10 Things Not to do When Your Toddler is Having a Tantrum
Parenting 6 min read

10 Things Not to do When Your Toddler is Having a Tantrum

As parents and adults, we are not perfect. And sometimes when our toddler has a tantrum, we can react inappropriately ourselves.

If you’ve ever reacted inappropriately to a toddler tantrum, don’t be too hard on yourself. Tantrums can be stressful and we are humans, bound to make mistakes. 

To understand tantrums better, read our Temper Tantrum Guide.

With that being said, it’s important to know that your reaction to a tantrum will drastically influence your child’s reaction. In other words, it can be the difference between an escalation of emotion, or a de-escalation of emotion. It can also be the difference in how your child will learn to regulate their emotions as they grow older. 

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Your reaction to a tantrum will drastically influence your child’s reaction.

Remember, you are your child’s biggest influence and they will mock your behaviors. So how you handle your toddler tantrums can make a huge difference in your child’s life. But sometimes knowing how to react to a tantrum can be difficult, especially if you are new to the world to toddler tantrums. So today we’re going to talk about all of the things not to do during a toddler tantrum. Here are 10 of them:

1. Don’t Invalidate Your Toddlers Feelings

Sometimes our toddlers have tantrums over the smallest things – spilling their milk, not getting a new toy, not being allowed to eat the dirt. But whatever the reason, it’s important that we don’t invalidate their feelings. Though their reason for being upset may seem silly to us, it’s very real to our toddler. 

Think about how angry it would make you if you were upset over something and someone said, “Why are you so upset? It’s nothing!” Well, that’s how your toddler feels. Though it may seem silly to you, in their minds the frustration or sadness or anger is very real.

So no matter what they are throwing a tantrum over, it’s important that you validate their feelings. “I know that it can be really upsetting when you don’t get a new toy that you really wanted”. You’d be surprised what a simple acknowledgement of feelings can do. 

2. Don’t Take Tantrums Personally

This is a big one. A lot of parents take tantrums personally, thinking that a tantrum is a reflection of something that they are doing wrong. This is not accurate. Tantrums are a normal part of childhood behavior. While some children throw them more than others, we assure you that there is not a parent in the world who has not dealt with a temper tantrum. 

This is because temper tantrums are not a “behavioral” issue. They are simply your child’s way of expressing their emotions when they have no other outlet of expression.

So don’t take them personally. You have not done anything wrong. Temper tantrums are completely normal and every child goes through a tantrum phase. 

3. Don’t Laugh at Your Child

If you were extremely upset about something and your partner laughed at you, how would you feel? It would probably make you even angrier. 

Despite the fact that tantrums can sometimes be over “laughable” things, do your best to control your laughter until you are talking with friends later over dinner. Do not laugh in your child’s face. This is another way of invalidating their emotions, and will only teach your child that they can not rely on you when they are upset.

Again, no matter how silly the trigger, validate those emotions when your child is calm enough to speak to. 

The reasons for a tantrum are sometimes silly, but it is not advised to make fun of your child’s tantrums.

4. Don’t Lose Your Cool

We know, this can be difficult. As we mentioned above, we understand that toddler tantrums can be stressful. But if you can’t control your emotions, how can you expect your toddler to control theirs? Lead by way of example. When your toddler is throwing a temper tantrum, stay calm and collected (even if you don’t feel it inside).

If your toddler sees you getting upset, this will just escalate their emotions too. If they see you staying calm, they will eventually learn to model your behavior. 

5. Don’t Walk Away

When a toddler is throwing  a tantrum it is their way of expressing some type of negative emotion. And when a child is feeling upset, sad, scared, or angry, it’s when they need their parents the most. Don’t leave them feeling abandoned as this will just make them panic. Rather, keep your distance, but stay close enough that your toddler can see you and knows that you are nearby. This will reassure them that you are there for them if they need you, both in the current situation and in the future. 

6. Don’t Try to Reason with Them

When your child is in a heightened emotional state, they are incapable of rational thinking. Trying to reason with them in the middle of a tantrum is pointless – they won’t hear you. In some situations, it could even escalate the emotions further. 

