How to calm a Toddler Tantrum?

So, picture this; you and your little one are happily playing. You have been playing for a good half an hour and there have been conversations, giggles and lots of role playing. Time is getting on and you need to put the tea on. You very calmly and nicely ask your little one to begin to pack up their toys – the room is full of clutter from Peppa Pig models to building blocks. The next minute your little one looks at you like you have just told them off and begins to cry, 30 seconds pass and there is screaming, air punches, feet stamping and you are beginning to get a bit mad yourself. Why, you ask yourself!? What on earth is the matter?

Firstly, rewind to five minutes ago; you were both making models, role playing and everything was just so. Your little one’s mind is not mature enough to move on and switch that quickly from something they were enjoying. In their head you are asking them to put away things they have made with you and to them this is valuable. They don’t want to move their lego model or Peppa Pig. The part of the brain that is in control here is called the limbic brain (the part the controls our emotions.) For a child this is not fully developed and so they have a MUCH harder time accepting changes and dealing with the feelings that they bring and so we have heightened emotions – or tantrums!

Although in the moment this is tough for parents to deal with, no parent likes to see their child upset and distressed but there is added frustration when you can see logic in what you have asked them to do and so feel their response is completely unreasonable. What we are seeing here though is that your little one does not yet have the logic in the moment you asked them to tidy away with reason and so they become caught up in a frenzy of emotions that they find really difficult to control.

How can you deal with this effectively?

It has been proven that when our limbic brain is in overdrive and emotions are running getting the brain to think about something completely different works in calming us down (adults and children.)

First of all, you need to get the attention of your little one. Do something that will completely attract their attention quickly – burst into a song, turn a light on, run on the spot – anything to get their attention. Now, the important part is how to hold their attention and get them thinking to steer them away from their tantrum.

Get down onto their level and look at them in the eyes. Don’t get too close as this may cause another outburst. Talk to them very calmly and sympathetically, almost in a whisper. Next, ask them to collect 5 things in the room that are red, and then ask them to name 3 members of the Peppa Pig family and then go and collect those 3 models. What you are doing is getting your child to think about what they are doing without them directly ‘tidying up.’ If they have made a specific model ask them to think about where they could house it because it is very special and should be on show. Before you know it, you will have tidied the room up and your little one will not even realise and the tantrum will have passed.

When you have reached the level of calm ask your little one why they got so upset. Being able to talk about emotions is a hard thing for children and it builds confidence when they can reflect upon their behaviours and learn from them. Don’t try and ask them why they are upset when they are having a tantrum, the chances are this will only fuse the situation.

Always try to:

  • Reflect upon how they feel in that moment and why
  • Remain calm and never raise your voice
  • Talk to them on their level
  • Use a thinking task to divert their tantrum away from what you have asked of them
  • Reflect upon the situation and offer reassurance when they are calmer

Laura, Babbaboo Sleep.

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