Toddler Tantrums/Terrible Two’s or ‘Just Finding My Voice and Independence’ as we like to say instead
If you are a parent of a two-year-old – or ever have been – I am sure you are familiar with the very well-known sayings; ‘terrible twos’ or ‘toddler tantrums’.
Whatever we refer to this stage as most children will go through this stage of development between the ages of 18 months and 3 years old – it is completely normal.
This is a stage when your child starts to have more awareness of the world around them, as well as starting to develop their independence; they are finding their voice and wanting to make more choices.
At nursery we wouldn’t use the phrases ‘toddler tantrum’ or ‘terrible twos’ – it’s a stage of development that can be challenging for parents/carers but also a time that is hugely exciting. At this time, they are really starting to come into their own and develop their own unique personalities.
That said, we know how tough it can be, so we are here to help! We’ve put together some advice for you that we have found to be really useful in our (many) years of experience to keep those cheeky two-year-olds engaged and on side.
Tips for Dealing with Toddler Tantrums
Firstly, try and understand
Could your child be tired, hungry or jealous of another sibling/child? Are they feeling ignored, worried, or anxious?
Feelings are normal human responses. Whether those be anger, fear, sadness or joy. For a young child, the big feelings of frustration, anger and sadness are huge things to learn how to manage – the child needs good role modelling and understanding whilst they learn.
Finding a trigger may help you to understand the outburst and deal with it in a calmer more understanding way, possibly being able to divert their attention in the future before it becomes a problem.
Adopt clear boundaries
This doesn’t mean you are being strict or mean – children thrive with boundaries because they make them feel safe and secure. Having clear boundaries and high expectations gives children a sense of knowing what is expected of them – what is acceptable and what isn’t. Also, remember; consistency is key.
It’s also really important to note that children of this age flourish when their achievements are noted and celebrated.
If they have done something well or have achieved something – no matter how small, it’s great to take note of this and celebrate it, even if that’s just recognising it and saying a big ‘Well done’.
Praising positive behaviour is incredibly useful too and can be used as a great tool. This can be done by using language, facial expressions and your actions to show how impressed and happy you are with certain behaviours.
Positive praise is also a great way to develop independence.
Getting involved with the children’s activities and asking them to talk through and explain what they are doing.
Consider how you use the word no. Use yes more where this can be applied, and choose your battles.
Although positive praise is great, there will of course be times when children do things or show behaviours that you are not happy with. This is completely normal; it is an essential part of development. When these situations arise (which they will!), it’s important to have a clear idea in your mind of how you may handle it.
Setting some Boundaries
A great place to start and a really important aspect is to explain to the child that it is their behaviour that is unacceptable, not the child themselves.
This separation of the behaviour and the child is really useful in ensuring that children begin to realise that certain behaviours result in consequences and helps start to understand what behaviours these are and why this is the case. Always be consistent.
Children’s attention spans are short. You can try and offer them something else if this is possible, or maybe plan a new activity by replacing the activity that is causing issues.
Sometimes moving to a different part of the house or going into the garden, or looking out of the window at the cars, trees etc is enough to distract them. Be animated about what you see to gain your child’s interest to divert the tantrum.
Never give in to toddler tantrums
If you give in for an easy life, we can guarantee this will make moving forward much harder, your toddler will think this is a way to get what they want.
It is not helpful to use bribes like sweets or treats as again this encourages unwanted behaviour to gain the reward.
Some ways to deal with the outburst
Each child is different and there is no right or wrong way; you know your child best so use the techniques that work best for you and your child
- Ignore the outburst – getting attention for negative behaviour will only encourage more negative behaviour.
- Finding something they can have when you have said they can’t have something else (don’t give major explanations for why they can’t have the other thing, just move on).
- Comforting them with a hug.
- Holding them firmly but gently and talking to them in a clear voice.
How to avoid further tantrums
As previously mentioned, praise positive behaviour. This shows your toddler that they will get far more attention for being kind and helpful.
Offer choices where appropriate. Keep choices small – between this and that rather than a long list of options. This could confuse your child. Allowing the child some control over their own decisions.
It’s cold outside today so we need warm clothes on, would you prefer the red jumper or blue Jumper?
This type of choice can be for snacks and other daily activities too.
Visual aids (including reward charts, visual timetables)
These items allow you to discuss with your child what their day may look like or being able to visualise how well they are doing at a certain activity for example getting dressed/potty training. Being able to share these achievements with others will allow them more pride in their accomplishments and encourage positive behaviour moving forward.
Support toddlers to understand their feelings
Know your child
Don’t go shopping if your child is hungry or tired. If you’re taking a trip plan activities and snacks for the car ride, prepare your child. Plan music together or play games in the car like I Spy.
If the feelings overwhelm them (tantrum arrives ), give them space, let them get their anger out in a non-destructive way. This helps them to learn to control their emotions.
Always remember if these ‘tantrums’ become unbearable and you feel lost or isolated on how to deal with them, then seek advice. This could be from many different sources; nursery, health visitors, local sure start centres, your GP or you can go online .
Remember this is normal behaviour, our children are unique individuals they are developing rapidly during the early years , these moments will pass.