As cute as the toddler stage is, and as much as I am loving it, I must admit that with this stage comes tantrums — and those are a little less cute.
I’m pretty lucky though, that the tantrums in our house have been kept to a minimum so far. I have a fairly easygoing girl. But we do have them from time to time, and they can definitely be frustrating.
In my pre-mama days, I was a preschool teacher, so I am no stranger to tantrums and how to deal with them. Over time, there are a few things I’ve learned that have definitely helped me to keep my cool when I’m feeling frustrated. Hopefully these tips can help you too!
1. Know your catalysts. Simply knowing the things that set you off (and that set off tantrums) can be a huge help. For example, I know that if I take my daughter grocery shopping too close to nap time, the probability of her having a meltdown increases dramatically. So I try to avoid that situation because I know it will likely result in me being frustrated as well.
2. Take deep breaths. It sounds overly simple, but it really helps. When I’m feelings my frustration rising, I stop, close my eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Not only does this calm me down a bit, but sometimes it makes my toddler’s tantrum stop in its tracks because she is wondering what I’m doing. Whatever works!
3. Take a break. Sometimes the best thing to do during a tantrum is to take a break from one another. As frustrated as I may be feeling with my child, she is probably feeling equally frustrated with me. Taking a break somewhere safe gives us both a chance to cool off. Often, she will calm down in the teepee in her room and read books while I sit right outside. It really helps.
4. Try a change in scenery. Feeling stir crazy can sometimes be a catalyst for tantrums around these parts. If we’ve stayed home for a few days without going anywhere, it might be time to get out for a trip to the zoo or a walk to the park. If we’ve been hanging out in the living room all morning, maybe we go play with dolls in her bedroom. Changing things up is a great way to diffuse a frustrating situation.
5. Use a mantra. I had a co-teacher during my preschool teaching days who used a mantra whenever she was feeling frustrated with the kids in our class. She would stop, take a couple of deep breaths, and then say, “They’ve only been on this earth for three years.” When you put it that way, it makes it easier to understand certain behaviors. Our children are still just little and learning and it’s pretty impressive all the things they CAN do at such a young age – coping with feelings is still a work in progress.
6. Talk about your feelings with your child. We talk about feelings a lot – and not just my daughter’s feelings, but my feelings too. When Fern is having a tantrum, I might say, “You look really frustrated right now. Can I help you?” Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t since her language skills are still developing, but she is learning. I also don’t hesitate to share my feelings with her and might say “When you yell like that it makes me feel frustrated.” It is important to help give names to our feelings in order to teach our children to cope with them.
7. Try using a puppet. In the middle of a tantrum, your toddler may not be willing to listen to you — but they might listen to a puppet. We used to have a turtle puppet in my preschool classroom and an entire calming technique based around it. Speaking to the children through a puppet often worked so much better than speaking ourselves. It feels silly, but kids are riveted by puppets. (Read more about the “Turtle Technique” here.)
8. Vent to a friend. Sometimes, you just need to vent. Call a trusted friend – preferably one who has been through this challenging toddler tantrum phase – and just talk it out.
9. Pick your battles. There have been many times when I’ve found myself getting worked up and about to lose it in a situation, but once I take a step back (after having taken a few of the aforementioned calming measures) I often realize that the thing I’m upset about really isn’t worth it. I’ve learned to pick my battles. Some behaviors (i.e. ones that are unsafe) are worth addressing, but some you might just let slide if they really aren’t that detrimental.
10. Ask for help. There are days when you feel like you are at your wits’ end. I get it. We’ve all been there. During times like that, it is important to ask for help so that we can be healthy parents. When I’m feeling worn out, I ask my mom to babysit Fern for a day, or I go out with a friend while my husband hangs out with her. It’s important to get away sometimes, so that I can stay healthy and engaged as a parent. It also gives me and my child time to miss each other, which is always a good thing.
How do you keep your cool when you’re feeling frustrated as a parent?