If your child is old enough to reason with, this is okay to do, but wait until the tantrum is over and the emotions have settled back to normal. This is the only time where you will get results. 

7. Don’t Give in

Many times temper tantrums are the result of a need that your child has. Maybe they are feeling sad because they are tired. Or maybe they are upset because they are hungry. But sometimes toddlers can get upset because they aren’t getting what they “want”. This is why we see so many temper tantrums at the mall. A toddler sees a bright, shiny new toy, their parent says no – and instant breakdowns occur. 

In situations like these, you can still acknowledge your child’s feelings (“I understand that you are feeling upset”) without giving in. In fact, it’s strongly urged that you do not give in if your child is throwing a temper tantrum over something that they “want”. If you consistently give in, your child will quickly learn that throwing a temper tantrum gets them what they want, and the result will be an increase in the number of temper tantrums. 

It is better to stay calm and wait out the tantrum than to get angry and punish the child’s behaviour.

8. Don’t Bribe Your Child

Bribing will have the same outcome as giving in. It’s okay to distract your child (“Hey, look – I see Santa over there!”), but it’s not okay to bribe them (“If you stop screaming I’ll get you a new toy”). This only reinforces the tantrum behavior and will make the behavior more difficult to break down the road. 

9. Don’t Punish Your Child

Remember, tantrums in the toddler years are a result of trying to express or regulate an emotion that they cannot control. Thereby, enforcing a punishment will have no effect at this stage. 

If your child is older and throwing a tantrum, enforcing a punishment in the middle of it will only escalate the behavior. If a punishment is reasonable, wait until the child has calmed down and the situation has de-escalated, then sit down to discuss the consequence. 

10. Don’t Ignore Signs of Underlying Problems

Temper tantrums are a normal part of childhood, but sometimes they can also be a sign of an underlying issue. Children with speech delays, for example, can often display an escalation of behaviours like tantrums. In fact, studies have shown that late talkers are two times more likely to engage in tantrum behaviours than typical talkers. And the sooner you can acknowledge and identify speech issues, the more success you can have in treating them and reducing tantrum behaviours associated with them.

Luckily, there are things that you can do from the comfort of your own home to help improve your child’s speech. Apps like Speech Blubs are designed specifically for children to help improve speech through the mimicking of their peers and the playing of fun games and activities. 

Speech Blubs App can help to improve your child’s speech, thereby providing them with different outlets to express their emotions (outside of throwing a tantrum). 

If your child is throwing tantrums on a regular basis and is experiencing delayed speech concerns, try Speech Blubs today. Not only will it help your child’s speech, but it could also reduce the tantrum behaviours in your home. 

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  • Although they are a normal part of the toddler repertoire, temper tantrums can be distressing to parents. When they occur infrequently, tantrums aren’t a big deal and are best ignored. It’s when they become regular or intense that parents need to look into what’s causing them and find ways to stop them.

  • Although these comments sometimes work to stave off a tantrum in the moment, I’ve often seen young children get even more upset in response. In contrast, however, they frequently calm down when parents simply help label their feeling or describe the circumstance at hand. “You’re frustrated that it looks more like a rectangle than a circle, huh?” or “You were working so hard, and then the dog came over and ruined it.” When children have the opportunity to have their emotions heard and understood by their parents, they feel soothed and no longer have to demonstrate their distress with louder screaming or harder crying.

  • Ask questions like: What happened?, and Do you feel sad? Ask him for ideas for things that will help him calm down.

  • If, on the other hand, they are told often enough not to feel what they feel, toddlers and preschoolers may come to believe that they have the ability to switch their emotions on and off on a dime.

  • Often parents lie — or, ahem, tell half-truths — to avoid simply saying no and having their child experience (and express, likely in tantrum form) disappointment or frustration. Are there times when a little fib is OK? Yes. Once in a while, you can, of course, tell your toddler or preschooler that there are no more cookies, even though you know there’s another unopened box in the pantry. But telling your child that the iPad is broken (when you just don’t want him to use it) or that the toy store is closed (when you just don’t want to stop there on the way home) doesn’t do your child, or you, any favors.

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