that I know, there are times that I need to be reminded.
    Another thing in you post that struck me as very similiar is that I used to be an amazingly patient person, co-worker and parents of the children I look after would comment all the time. Now I have my own children I wonder where it all is. I have stretched myself to the limit here, I have a 3.5 yo, a nearly 20 month old and a nearly 5 month old. I love all of my children very much, but I feel at times I have done them an injustice to have them so close together (unplanned). My 20 month old's biggest reason to throw a tantrum is that he wants his Mummy and she is feeding the baby, or trying to get her sleep. To top it off I had a fall at work when I was 19 weeks pregnant with the third and hurt my back. For the rest of the pregnancy I was hardly able to walk, so I was unable to be there for my boys like I wanted to and the pain made me cranky (can't take pain killers when you're pregnant), not to mention sleep deprivation as I could sleep from the pain.
    Now I feel like I'm in a rut with my mood. My back is mostly better now, my baby sleeps through the night but I just don't feel like I'm getting anywhere. My eldest misbehaves for my attention and I can't seem to turn it around. I try to do things with him but as soon as we finish our activity, he's back at it. He tells me he misbaves for me and not his Daddy because he likes his Daddy and not me. That breaks my heart.
    Sorry to unload on you here, what I really wanted to say is thank you for the advice, I am open to every little thing I can try to make us a happy little family again.

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    1. Natalie, I wish you the best of luck. I feel your pain- I did tot have an easy pregnancy and my poor little boy (3.5 yr at the time) had to basically take care of himself- as well as take care of me. Then I injured myself during delivery and it took me another year to learn to walk. Needless to say, this wasn't the way I thought our little family would be coming together after having a baby.
      Your comments bring tears to my eyes. I know your feelings well. My little man reacted in the same way and I think that is very understandable. But It doesn't make it any easier. All I can say is it will get better. It will take time but it will get better. After all, things never stay the same forever. Two yrs on and life is in a much better place. I feel at times, when my son is frustrated, he falls back into those same patterns of misbehaviour and wanting to make mummy sad, but they do happen less and less. Things do get better.
      Just remember to give yourself a break. You are doing everything you can and things never turn out the perfect way we plan them. You love your son and if at the end of the day he can be extremly upset/angry with mummy, but knows that you always love him- then he is one very lucky boy. Good luck. Take care of yourself.

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    2. So glad the post was helpful Natalie. Parenting is so hard... on top of all the other things... especially illness and other problems like you've been experiencing. I agree wholeheartedly with anonymous above, make sure to give yourself a break and let others help you. When I am running on empty and am extra tantrumy myself I definitely have less patience dealing with my little tantruming child. Hang in there! I hope some of the advice in the comments and post help!

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  8. My son is 17 months old as well, he throws a fit like no other. I call him my little monster. This article was particularly helpful because my son has done many of these things. Thanks so much for the tips!

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  9. I have one girlie who has a great vocabulary but still tantrums because she forgets to use her words. We'll be doing a totschool lesson on feelings soon to help her identify the different emotions she may be experiencing. We have a song that we sing that is all about how our faces look when we feel certain emotions in order to help her emotional intelligence. Mostly when she has a tantrum we say "Woah!" in order to have her back up a second, if she has been hitting one of us at this point we say "We don't hit/kick!" and then we offer her something else she can do with her body until she calms down (tear paper, hit a pillow, kick a ball). Once she is calm we say "Wow, you seemed like you felt (angry, upset, frustrated, etc)! Did you feel that way?" She usually nods yes and we then ask her if she felt that way because of x, y, z and we talk about what she can say next time. I have her try to say the words so I know if the words are too difficult for her to say right now and then we agree on whether she can try to say them next time or not. I also try to give her the words for positive emotions she is feeling (proud, happy, excited, loving) in order to show her that all emotions are acknowledgable. I'll admit that she is a pretty easy going kid but she is a very persistent kiddo as well.

