Coping with toddler tantrums

Coping with toddler tantrums

Most parents will experience tantrums from their child at some stage in his/ her childhood.


This is often a very stressful and emotionally draining situation. Here, Ireland’s Baby Show offers some tips on how to prepare, manage and diffuse your toddler’s tantrum.



Some useful tactics in preventing toddler tantrums from the outset:

  • Move dangerous and breakable items in the home out of reach
  • Stay one step ahead – monitor frustration levels and step in before they reach boiling point
  • Be aware of the effects of crowding or incessant loud volume
  • Look out for signs of over-stimulation
  • Use activities such as dancing or running around to release any of your child’s pent-up energy
  • Use diversions such as a new toy or game change for as long as this has effect


Minor tantrums tend to blow over quite easily. They are usually about your child trying to push you into allowing him/ her to have or do something. Minor tantrums can also be a result of something physical such as a lack of sleep or irregular eating. Minor tantrum episodes can be effectively managed with some of the following tactics:

  • Ignore the tantrum
  • Leave the room or immediate area where your child is, provided they are in a safe environment
  • Consider room temperature and clothing layers to compensate for temperature fluctuations
  • Regulate your child’s routine including meal times, nap times, bath times and bedtime
  • Go on as normal and continue with what you were doing
  • Keep calm and try to lower your stress levels by breathing deeply and thinking positively
  • If in a public place, relieve your embarrassment by taking him/ her outside or away from the area
  • If you are finding it difficult to remain calm, take time out and put your child somewhere safe but stimuli-free such as a playpen for several minutes. This is suitable for children of three years and older but should not be carried out in angst.


Major tantrums are rooted in emotional upset and often linked to feelings of frustration, loss, disappointment, misunderstanding and the need to release a significant amount of built-up stress. Sometimes hard to find the source, this could be a reaction to an event earlier that day or week. Perhaps he/ she has felt ignored, broken an object, or got him/ herself lost. Major tantrum episodes can be effectively managed with some of the following steps:

  • Speak calmly and reassure your child that you are there for him/ her
  • Make eye contact whilst firmly holding him/ her
  • Weather the storm and simply wait for your child to calm him/ herself
  • Encourage your child to come out of his/ her episode by counting down from ten to one, offering praise if he succeeds
  • Allow your child some degree of choice over clothes, playing and food
  • Pre-empt routine changes by discussing acceptable behaviour for new and different situations along with some simple rules


Be aware of these following toddler tantrum no-nos. Acting on any of these may increase the frequency of your child’s tantrums as well as prolong them:

  • Don’t be ambiguous by using phrases such as ‘maybe’ or ‘we’ll see’
  • Don’t renege on ‘nos’ – be consistent and follow through
  • Don’t ignore your child when the tantrum has finished
  • Don’t engage or converse during the tantrum
  • Don’t ignore any positive behaviour

The single most important thing when managing toddler tantrums is to have a plan of action and even a plan B and C, if required! Remain calm and collected (no matter how hard) and you will eventually see a return to more rational and normalised behaviour from your child.


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