The art of handling the toddler tantrum

March 19, 2012

Dear Max

The other night while you had a tantrum that felt like an entire series of Shaun the Sheep but which *only* lasted about half an hour, I was thinking that human relations are very different to toddler relations, and that peeps your age come with a whole set of rules that don’t apply to big people.

For example, if someone cries or is upset, the best thing to do is to engage, comfort and maybe hug. With toddlers, this doesn’t work. Engage and you might get screamed at, comfort and you might get smacked, and hug and you’ll hear louder cries.

If someone has a meltdown, often the best approach is to confront them rationally, or return the shouting or crying. With a toddler, being rational has no place during a tantrum because said toddler cannot hear over his screams, nor is prepared to listen in the first place. Shouting at toddlers to get a grip or to stop crying because Cbeebies has been turned off only adds fuel to an already heated moment – toddlers get even more upset and cry harder.

So I do what I’m not used to doing with people (aside from people who have hurt me or silly people) – I ignore and I don’t confront. And it feels weird to me – like I *should* be doing something else, but I honestly don’t know what. Handling toddler tantrums goes against the grain of “normal” human crisis management, but will probably go a long way in future handling/relationships/management. At least that’s what I tell myself. Let’s hope the neighbours agree…


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  • Lea-Anne

    Yip I can only agree with you… I, too learnt the hard way through getting shouted at & smacks! It was a little over whelming to dealt with esp with tantrums that would go like crying-screaming-stop-breathing-turning-blue-throwing-up tantrums… those were the worst ever! Iv learnt to ignore that it has actually calmed down, those kind of crying-screaming-stop-breathing-turning-blue-throwing-up tantrums are very rare & if no one pays attention the tantrum lasts a minute the longest…. which honestly still feels like more!

    March 19, 2012 at 9:28 am Reply
    • Tanya Kovarsky

      So true! Thanks for sharing

      March 19, 2012 at 5:29 pm Reply
  • denita

    Um. Yes. Toddlers have their own little set of rules in general. Good luck with the “terrible twos”. I too have become a pro at ignoring. And saying “Mommy can’t hear you when you are crying and whining. Speak in your *normal* voice”. Good luck x

    March 19, 2012 at 9:32 am Reply
    • Tanya Kovarsky

      Yup, good advice!

      March 19, 2012 at 5:28 pm Reply
  • TJ

    Ah, yes! Have to agree! We too have to play the ignore game!

    March 20, 2012 at 10:16 am Reply
  • Cat@jugglingactoflife

    Really the only way to handle it unless you want to try the ” copy the toddler” moove. Worked with our princess

    March 20, 2012 at 1:40 pm Reply
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