5 Tips For Surviving The Toddler Tantrum

I admit, it has been a few years since I’ve had toddlers or *really* young children in my care. My kids are in grade school now, and we’re in a sweet spot of parenting. But I remember all too well the meltdowns and insanity of the toddler phase. (I try to keep that in mind as I enter the meltdowns and insanity of the tween phase.) I have some impressive battle scars to show for my years in the toddler trenches.

Throughout those years, I had a couple of tricks in my bag (along with soiled clothes, cracker crumbs, and mini-bottles of booze). And I thought I would offer you a few tips from this experience in the hopes that they will serve you as well as they did me.

1. Have crayons in your bag at all times. One of the freebie sets from your local restaurant will do. Pull the crayons out at the doctor’s office. Tell the kid he can draw all over the protective paper on the exam table; there is an endless supply. This tip seriously saved my sanity over the years of waiting and waiting at the doctor’s office. If the little pip-squeak happens to get some crayon on the wall, well, so be it. It’s the doctor’s fault FOR FUCKING MAKING YOU WAIT SO DAMN LONG. If you’re earth conscious and worried about wasting the paper, fret not. The crayons also work for physical comedy. Teach your clowns to stick crayons in their noses and ears for hours of fun. If a crayon gets stuck—don’t worry—you are already at the doctor’s office.

2. Use bribes liberally. We’re talking about small monster children here—laws don’t apply, so don’t be afraid of bribery. I kept snack-sized M&Ms in the car at all times when my daughter was in the horribly-mislabeled “Terrific 3s.” Before leaving a playdate or other fun place, I’d whisper to her, “Leave this place without crying, and you can have M&Ms in the car.” It worked every time. (Well, except the time I carried her over my shoulder out of the mall screaming. And a few other times.) Let’s just say it worked more times than not. My friends never knew the secret of my perfectly-behaved child. If you’re still having trouble rationalizing the bribe, just remember that M&Ms can also be used as sorting and counting tools. And chocolate always makes you feel better.

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3. The illusion of choice. Picky Pants doesn’t want the pasta for dinner? Fine. Tell her, “You can have that or rutabagas. You pick.” She will never pick the rutabagas. She will usually eat the other food (or go to bed hungry). And damn it’s fun to hear her try to pronounce the word in case it backfires. (It never back-fired on me.) Even if it does, no one actually knows what a rutabaga looks or tastes like so just find the most vile thing in your fridge and serve it to the traitor.

4. Put it on your “wish list.” This got me out of so many stores (okay, mostly Target). “Moooooooom! I want that!” “MOM! I must have that.” “Mommy, I WAAAAANT!” I’d simply reply, “Okay, obnoxious one dear. Let’s put it on your wish list.” And I’d take a picture of the item. That seemed to satisfy my son, and we could complete our shopping trip. This tip also helps when you’re drunk and ordering last-minute birthday gifts on-line because you took a nap instead of shopped during the one free hour you had all week. “What the fuck did he say he wanted?” Just check your phone.

5. Stash a sucker in the first aid kit. Make it sugar-free if you must. But, seriously, there is no first aid item more important. “Awwww, that’s so sweet!” you say. Yes, yes, it will make the kid feel better and smile a little. But mostly the sucker is so YOU DON’T HAVE TO LISTEN TO THE DRAMA QUEEN SCREAMING INCOHERENTLY OVER A TINY LITTLE SCRATCH. That sucker shuts her right up. Maybe stash two suckers. And a little bottle of whiskey for yourself.

And there you have it. Your mileage may vary, but I urge you to give these tips a try. My kids seem fine. Really. (I’m still stashing some cash away in the therapy jar.)

Related post: 25 Ways To Annoy A Toddler

About the writer


Kathryn Leehane loves to laugh and tell stories that make you spit out your drink. She pens the humor blog, Foxy Wine Pocket, and has contributed to several anthologies and over a dozen popular collaborative web sites, including Redbook Magazine, In the Powder Room, The Huffington Post, and Scary Mommy. In her down time, she inhales books, bacon, and Pinot Noir, and her interests include over-sharing, Jason Bateman, and crashing high school reunions. Follow the shenanigans on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


Alex 2 months ago

Dumb parents…think they can raise their children through bribing them. The downfall of our future. Idiots.

Stéphanie Dauphin 2 months ago

Great tips! I would only add: do not care about what the people around you do (like staring hard) or say.

