5 Mistakes NOT To Make When Dealing with Toddler Tantrums

Val Mullally

March 1, 2019

5 mistakes not to make when dealing with toddler tantrums - Mykidstime

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‘Toddler and tantrum’ are two words that can run off our tongues as easily as ‘bacon and eggs’ or ‘salt and pepper’. They naturally go together! Avoid these mistakes when dealing with toddler tantrums and learn how best to calm the situation.

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When your toddler has a tantrum, often you find yourself facing an avalanche of unwarranted advice from family, friends or even strangers – most of which won’t be what your child needs.

Your child does need for you to be calm and in control of the situation. These expert tips will help you deal with your child’s temper tantrums, no matter how intense (and loud!) they may become.

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Toddler Tantrums – and How NOT to Deal With Them

#1. Don’t Ignore your Toddler

Ignoring includes pretending the tantrum isn’t happening, leaving the room, or walking away.

A young child having a tantrum is in emotional distress. He needs your calm presence to regain his equilibrium. Ignoring your toddler is experienced by him as abandonment – at a time your child needs you most.

#2. Don’t Laugh at Him

Would you like to be laughed at when you’re feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed?

There is a brief window before meltdown happens when the rising emotion and energy can sometimes be diverted into laughter, that can defuse a stressful situation. But a helpful interaction is always about laughing with your toddler – not laughing at your toddler.

#3. Don’t Have a Tantrum Too

Whether it’s a genuine meltdown or a mock of your child’s tantrum. You, as the parent, are the adult. Your child is out of control. She needs to know someone has a handle on the situation when she has ‘lost it’. Your child needs you to model mature behaviour.

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toddler tantrums

#4. Don’t Tell Her to ‘Be Good’ or to Behave Herself

At that moment she is behaving herself as best she can. Your child’s brain is still under construction. When you tell her to ‘be good’ you are giving her a sense that, right now, she is ‘bad’. She’s not bad, she’s overwhelmed.

Imagine how you would feel if in moment of distress and tears your loved ones told you to ‘behave’ or to ‘be good’, rather than calming and comforting you in your distress.

#5. Don’t Take Him Literally

If your child tell you he hates you, don’t respond by telling him you love him. It’s not helpful because you’re taking literally what he is saying, instead of listening to what your child is trying to express with his limited vocabulary.

When he says, ‘I hate you’, he probably means, ‘I hate how you are being right now.’

And perhaps he has a point. Stop and check in with yourself whether you are rushed, being over-insistent over a no-big-deal matter, or behaving in some other way that might be pushing your child’s button unnecessarily. (If so, rein in your own behaviour and apologise for it).

His ‘I hate you’ might mean he hates the limit that you are setting right now. And that’s okay – that’s part of life that can be hard for a toddler to adjust to.

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What Is Helpful When Your Toddler Has a Tantrum?

We all know how stressful a toddler’s meltdown can be, particularly when it happens in public.

But it’s not actually his tantrum that wrecks our head. It’s the stories we tell ourselves about the child’s behaviour that wreck our heads. Have you ever reacted to your child’s tantrum with any of these thoughts?

  • ‘What will other people think?’
  • ‘My child’s turning into a brat!’ 
  • ‘I can’t control him.’
  • ‘She’s defiant.’ 
  • ‘She’s going to end up in big trouble one day.’  

None of those thoughts are true. They are figments of your imagination running as wild as your child’s tantrum.

When your toddler has a tantrum, don’t believe those crazy thoughts; it will only get you more wound up. Stay in the present. Focus on your breathing and choose to stay calm. Remember, when you steady your breathing, you steady your thoughts.

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Have your say! Are toddler tantrums getting you down? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!

5 Mistakes NOT To Make When Dealing with Toddler Tantrums - Mykidstime

Like this? Share it with your network!

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Published On: March 1st, 2019 / Categories: For Parents / Last Updated: April 25th, 2022 / Tags: , , , /

About the Author: Val Mullally

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Val Mullally focuses on activating your inner wisdom in work, parenthood and life. She is an accredited Parenting Coach, Professional Reflective Practice Facilitator and founder of Koemba Parenting. She offers Parenting courses (both face-to-face and online), and is available as a workshop facilitator and a keynote speaker. Val is author of: 'BEHAVE - What to Do When Your Child Won’t’, ‘Stop Yelling – 9 Steps to Calmer, Happier Parenting’ ‘Baby and Toddler on Board – Mindful Parenting When a New Baby Joins the Family’ and ‘Ancient Wisdom for Business Success – How to Lead with Courage, Clarity and Confidence’ She is currently co-authoring ‘In Defence of the Naughty Child - Understanding Sensory Sensitivity’ and will be speaking on this topic at TEDx Wexford on 11 August 2022. Val spent many years in Southern Africa, where she worked as a teacher, principal and trainer in Education. She and her husband now live in the place her heart calls home, in their traditional Irish cottage in North County Cork, Ireland.

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