If you’ve somehow escaped the wrath of the toddler tantrum so far, brace yourself because they’re pretty much inevitable. The life of a toddler is tough — they’re big enough to know what they want to do, but not always big enough to do it… or explain why they’re so frustrated… or understand what’s so dangerous about chasing a squirrel into the street in the first place. The result? Tantrums. They aren’t easy to deal with, but they are survivable. Just barely.
• Learn to anticipate tantrums and avoid them as much as possible. Toddlers can be pretty irrational creatures, so you can’t always know what’s going to set them off — but you will learn that certain things are triggers for your tot. Take a special toy to appointments where there’s going to be a long, boring wait. Skip dragging your toddler to the grocery when they’ve skipped a nap. Keep areas you don’t want them to explore blocked off or gated so you don’t have to drag them out of a sibling’s forbidden bedroom and wrestle Big Sister’s favorite teddy bear out of their curious (and very possessive) hands.
• Remember (almost) every tantrum has a reason behind it, and it isn’t always that they’re hungry, bored or over-tired. As difficult as it might be sometimes (and it’ll feel next to impossible some days), try to put yourself in your toddler’s place when they have a meltdown; when you look at tantrums from a toddler’s perspective, you might realize that you’d be freaking out if you were them, too. A little bit of empathy goes a long way when you’re trying to restore the peace.
• Give yourself a break. It’s easy to become overwhelmed, especially if your toddler is high-strung or going through a particularly tantrum-prone phase. Even for the most patient moms, it’s only human for all the yelling and crying to drive you a bit crazy — but don’t respond with anger if you can help it (it only escalates the situation) and never ever resort to emotionally or physically harming your toddler. If you feel like there’s even a small chance you might lose control of your own temper, do whatever you need to do — get a sitter, call in a favor from a friend, bang on a neighbor’s door if you have to — and put yourself in a well-deserved time out until you cool off. If you don’t have a support system nearby, it’s okay to put your tantruming toddler in a spot where she can’t hurt herself (a playpen, for example) and step a safe distance away while you count to three and collect your cool.
• End the day on a quiet note. Everything is new and exciting to a toddler, so by the time evening rolls around they have a lot to process. Quiet time is a great way to wind down for bedtime, create a calm and soothing environment and reconnect at the end of a long day. Toddlers thrive with routines, so develop one you both enjoy. Reading to your child is one of the best things you can do for them, and allows lots of cuddles and conversation. A warm bath, changing into pajamas, a quiet game or puzzle, being tucked in with a special lovie or security blanket and singing a special song together are other popular rituals parents use to transition their toddlers to sleep.
Scary Mommy tip: Speaking of bath time, while most toddlers love splashing and playing in the water, it’s common for them to dislike having their hair washed. Avoid a scene while getting clean by using a shampoo/conditioner combo that only requires a single rinse, skip conditioner in the tub and (if needed) opt for a post-bath spray conditioner, and use goggles or a visor to keep suds out of sensitive eyes. Some toddlers respond well to tipping back after a bath and having a quick wash and rinse in the sink, hair salon style!