It really add stress for no good reason.

kattie 11 months ago

My 4 (nearly 5) year old is terrified of being embarrassed by ME at the store. She was really bad about screaming/tantrums over a toy or whatever it was she so desperately needed (especially when she was 3) . So I would tell her screaming doesn’t get what you want. Well that never worked until one day I right in the middle of Target I had a tantrum right back at her. I fell out on the floor the WORKS. ” I want you to stop having a tantrum. I don’t have money for that. WAAAAA. ” etc. Then after we had a small audience ( after all those tantrums were about attention right ?) I stood up and told her all tantrums get you is everyone in the store watching you be ugly. I got an applause and some laughs. She was so embarrassed and dumbfounded . To this day she will not throw down a fit with me where anyone could even remotely see. She will talk about “when I was little child” ( always cracks me up ) you acted so bad in that store.

Ashlee 1 year ago

Why do I have to SURVIVE my child acting out? I dare my daughter to act out over something like wanting a toy — she’ll be the survivor, not me.

John 1 year ago

As a 54 Year old Papa raising my 2 and 5 year old Grandsons and trying like heck to take care of my Ranch and Quarter Horses, Cow and 6 dogs I’ll try to remember your tricks. I’ve probably used some of them raising my 3 kids and now raising my grandsons. We did recently use the crayon one at the doctors office. It kept them busy for the most part. I found that even putting a carton bandage on thier little scratch stopped the whinning.

Workin Mama 1 year ago

I tried the rutabaga thing when my daughter was about 2. She chose rutabaga! I couldn’t believe it. She also didn’t let it go – every day she asked for rutabaga. After a week I finally bought and cooked one. Then little stinker didn’t even eat it – not even one bite! HAHA!!

Kristina Walters @ Kris On Fitness 1 year ago

I wish you were around when my boys were small! Great tips!

Judy Holmes 1 year ago

Excellent advice.

Natalie Wu 1 year ago

Such an awesome read!

One Funny Motha 1 year ago

Definitely #2!

Foxy Wine Pocket 1 year ago

It’s never too early to start stockpiling supplies.

Stickymom 1 year ago

I had THREE kids under the age of 5 at one stage. I tried so many things and some of them worked, others didn’t. One of the less efficient methods were stickers. I kept stickers in my purse and every time they deserved a reward, I gave them a sticker (on the forehead). This only caused more drama if a sticker happened to fall off. Come to think of it, I can easily write a list of things that DON’T work. I wish I had your list though.

Crystal 1 year ago

It’s like your heart races and your head pops off with every tantrum! Love this list!

MrsMac 1 year ago

I’m going to try the M&Ms trick! We’re the parents who carry their 2 year old to the car, kicking and screaming, every week after church. I’d stop going if I wasn’t so desperate for adult conversation!

Sara Deegan 1 year ago

I was trying to read this article and was interrupted literally about ten times with pop up windows for games and other poo. Is this a new fb trend to make more money or is my phone bonkers?

Christina McPartland Carter 1 year ago

I ❤️ you!

Danielle Dunne 1 year ago

Lmao @ foxy wine pocket.

    Foxy Wine Pocket 1 year ago

    Thank you! I laugh at myself as well. 😉

Foxy Wine Pocket 1 year ago

Psst. I may have eaten just as many M&Ms as my daughter. It’s a win-win!

Foxy Wine Pocket 1 year ago

Thank you! Cheers!

Foxy Wine Pocket 1 year ago

Yes. Yes, it is. Cheers!

Foxy Wine Pocket 1 year ago

I fully support this plan!

Foxy Wine Pocket 1 year ago

Organic means they’re health food. 😉

Foxy Wine Pocket 1 year ago

Thank you! Cheers!

Lea Bifano-Vozzella 1 year ago


Heather Williams 1 year ago

Great ideas!! :-)

Margie Sharp 1 year ago

Lol Tammi !! I’m taking notes too but I think I’m with you. Josie is a little beasty also. 😉

Kirstie Jezequel-Goodwin 1 year ago

Ignore and never give in. They find more social ways of getting what they want. I have four who are fantastic social and mature kids.

rudy ram 1 year ago

How about just beating that ass. Always worked for me. And my kids are as happy as can be. Its because they know Im in charge and not them. They also know what the word NO means. Pretty simple if you think about it.


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