    I think it also help that I try to tell her my emotions and character traits that I see her expressing like patience, intelligence, strength, empathy, etc. We do a lot of pre-planning and distraction as well but mostly we jsut talk it out once she has calmed down a bit. She will sometimes scream the words I've given her (say I asked her to say "down or no" in the future and she isn't sure we'll listen, she'll scream it the next time) but I ignore the scream and simply follow her command so that she knows her words, opinions, independence, and personal space are respected. She doesn't always have family who listens to her so this stems from that fact and I am working on reversing this.

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    1. So mang great ideas! Thanks for sharing Dawn!

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  10. My youngest has just begun the tantrum phase. My middle child never really went through it and my oldest is 13 so it has been a while! I forgot how helpless you can feel. The thing that has worked best for me is giving him a constructive way to be in control. If I pick the cup out for him, he will throw himself on the floor and cry. If I let him pick out the cup, he will be okay.
    Thanks for a great list!

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    1. Too funny! It is amazing how headstrong toddlers can be!

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    2. My son is 3 and has started tantrums all of a sudden. I dnt understand them because he's been very smart and able to talk since he was a year, he's very independent, my one and only. Its sooo hard. I tell him to do something and 9 times out of ten he does it but that 1 time he says "NO! I dnt want to" or will even hit me. I started spanking but that doesn't seem to do much except break my heart. My husband started doing the "supernanny time out" it seems to work. Yestrday it was supper time and he didn't want chicken so he threw his plate on the ground. Daddy picked him up took him to the room and put him in time out. He got mad and started throwing things around the room and daddy explained to him that for everything he threw was going to add another min. Needless to say he sat in time out for 10 min. :( its soo hard disciplining. I feel soo alone.

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  11. I am a single mother of one i work a lot of hours 4days a week. We have been going through the tantrum phase since a month after my son turned 2, now he is almost 3 and we dont seem to be getting anywhere. He has the kinds of tantrums that involve hitting, kicking and screaming all at once. It is overwhelming and extremely frustrating since i work with kids and can snap them all out of this but my son. Your suggestions are great, i do the one where i put him back in his room to cool down he hates it but when he is done he acts better for a few hrs. this is not always possible when out and about. also when i am at work its very hard to remove him from the situation. I am going to try some of your suggestions and see if they help my son snap out of some of this nonsense.

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    1. Sounds so frustrating!! Hopefully some of the suggestions help.

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  12. Thank you thank you thank you!
    My daughter is 17 months old and throws tantrums about everything! I have no idea how to handle it and your article is so helpful! I am going to have to try your advice and see if that makes a difference because so far, she is so stubborn and nothing I've tried has worked.

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  13. Thanks for the shout-out, and for the great list of suggestions!

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  14. great post! it's so easy to lose patience with my little miss and many times, i end up feeling guilty for how i chose to react. this is a great reminder that sometimes we just need to sit back and acknowledge those "little things" that they don't understand yet (using their words, for example).
    it also validates things that i HAVE been consistent in doing, like simply validating her feelings/using distraction.

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    1. So glad it validates what you've been doing! I love reading blog posts that help remind me I actually am a good parent :)

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  15. Love your post. When describing your daughter and son, it sounds JUST like daughter and son as well! She is 17 mo and a determined little pistol! My son is 5 and tries to be a comforting big brother but sometimes his "help" makes her even more mad. Lol thanks for the tips/reminders. Very practical and wise. Another wonderful idea is to teach your children sign language. Infants and toddlers pick up signs much easier than verbal communication. We focus on a couple signs a week and it's helped so much. My daughter can sign milk when she wants some instead of her whining until I figure out what she wants! It's amazing! Thanks again!

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    1. Great reminder!! Sign language is such a great tool for parents. My daughter refuses to use the ones I've taught her but I need to be more diligent at teaching her anyway! Maybe I can get the 4yr old using them again (he knew them really well) and that would motivate her.

      Your house/dynamic with your kids sounds just like mine! Poor big brothers try so hard to "help" :)

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  16. im a nanny. i nanny a 13, 10, and a 6 year old. i know they arent toddlers, but they throws tantrums just like toddlers. do you think this will work on the 6 or 13 year olds?

