Toddlers are famous for tantrums, so when fits erupt, it’s wise to have some tried-and-true tricks to tame toddler tantrums.
Yuk It Up
Method: See a toddler tantrum coming on? Quick, Mom, tame that tantrum with fun by doing something silly! Your darling won’t stand still for a diaper change? Put the (clean) diaper on your head. He refuses to drink his milk? Pick up a banana and make a phone call. He’s losing it for no apparent reason? Climb under the table with a book. Whoever heard of Mommy reading under the table?
Why it works: Laughter releases all sorts of feel-good chemicals in the brain and stifles the stress-causing ones. The best thing about getting a toddler to giggle is that it’s not all that hard. Tots find the unexpected especially funny, so doing something outside the usual routine will more often than not distract yours long enough to diffuse his tantrum.
Method: Your toddler is screaming at the top of his lungs. Instead of trying to out-yell him, start whispering. (Tip: This will work only if he’s looking at you.)
Why it works: As soon as your toddler realizes you’re talking, he’ll probably quiet down to try to figure out why you’re using your library voice. Just make sure to be saying something soothing: “As soon as you calm down, Mommy will help you find the missing puzzle piece,” or “I’m sorry you’re so mad. Why don’t we go for a walk?” Don’t rely on this trick too often though. Your child will eventually be on to your wily, whispery ways.
Give Him the Cold Shoulder
Method: The next time you’re face-to-face with a toddler tantrum, try ignoring the frantic antics and carry on with what you’re doing — you can even hum or sing loudly so he really gets the message. As long as he isn’t doing anything that could be harmful to his surroundings (throwing toys) or himself (running toward the street), this can be a highly effective way to stop temper tantrums.
Why it works: Much of the drama may be a bit of an act. Yes, your toddler is legitimately frustrated, but at the same time, he also knows that when he cries or fusses he’ll be tended to: So he may use that knowledge as an attention-getting device. By now you know your child like the back of your hand, so don’t ignore him if he’s feeling especially sensitive or is going through a stressful time (his new baby sib is taking up most of your attention).
Go on Autopilot
Method: It’s T-minus ten ’til dinnertime, but your toddler has his eye on the cookie jar. When you say no, he pitches a fit. Your response should be to repeat the rule, over, and over, and over: “We don’t eat cookies before dinner. We don’t eat cookies before dinner.”
Why it works: Basically, saying the same words over and over will bore the tantrum out of him. The trick is to be as consistent (don’t change any of the words) and as calm as possible. Keep your voice even and your face neutral. He’ll understand that you mean business, and see that he can’t get a rise — or a cookie — out of you before dinner.
Get Your Game On
Method: As soon as you see that temper start to rise, try to engage your wee whiner in a toddler game. That doesn’t have to mean dragging out Candy Land, but rather distracting him with a simple activity like I Spy, which works great in places like the DMV, airport, or any other place where waiting is involved.
Why it works: Playing a game works on two levels. First of all, it’s a fun distraction. Whatever is bugging your babe will likely take a backseat to the chance to have some fun with Mommy. Which is the second point: Often a tantrum is as much a cry for attention as it is a response to being frustrated or bored or angry or tired. Just be warned — timing is everything: This method works best to put the brake on a toddler tantrum if you use it just as your cutie starts to lose composure. If you wait until he’s having a full-blown screaming fit, it’ll be too tough to calm him down to play.
Method: Pick him up and hug him firmly but gently.
Why it works: When a tantrum morphs from a minor meltdown to a full-blown screaming fit, no amount of silliness or reasoning or even non-reaction on your part is going to do the trick. If he’s that upset, he won’t be able to see you or hear you, so relying on the power of your touch can be soothing, especially since losing control can be scary for a little kid. That’s why being wrapped in your loving arms can calm down a crazed critter. (Sometimes a little hug therapy is the best way of all to tame a toddler tantrum — it’ll melt any anger or frustration you have, too.)