How to handle toddler misbehavior using positive and gentle parenting.
Handling severe temper tantrums in 2-year(+) olds in public is not easy, especially when it feels like everyone around you is judging you.
Sometimes a toddler meltdown can happen at the drop of a hat.
No warning, just full-on screaming because you did or said something that was displeasing to the little one.
I want to take you back to a moment I had in a grocery store with my 3-year-old.
My older child was in school, so this was a perfect teaching moment for my preschooler.
I had to grab some groceries and, of course, thought the process would be easier with one child than two and chose to go during the school day.
While calmly shopping for over 30 minutes, suddenly, my 3-year-old refuses to go any further.
He dropped to the ground and laid down on his back in the middle of an aisle.
I calmly explained to him that we need to continue our shopping trip, and I just kept on going down the isles.
Typically, this would prompt him to continue walking with me, and we could all move on with our day.
Not this time.
I went back up to him and explained that if he was going to continue lying on the dirty floor in the middle of the grocery store, we would have to go back to the car and leave all the groceries behind.
All the groceries, even his favourite snacks.
Unfortunately, this prompted a screaming fit.
I calmly picked him up and left the cart (reluctantly) in the grocery store and walked back to the car.
While getting all buckled up as I was ready to go back to the house, he immediately asked me why the groceries were not in the car with us.
After calmly explaining why I had to leave the groceries behind, he said he would like to go back for the groceries.
We were able to complete our grocery shop with no further meltdowns.
My husband and I always use a positive parenting approach to dealing with situations, and I have been approached post-tantrum and complimented on keeping my cool after a complex meltdown. And don’t forget that there are things more important than discipline too.
Why Do Toddlers Scream
Screaming in toddlers and preschoolers is common.
It is difficult for kids of those ages to form words and thoughts that reflect their feelings.
If the child is not speaking in full sentences and has a smaller library of words to pull from, any frustrations they have will likely come out in the form of a scream, or a loud cry.
Language development directly affects social-emotional development. Toddlers and preschoolers are still learning so much information daily.
Trying to put words together, figuring out what their feelings mean all the while learning to use a potty, and trying to follow all the rules that parents set is very overwhelming for little ones.
While it is fantastic to focus on all the things that little ones need to have, I find it beneficial to focus solely on the most important skills first, and that is language development.
Helping your child figure out speech will directly affect how they deal with their emotions, which leads to a more peaceful home with fewer tantrums overall.
Toddlers scream for the sole purpose of grabbing your attention. Even though they may have your full attention already, it may not be the attention they were hoping for.
As a parent, how are you supposed to know what they need if they don’t even know what they need?
It can be very frustrating.
The good news is, there are effective ways to deal with toddler tantrums in a gentle parenting way, even in public.
Preventing The Tantrum
First and foremost, it is always best if you can prevent a toddler tantrum. In fact, the best solution to tantrums is to prevent them in the first place. There may be various reasons for tantrums, but each one can be prevented with a little bit of effort from you and your child. Some of the common reasons for tantrums are being tired, hungry, not having enough sleep, or feeling overstimulated. Keeping a close eye on your little one and his/her needs is paramount.
Settling the Tantrum
When a toddler tantrum occurs, it is best to try and settle it as quickly as possible. This way, you prevent it from escalating and ruining everyone’s day. First, acknowledge your child’s feelings and try to understand what the cause is. You may ask your child what is wrong, but you should not expect a response. You may have to try and read your child’s body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions to try and understand what they are feeling. If your child is hungry, thirsty, tired, or needs to go the bathroom, you can try and solve the problem straight away. If the cause is something that you cannot solve, you may have to distract your child.
Sometimes, you just cannot avoid a tantrum, no matter how much you try. In these situations, you should be prepared to handle the situation calmly and efficiently. F
irst, ensure that you have a safe space for your child to calm down in. This may be a quiet corner, your car, or an empty room. If you are in public, try and get your child out of the public eye as quickly as possible. In the event that your child is unable to calm down, you should try and stay in control. You should not engage in a yelling match with your child, but you should remain calm.
Do not try and reason with your child when they are in this state either. You should try to keep your child calm and distracted until they are able to settle down.
Keep Toddler Busy
If your child is upset, you may be able to settle the tantrum quickly if you can distract them. If you don’t want to engage in an argument with your toddler when they are upset, you can try and keep them busy. Find something that your child can focus their attention on and try to engage them with it.
This may be an activity, toy, or food. If your child is hungry, you can offer them a snack. This will help to keep them from getting too upset. If your child has a favourite toy, you can try and engage them with it.
Again, do not try and reason with your child or try to understand what they are mad about. Simply try and keep them distracted and engaged.
Stay Calm and In Control
When dealing with a toddler tantrum, it is important to stay calm and in control. If you start to lose your cool, you can expect your child to become even more uncontrollable. If you are in a public place, try and keep your voice low and your language polite.
This will help to diffuse the situation and prevent people from judging you. Try and maintain an even tone of voice while talking to your child as they are in the midst of a tantrum.
You may want to try and distract them with a soothing voice. Keep in mind that controlling your emotions does not mean that you do not care about your child. It simply means that you are taking control of the situation.
Change The Scene
If the tantrum is not calming down and your child is becoming more uncontrollable, you may have to change the scene. This means taking your child out of the location where they are having the tantrum. For example, if your child is having a tantrum in a shop, you can try and walk them out of the store. If your child is having a tantrum in a car, you should try and get out of the car park as soon as possible.
This will help to divert your child’s attention and change their state of mind. It will also help to avoid the tantrum from escalating and causing a scene.
If you have followed these tips, you should be able to handle the worst toddler tantrums with ease. It can be a challenge, but it is a challenge that is worth taking on as a parent. Remember, toddlers do not have the skills to calm down as quickly as an adult.
It can take them a little while to be able to calm down and get their emotions under control again. During this time, you may feel as though you are at your wit’s end. However, if you follow these tips, you can handle even the worst tantrums with ease!
Suggested Reading For Parents:
Suggested Reading For Kids
Tools to help your toddler understand how to calm down after a tantrum.
It helps children deal with overwhelming feelings.