5 Tips For Surviving The Toddler Tantrum

tantrumTantrum via Shutterstock

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


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    • 2

      Mary says


      Riiiiight. Like you could ignore a freight train speeding thru your living room? Good luck with that. It might work sometimes, and absolutely we don’t need to be all “omg s/he’s crying I must FIX IT NOW”, but advising parents to ignore their child’s emotions is setting them up for years of needing REAL therapy down the road. You can’t always fix what they’re feeling, but the healthy response is to say “Yes, I understand you’re upset, but this is what we’re doing now” and carry on. Ignoring is not kind or productive.

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    • 3

      Rachel says

      Oh man. I was subjected to a shopping trip from hell as the result of a mother ignoring her child’s tantrum. Well, snookums was pretty much rabid. He had his paws clasped firmly on the bar above the wheel closest to his mothers foot . She drug him through the store looking hella awkward as she failed at pretending to thoughtfully select her items at a leisurely pace making zero eye contact with passers by whose ears were bleeding. Maybe she truly was a member of the deaf community or perhaps really really high? Either case I am sure junior could have instantly been granted an exorcism by the Pope right there on the spot. When it comes to a situation like that, Sister, you gotta raise the white flag, leave the store ( and your cart, I’m sorry Mmkay?) and go deal with your bundle of joy. The only good that will come from ignoring your child’s tantrums is helping me show my kids how not to act. And bybthe way I am sorry that one of them exclaimed loudly with covered ears,” mommy he needs a spanking!”

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  1. 15


    Um- don’t ignore your child. Unless you want to show them you don’t care about them and want them to do even more to attempt to get your attention and affection. Part of a parents job- as tedious as it is- is to let them know they are important, but not the center of the universe. If you ignore the tantrums, they will get worse.

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    • 16

      MrsE says

      I agree that you shouldn’t ignore your child when they are in need of attention. However, when you are using that strategy during a tantrum, you are ignoring an unwanted behavior, not the child’s needs. The point is that the child needs to know there is a right way and a wrong way to get your attention when needed. Ignoring the unwanted behavior and replacing it with a preferred behavior is the point here. I wouldn’t want my child to learn that her needs/wants are met when she screams. Obviously, there are circumstances where crying would be warranted, but when it’s not, it’s ignored.

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