As a parent or caregiver of a toddler, you know it’s not always possible to prevent a tantrum – and that’s okay. Tantrums can be daunting and frustrating, but they’re also an essential part of developing your little one’s understanding of emotions and how to manage them.
So, what can you do when your toddler’s in the middle of a full-blown tantrum? Is it best to try to soothe her or let it pass? Every child is different, which is why it’s helpful to have a few useful ideas ready to go the next time she’s in meltdown mode.
Tips for Stopping Tantrums
The following tips are backed by child development experts for reducing the severity or length of, or even stopping, a toddler tantrum:
As difficult as it is, you must keep your cool throughout your toddler’s tantrum. It’s normal to have lots of screaming and tears coming from her but giving those in return will only strengthen the outburst. Your toddler needs to see that you can remain calm despite her big emotions, which is an excellent example of how to better handle her own feelings.
Attempt to distract her.
Small-scale tantrums can usually be stopped with simple distractions. You might offer to play a game, take a walk, or let your toddler play in the bathtub. Boredom or frustration with her current task is sometimes all it takes to lead to a meltdown, so moving onto something new can help her get her emotions back on track.
Some toddlers will crave comfort during a tantrum, while others want nothing to do with it. Regardless of what category your little one falls into, you can still offer a big hug or some snuggles. Even if she refuses them, she’ll know you’re there for her when she’s ready. (Bonus: This is a great way to instill empathy in your toddler, too.)
Keep everyone safe.
When toddler emotions take over, they can escalate quickly. If your toddler gets to the point of trying to hurt herself or someone else, you may not be able to stop her tantrum immediately, but you should step in to ensure everyone’s safety. Take her to a quiet room and make sure anything she might throw or grab is out of reach. If she usually throws herself on the floor during a tantrum, put some cushy blankets or pillows down to soften her fall.
Wait until she calms down to talk about it.
Your toddler isn’t easy to reason with when she’s in tantrum mode. As her tantrum subsides, offer comfort or leave her alone, but wait until she’s calmed down to talk to her about her feelings. Then, you can ask her what’s wrong and give her some verbal praise for settling down and talking to you.
Stopping a tantrum (or at least reducing its intensity) can be possible with the right tactics. However, some tantrums might be more serious, indicating there might be something else going on with your little one. Here are some red flags for problematic tantrums.