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  17. My granddaughter is hard of hearing and we started her on sign language when she was 7 mos. This has been the biggest help ever. While she still has tantrums she at least can let us know when she is hungry or thirsty, or just tired and this has cut them in about half. She has a ton of words so far and really does know how to use them!!! I would highly recommend sign language to every new mom.

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    1. Totally agree! We used simple sign language with my son and it was so useful!

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  18. Thanks for the 'refresher'! We started over! We have a 2 year old daughter and college age kids! How quickly we forget this stuff! Love the photos of your daughter!

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  19. This is really random, but I'm pretty sure the picture of your little girl looking at the elephant is at the Oakland zoo, is that right? So are you guys in the bay area? I'm always looking for local blogs and I know one of you teaches at the YMCA, so I'm wondering if that's close to me!

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    1. Hey! Yes, I am in the Bay area (Kristina) and my co-blogger EJ is in the South.... Unfortunately EJ teaches at the YMCA in the South... if she taught close by me I'd be there every day!! :)

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  20. Your daughter isn't properly in her carseat. The straps need to be at chest level.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Wilsons Wifey. Yep, I know. :) She was having a hard core tantrum when this photo was taken and we weren't driving. The straps were correctly tightened once she calmed down. Thanks for your concern. Feel free to share any tips or thoughts on tantrums if you have them.

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    2. Wow rude! Dude if I were you Kristina I would not have responded so politely. You must have ALOT of patience! Wilsonswifey needs to learn to read the fine print! And wow that's just a rude thing to comment about. To me it comes off as... I don't know... kinda snooty... and irritating.

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  21. My daughter is 2 and she like's to slam her head (hard) into anything that is around her when she is upset , mad , or doesn't get her way. How can i get her to stop?

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    1. That is great question Madisyn. Have you talked with her pediatrician about this behavior? Oftentimes kids at that age will react in a variety of ways due to frustration and inability to communicate. Typically they will lash outward at others though, not themselves.

      I'm sure you are working to teach her coping strategies and how to communicate frustration in different ways (other than hitting her head on things). I would continue doing that. Working on coming up with replacement behaviors that you want her to do instead of slamming her head and teaching them to her would probably also be helpful. You also may want to look at the situations when these reactions are happening and what is happening before then to see if anything else is a trigger or what happens afterwards. This behavior sounds really dangerous, so definitely talk to her doctor if you haven't yet.

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    2. My older brother was just the same! As a baby and toddler he was a nightmare! Once in a supermarket he wanted this toy fire truck but my mom said no. When he started throwing a fit, my mom gave him a sucker. He took the sucker and hurled it on the ground and it shattered. Then he proceeded to bash his head against the tile floor, so hard that after my mom got him out of there, the pattern of the tile was on his forehead! He was a bundle of joy! He's okay now though. Actually he's a very calm relaxed kind of person. I guess he got his demons out young.

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  22. I made her an appt. this weeks , so I will talk to her about it. Yes she is learning how to say how she feels about the situation or how to settle down without getting mad and slamming her head.
    Thank you very much!

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  23. I have a 3good year old who just started preschool. I have worked since he was 6way weeks on and mainly my mother and sister and i have had him in our care when im not working. His first 2 days of preschool went wonderfully, he was excited without any tantrums. Since then however because i have been home on bedrest with another one on the way my 3 year old starts crying and throwing huge fits about wanting to stay at home with mama. Im super blessed at my child wanting that extra time with me but i feel to he needs this time to go to school to. He goes to preschool Tuesday's and Friday's from 9am to 1130am. Any suggestions on how my hubby and I can make this easier for him and for us. Its tearing me to pieces. :(

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  24. Taking the time to teach them how to "calm down" before they are upset helps a lot! Teaching them how to breathe and relax many times during the day when they are happy and playing will make it much easier! So many times I hear parents yelling at a 2 year old to "just calm down" and I wonder.... Have you ever showed them how to do that?! Conscious Discipline is wonderful! They have breathing techniques, I love you rituals, and other wonderful things to help children grow into healthy adults! Parenting is not easy, it takes a lot of work... But it is totally worth it!

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  25. Hi there,
    Great advice! I especially liked tip #4 about taking a break, My 4 yr old son will tell me that he needs a quiet moment and he practices deep breathing when he's stressed, this is something we've been doing since he was little and slowly his 2 yr old sister is catching on!

