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Toddler Tantrums


Toddler Tantrums

Elizabeth Nelson, M.S., LMHP​
​​​Boys Town Center for Behavioral Health

Toddlers are just beginning to use and understand language, so they have a much more limited vocabulary than adults, and they're pretty easily frustrated.

When you combine those two things, a tantrum is the likely outcome.

How can toddler tantrums be prevented?

The first thing, I think to keep in mind with really any sort of issue with toddlers, is to make sure that your child is well-rested and not hungry.

Kids who are tired and hungry just really have a hard time managing their emotions and managing their reactions.

When possible give them choices. Kids are really striving for independence at this age and so, if we can allow them some choice in their life, do you want to read before you get into the bath or after you get in the bath? Do you want the strawberry shampoo or the pineapple shampoo?

Incorporate them in the process by giving them some choices about the things they have to do.

Another way to prevent a tantrum from occurring is to really think carefully before you give a toddler a "no" answer.

As adults we're prone to just quickly say "no" because it's a convenience for us. We don't want to have to go out and get the play doh set up for our toddler, so we'll say "no."

It's really important to stop and think before you say "no." Why am I saying "no" to this? Is this something I can say "yes to?

It's important for kids to hear "no" answers sometimes but if they hear a lot more yes', it will be easier for them to accept those "no's" when they do happen.

How should parents handle tantrums when they do occur?

This is a hard thing to do. The best thing parents can do is to ignore the tantrum. The kid is frustrated and that's ok.

What they need to do is just get themselves calm. Trying to tell a child to calm down is often counter-productive.

If adults think about when they're frustrated, irritated, or angry, and another adult tells them to calm down, that doesn't often result in calming.

That results in more anger. It's the same for kids. We just need to let the tantrum ride out and when it ends, praise calming down.

One thing that parents should try to avoid doing is giving into the tantrum. If the tantrum resulted from being told "no," don't change that to "yes."

If the tantrum resulted from being given an instruction they didn't want to do, don't do the instruction for the child.

We really want to let the child be frustrated, get calm, and then try again.​

When should parents seek help for their child's tantrums?

If tantrums are interfering with daily life it might be a sign to get some extra help. If you're not getting out the door in time every single morning, you're late for work because your child's having a tantrum, or bedtime is very delayed because of tantrums, or dinner is being interrupted on a regular basis, that's probably a time to seek out some extra help.​

Toddler tantrums are a normal part of growing up. Elizabeth Nelson M.S, LMHP, Staff Therapist at Boys Town Center for Behavioral Health, offers tips, strategies and techniques to prevent toddler tantrums and how parents should handle toddler tantrums when they do occur.​​​​​​​​