No fool-proof manual exists for parents on how to deal with a toddler tantrum. After all, each child and each situation is unique. However, here are a few general tips that might help prevent some tantrums and also help nip them in the bud when they do happen. 

  1. Food and rest: Many a wise mother will tell you that, quite often, toddlers melt down because they are tired or hungry (or both). This makes sense! Think about how we, as grownups, get grumpy when tired or hungry. Now imagine being 2. Is this the only reason for tantrums? No. But eliminating this cause could drastically increase your chances of a calmer child. So think ahead when going about your day. Bring food for your toddler if lots of activities are planned. Try to ensure a nap fits in or, in anticipation of a big event, put him to bed early the night before. Happier little ones are often (not always, but often!) more cooperative. 
  2. Attention and engagement: Another reason a toddler may throw a tantrum is because she misses you. Parents are busy people, and we cannot give children undivided attention every minute, but if you sense your child needs some mommy time, try to involve her in what you are doing. It might take longer, but at least you are still tackling a task, and she is kept entertained. Cleaning? Give her a wet rag to wipe the floor. Grocery shopping? Ask her to count the apples for you.
  3. The power of the 5-minute warning: Toddlers do not respond well to shock and disappointment. Providing a 10- and then 5-minute warning rather than abruptly leaving the playground gives a little one information about what’s to come and helps him prepare to say good-bye. 
  4. Stand your ground. Giving in to unruly demands is not recommended. If your child is stomping his feet and demanding candy at 8:00 in the morning, he should not get candy, or else this will become a pattern. This is definitely a time for a stern, effective response. No means no. And if he needs to scream and cry it out, so be it. Sometimes tantrums are just a child’s way of expressing his anger in not getting has way. And guess what? He cannot always get his way. Try not to stifle his frustration, but rather let him go into another room and let out his emotions. Once he’s calmed down, hugs and “I love you’s" are a good idea. But still no candy.
  5. Hugs and comfort: Tantrums are often a result of exhaustion or frustration stemming from a child’s still learning to communicate and still figuring out her big world. Sometimes your child might just need you to stop what you are doing and sit down and hold her. There are times when little ones just need some love from Mommy and to hear that everything is okay.

When all else fails and your child is making a terrible scene at the park, kicking and screaming, just know that we’ve all been there! The only good thing about tantrums is that they don’t last forever!


1. Which of the following is a common cause for a tantrum?

A.    Exhaustion
B.    Hunger
C.    Lack of control
D.    All of the above 

2. If a child is stomping his feet and demanding candy, what should you do?

A.    Say no and do not give in.
B.    Wait 5 minutes before giving him candy.
C.    Allow him the candy because he’s so upset.
D.    Ignore him.

3. If you sense your child is having a meltdown for attention, what should you do?

A.    Ignore her.
B.    Stop whatever you are doing and give her your undivided attention.
C.    Allow her to participate in whatever you are doing.
D.    Put her in time-out.

4. Why is the 5-minute warning so important?

A.    It gives the child time to prepare for a change.
B.    It gives the child a bit of control, by providing her with information.
C.    It increases the likelihood of a peaceful exit.
D.    All of the above. 

5. Which of the following is an ineffective method of dealing with a tantrum?

A.    Holding and hugging the child.
B.    Yelling.
C.    Calmly but sternly responding with short answers.
D.    Ensuring child is rested and fed.

Answers: 1) D. 2) A. 3) C. 4) B. 5) D

Olathe mom Karen Johnson has three children, ages 6, 4 and 2. She writes at The21stCenturySAHM.com

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