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  26. Oh goodness! Good post! Your daughter is adorable! My son loves jamba as well! He is almost two and knows the parking lot of jamba! Its so funny! Your post was very helpful! Thank you!

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  27. I have a question! My son is 19 months old. And he is a fantastic boy! He is usually the most patient, sweet, loving child. He usually listens pretty well. He has had an issue for a while with eating! He acts as though he is a bottomless pit! He will not quit eating when i know he is full. And if there is food anywhere he wants it whether he is stuffed or not. Which i know is pretty normal. But he gets very very mad when he cant have the food. And i stick to my guns about not letting him have any more food when his stomach is hard as a rock. But he literally acts as though he is still starving when i am done. I try to prepare him for the fact that we are almost done. And then when it is his last bite i tell him okay, That was it. Wasnt that yummy or something like that. And i try to play with him during this time. But just soon as he actually knows nothing else is getting ready to go into his mouth he gets so mad. He screams and screaches and when you try to love on him he turns his head and doesnt want held. And he will not let me distract him very easy when he is so mad. Please help me! I just want to see if anyone else has any really good ideas!

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    1. Julie have you talked to your pediatrician about this? Typically kids have a good sense of when they are hungry or full, but this sounds a bit extreme. I would chat with your pediatrician or a children's nutritionist. We have the opposite problem at our house- my kids hate eating most of the time! (takes away from playing).

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  28. I have a 3 1/2 yr old who has quite the personality she's extremely stubborn. I tried everything under the sun for her and nothing worked. Finally I talked to my therapist about it, and he said one of the biggest thing I can do for my child is make sure she knows when she is doing something good and dont give attention to the bad behavior. For example Logan threw a 2 1/2 hour temper tantrum over candy. (I know long time huh I about ripped my hair out) and instead of yelling or time out (which never worked for her) I just acted like I normally would as if she wasn't screaming, talked to her in a normal voice etc.... Now when she does anything good such as pick up a toy I say something like "Wow Logan that was great your an awesome helper." And she just lights up. My therapist says that parents seem to focus on teaching there kids in a negative way and if you focus on the positive things more the tantrums will start to stop because they get a bigger reaction when they do something good. Ive also notIced that when she gets frustrated ot mad she seems calmer and Is learnIng If she just ask me Instead of. CryIng or whInIng she usually gets It. Lol! This has completely changed my parenting style and Logan she really responded to it I haven't had a temper tantrum in months. I hope maybe this will help u guys! Good luck and remember to take some deep breathes yourselves!

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  29. I know I'm posting on this blog quite awhile after it was written, but I hope you're still around for some advice! I have a 17 month old who has just recently started really throwing tantrums. This week has been the worst, and we're only on Wednesday. The biggest thing she will throw a fit over is food. She wants to eat snacks ALL the time, and not a real meal. When we get home in the evenings I will usually give her a little snack while I prepare dinner because she's hungry as soon as we walk in the door. A couple days ago, I gave her some goldfish, and a little bit of sugar free jello, which she didn't even finish. Then she saw a bag of Veggie Straws that she just had to have. I knew if I gave her more snacks she would not eat dinner, so I told her no. The kid can't just eat snack food all the time, right? This caused her to be mad for the rest of the night. When dinner did come out of the oven (one of her favorite meals), she refused to eat it, and threw everything in the floor that I put on her tray. This is what I don't know how to deal with. I don't know which battles are worth fighting, and which aren't. I knew exactly what she wanted, she is getting better all the time at telling me what she wants, but what to do when they can't have what they want and they don't understand why? She doesn't act this way for the babysitter, and I don't understand that at all.

    This morning she really confused me. She was happy when she woke up, we were singing and playing while I changed her to get ready for daycare. Then all of a sudden when I started to put her pants on she started in on another tantrum. She did not want those pants on, and same with her socks. She kind of calmed down when we went downstairs, and told me she wanted milk. She never fully even calmed down after I gave her the milk though, acting in the same manner when I put her shoes on, though not quite as bad. I hate for our time together to be so stressful, I need help doing this right the first time so it doesn't last as long!

