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Are you at a loss every time your toddler acts out? Do you find yourself overreacting to each tantrum? You’re not alone! It’s human nature to react, however, there are strategies to help you help your toddler learn how to positively respond to his at that moment demands.


Why it works for your child:

Place your child in a brief time out (rule of thumb is 1 minute/year of age) in a separate room. This way, you will eliminate the major reason for why he’s acting out, which is to get a reaction from you. Experts agree that the main reason children have temper tantrums is to get attention and gain control over their situation. By removing him from the scene, he will start to regroup more quickly, and his emotions will start to regulate.

Why it works for you:

Leaving the scene gives you space to collect yourself, especially if you find yourself yelling at your child. Give yourself permission to go to another room, while explaining to your child that you are taking a time-out until you feel calm again. Children will find it funny that mommy and daddy need to take time-outs, too. You will find that a few minutes alone will be all that you need to regain control and perspective on the situation.


Why it works for your child:

“Laughter is the best medicine” really works in this case. Giggling lightens the mood and provides a physical release for all the tension your child is feeling at that moment. Who doesn’t love a good tickle fest?

Why it works for you:

Laughter does reduce stress. Studies have shown that even thinking about laughing releases beta-endorphins (natural analgesic) into your bloodstream. So, next time everyone’s tension is on the rise, break out the tickle monster and see how everyone’s mood shifts.


Why it works for your child:

Help your child learn to identify how his body feels at different moments, and then teach them how to take some calming breaths. That way, when he starts to feel out of control, he will have the skills to begin to calm himself. When he is calm and ready to listen, show him how to pretend to blow out a birthday candle. Then, when he is upset, remind him to “blow out the candle” and take a deep breath.

Why it works for you:

Seeing a temper tantrum causes your nervous system to go into crisis mode, so it’s important to stop those emergency signals by taking slow, deep breaths. Your body will begin to calm down and then you will be able to respond to the tantrum by helping your child calm down too. Be mindful that just because your child is angry or upset doesn’t mean you have to be angry or upset, too.


Why it works for your child:

Babies and toddlers are just learning how to communicate, so it’s very frustrating for them to not be able to tell you what they want or how they feel. That is the most common reason for a tantrum or acting out. If you can give them the words that describe how they’re feeling at that moment, they should start to feel better and stop acting out.

For example, when your child grabs a toy from a friend or sibling, try saying to them, “I know you want that toy, it’s so hard to share.” Watch their expression and you will see that they are so relieved you were able to put into words exactly what they were feeling.

Why it works for you:

If you say out loud, “I’m really angry right now,” you are telling your child that you, too, sometimes have strong emotions. It helps normalize their out of control feelings, by seeing that you feel out of control at times. It also shows your child that their behavior is affecting us, too.

*Remember, all feelings are OK. It’s important to allow a healthy release of emotions, and this will help your child move through their feelings faster. They look to you as their safe person because you will take care of them even when they express their every emotion and feeling.


Why it works for your child:

Children respond to counting as a way to understand time. It gives your child a chance to transition from 1 activity to another, especially if he is having a hard time stopping the activity or sharing his toys. The counting might also signify that you are not happy with his behavior, so he now has a chance to change how he is acting or what he is doing.

Why it works for you:

By slowly counting to 10, you have time to de-escalate your anger. By pausing before you respond to your child’s behavior, you give yourself a chance to decide how you want to react and respond to your child.


Why it works for your child:

Making light of the situation will help your child refocus. This will help him become calmer, and stop the tantrum. Besides, don’t we all need an excuse to dance and sing to a silly song?

Why it works for you:

The same way getting silly helps your child refocus, will also help you become less angry. You can ask Siri or Alexa to play some toddler songs, like Raffi’s “Shake Your Sillies Out” or other fun tunes that your child likes. Dancing and singing along will make both of you feel better and everyone will probably forget why they were so upset in the first place.


Why it works for your child:

Helping your child focus on something happy will help them forget why they were upset in the first place. You can ask them to tell you something that makes them happy or offer suggestions of things that make them happy, until they start to smile. You will see that pretty quickly they will start to talk about that and will forget about what was making them so upset earlier.

*Once they’ve settled down, you can then talk to them about what the original situation and find solutions together about how to handle something like that in the future.

Why it works for you:

This is like meditation so you can quickly feel calmer and more grounded. Then you will have the strength to handle whatever comes your way. If you can’t go to another room, you can close your eyes and take a few deep breaths until you feel calmer. You will find that you aren’t as stressed and upset as you were a few minutes ago.


We all need boundaries and routines to make our lives run more smoothly. Everyone knows that having a toddler means that our routines are going AWOL. However, you can and should create loving boundaries for your child, because that will make them feel safer especially when they are fighting you. All children feel safest when they are with calm, confident adults (mommy or daddy) who create boundaries and stick to them. When we say, 5 more minutes until clean up time, and we follow through, they are actually feeling safe and secure, even if they’re fighting you. By following through with your message, you are telling them that you are in charge; when you don’t follow through, all they see is confusion and chaos because they don’t know who is really in charge.

So next time your child throws a tantrum or tests your boundaries, imagine them saying, “This is a test. Are you keeping me safe? Are you in charge or am I in charge?”

If you are having challenges with your toddler, reach out at any time. I am always happy to chat about toddler behaviors and help families create schedules and routines in a gentle and loving way.

Sweet Dreams! 😴👶


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