There’s no escaping them – little people and meltdowns go hand in hand. So next time your little one goes into full-blown tantrum mode, remember these, keep calm and carry on…
1. 'It’s all totally normal!'
You and your toddler were enjoying a lovely afternoon in the park when suddenly he flips like a miniature Jekyll and Hyde. Yes, it may seem impossible to think that this is the same friendly little boy who was giving you a hug earlier, but it’s normal and every mum will have been there. ‘During a tantrum, your child is expressing how he feels in the most basic way possible,’ says Joanne Mallon, author of Toddlers: An Instruction Manual: A Guide to Surviving the Years One to Four (£7.99, Nell James Publishing). ‘He doesn’t yet have the skills to hold back or express himself in a different way. Anger and frustration collide, and the result can be fairly startling.’
2. 'And breathe…'
Try breathing in for a count of five and out for a count of 10 – it’s the ultimate calmer and de-stresser. The last thing you want to do is to reach similar levels of frustration and anger as your toddler, because he’ll pick up on it. You’re the adult and need to stay calm, and this will (fingers crossed), help to calm him.
3. 'It’s just an impulsive reaction'
Whatever the reason for your child’s tantrums – you cut his sandwiches into triangles when he wanted squares, his sister has chicken pox and he doesn’t – remind yourself that he’s acting on impulse. ‘So while sometimes you can anticipate and avoid a tantrum before it starts, at other times – well, there’s not a lot you can do,’ says Joanne. Though even with the most random of tantrum triggers, you may be able to detect their root in tiredness, boredom frustration or hunger – or all of the above.
4. 'He’s looking for an audience'
The best way to think of a tantrum is like a show or performance. ‘Every show needs an audience and sometimes the most effective way to deal with tantrums is to ignore them,’ says Joanne. ‘If you can, pay attention to something else. This will also have the effect of distracting him as he'll wonder what you're up to.’ Just make sure it's safe to do so and you know he's not hurt for any reason. And it’s worth remembering that if he’s overtired, it’s not his fault, so it’s important to be understanding, too.
5. 'Fa la la la laaaaa!'
Or any other song, saying, spiritual mantra – you name it – that helps distract you from the terrifying thing that your toddler has turned into and takes you to your ‘happy place’.
6. 'Judgers are gonna judge…So what?'
Toddlers aren’t especially choosy when it comes to picking a time to have a tantrum. ‘When your toddler kicks off in a public place, it’s easy to feel self conscious, as if other people are judging you,’ says Joanne. ‘The truth is that they’re probably not. Or if they are – well, more fool them.’ Of course if your toddler has a meltdown in a restaurant or somewhere where there are other people with a reasonable expectation of peace, you should try to remove them from the situation and deal with it elsewhere. ‘But remember that as parents, we’ve all been there or are going through it, too,’ adds Joanne. ‘Be prepared, by thinking about strategies you will use when out and about – because you will have to deal with a public tantrum one day. Strategies you use at home, such as Time Out or ignoring, simply may not be practical elsewhere.’
7. 'Stay strong'
Try not to give in to a tantrum, or you will be storing up problems for future behaviour. ‘Giving in teaches your toddler that histrionics will get him what he wants,’ says Joanne. ‘Your child needs to learn what sort of behaviour does and doesn’t bring rewards (and a parent’s undivided attention – even negative attention when you’re telling him off – counts as a reward).’ However, it’s also worth remembering, that yes, you will waver. ‘We all do it sometimes,’ says Joanne. ‘Don’t feel bad about it, we’re all allowed a couple of strikes out now and again.’ And sometimes it's worth listening to why your toddler is actually upset (if he can get the words out) to see if you can fix the situation.
How do you stay calm when your toddler is throwing a wobbly? Let us know in the comment box below.