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    1. Laura-
      Great questions! Sorry I am just catching this note now. Parenting is so hard! Each kid in my family is different, so I have found that I sometimes enforce different things for different kids. I ask myself often, "does it really matter?" when it comes to certain things... like snacks before dinner, etc. If I am providing healthy snacks like veggies and fruits, then I don't really care if they eat them all the time. I think kids are pretty good regulators. I prefer several small snacks vs three large meals, so I have a hard time enforcing limits on food. I choose not to pick that battle. I think every parent gets to pick for themselves what limits they want t have in their house, and then be comfortable enforcing those limits.

      With regards to her tantrums, the more consistent you are in your positive response, the sooner they will stop. Focus on the positive, focus on what you want her to be doing, and help her use her words. Over time she will discover that it is exhausting to expend so much energy having tantrums to try and get what she wants when we discovers it isn't working. If you respond positively/enthusiastically when she asks for things appropriately or doesn't respond with a tantrum, she'll realize that she likes that attention far more than the attention she gets for tantrums.

      Toddlers are exhausting! Hope things are going better now!

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  30. Try the method I read about on www.terribletwosthrees.org
    It really helped us with our twins!

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  31. Thank you for this. It was just what I needed to hear. It makes such a difference having strategies to deal with the tantrums. I'm really grateful for this post!!

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    1. Thank YOU for taking a second to comment Wendy!

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  32. Please fix the chest clip on the little darling in the car seat, it should be between the nipples and armpits. :-)

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    1. Please read disclaimer in the post about that image. Here it is for your reference. Thanks for your comment: (Disclaimer: In the photo above my toddler is incorrectly strapped in due to thrashing and anger from a tantrum where she pulled her seat belt down. The car is not moving and we did not drive with her strapped in this way. When she calmed down, I strapped her in correctly and we were on our way.)

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  33. I think you have written a wonderful article, worthy of discussion, and your daughter is adorable. However, I've never believed in some of these tips. (Distracting them, ignoring them.) We have done a few of the other ones (or some version thereof). We do empower them with words (or we also use baby sign language to help them talk before they can.) We also try to be sure their needs are met consistently so they don't lose it because of tiredness or hunger. But when our toddlers have actually thrown a tantrum, (not simply crying because they are unhappy, but an ACTUAL tantrum) we consistently (every time) remove them from the situation, sternly tell them no, and put them in time out until they calmed down and we make them sit there for a minute afterwards. Then they don't get whatever it was making them tantrum. They quickly learn this is NOT an acceptable form of communication and we as a result we have never had a problem with tantrums. But the key is doing this from the very beginning. It can be done anywhere along the way, but will take more consistency to work later on. We had some friends who once asked us advice on why our 2 year old never threw tantrums and hers was throwing them daily. She tried our method, but it took several times of consistency before it worked. And voila! No more tantrums. The way I see it, it's not that we are repressing their emotions or teaching them to hold things in. The only thing I am trying to teach them to do is control their anger. That's what tantrums are. Uncontrolled anger. I want my children to know we don't treat others that way from the very start. Toddlers are smarter and more capable than we give them credit for. They can and do learn quickly. Have a blessed day!

    Elizabeth

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  34. Understanding how to handle your kid's outbursts is a highly effective device you will need to have in your being a parent device kit. Fits and tantrums are generally due to the kid's disappointment attaining a splitting point. Youngsters between 2 and 4 are more likely to toss tantrums than older school older children. crosswrods solutions

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  35. Absolutely agree with what you said! I also pay close attention to their reactions in case they become "flooded" with emotions. Sometimes when young kids become too upset, they may not be able to regulate themselves. That's when we need to first attend to their emotional pain before addressing / ignoring the behavior.

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  36. My son is 17 months old. For the last few months he has been throughing himself down on the floor when it's time to take his daily nap or its time to go to bed for the night. How can I stop this cause its making me crazy upset..

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  37. My 17 month old son has started throughing himself down on the floor when it's nap time or bedtime... What can I do to stop it cause its makin me very upset and angry...

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