How to avoid a toddler tantrum

In my last video, we talked about how to get through a tantrum when it occurs. Once the tantrum is happening, it’s mostly about you remembering to stay calm and wait out your child until they’re calm and ready to resume their life. This week, I’d like to give you some ways to possibly avoid a tantrum to being with.

Sometimes you can see signs of trouble brewing before you’re in the middle of a full-out traffic jam. (And sometimes you can’t!). For those times when you can see just far enough down the pike to know that something is coming that you’d rather avoid, here are 3 strategies you can try as soon as you notice a tantrum coming on.

Distraction can be your best friend. Many toddlers are still able to be distracted by a “look over there”- type event. Drop something unexpectedly, do something silly, give your toddler a big raspberry. Chances are, you know what’s worked in the past, and that thing MIGHT work again. And… it might not. If your toddler is developmentally past the stage where they can be distracted, then you’ll have to try something else, but it’s worth remembering to give it a shot.

See if you can get to a “yes”. Let me be clear, I am NOT saying that you need to give in to every unreasonable request that your toddler throws at you. But I am saying this: there are probably times when, instead of saying “no”, you can say “yes” to a different set of choices. So, when your toddlers states emphatically that they want cake for breakfast, you can simply say (in a firm but loving tone), “cake is yummy. Today you can have cheerios or yogurt.” Yes, they may still throw themselves on the floor because they can’t have cake, but you will have provided them an “out” that they might choose to take.

Choose your battles wisely. Before you open your mouth to declare a big fat “no” to something, take a second or two and check in as to whether you really need to reign in your little one right there, right then. Your toddler needs increasing amounts of freedom and room for exploration, but sometimes we parents are slow to realize that until we’ve had a few confrontations. Take a deep breath or two and ask: is this where the line needs to be drawn? Or is everyone ready to move it out a bit?

Those are some things you can do in the moment to help avoid meltdowns, but I also want to encourage you to think about prevention. One of the best ways to avoid tantrums is make sure kids are well rested, well exercised and well fed. Nobody does well when their bodies are “off”. We adults can override those feelings of tiredness (coffee!), hunger (chips!) or irritability (muttering to oneself?), but kids don’t have the ability or the freedom to take care of those needs in an adaptive way. They’ve got a limited toolset. One of their only tools is a tantrum. If we can remember in the moment, that it’s not personal and that they’re still just learning how to be human, we can stay a little calmer (which means they can too.)

What do you think? You up for the challenge?