As common as tantrums are in toddlerhood, they are far from easy to navigate as a parent or caregiver. Once a tantrum starts, it’s tough to stop. And it sometimes seems like an almost impossible task to understand what caused it.
Fortunately, some tantrums are preventable. When your toddler has his basic needs taken care of, clear limits set, and feels at least somewhat in control, the number of tantrums he has can decrease.
Truth: You’re never going to be able to prevent 100% of your toddler’s tantrums. There are going to be days when he wakes up cranky or not feeling well, making it more challenging for you to soothe him and prevent big emotions from taking over.
However, these tips can help you prevent at least some tantrums:
Make sure you have the basics covered.
When your toddler is hungry, tired, sick, or feeling lonely, he’s much likelier to have a tantrum to show you that he needs something, especially if he doesn’t have many language skills yet. Giving snacks, naps, and plenty of cuddle time during the day can help him feel loved and comfortable, resulting in less acting out.
Babyproof off-limits areas and items.
All children need boundaries, but toddlers often need more because they’re still learning what’s safe and what isn’t. Aside from safety, clear limits can also prevent the need for constant redirection and discipline.
Babyproofing your home is an excellent way to ensure that your toddler stays away from dangerous areas (like steps leading to the basement) or items he shouldn’t be playing with (like electrical sockets). Gates, cabinet locks, and outlet covers keep little hands away from hazardous items and prevent the inevitable tantrum that will come from saying “No!” again.
Give him choices.
When it comes to acceptable things for your toddler to do and use, consider giving him a few choices so he has some control. You might let him choose between a sandwich or chicken and rice for lunch or allow him to pick out his clothes for the day. Doing so shows him that his opinions are important, too, and can prevent a tantrum-causing power struggle.
Try to stick to routines.
Babies and toddlers crave consistency in their routines. It helps them anticipate what’s going to happen. When you keep your toddler on a reliable wake-up, eating, naptime, and bedtime routine, you’re offering him comfort and security.
Unexpected things do happen, though. You might have to make an unplanned trip to the store that your little one wasn’t expecting, for example. If something comes up last-minute, do your best to give him time to adjust. Let him know 15 or 30 minutes beforehand what you have to do and where you’re going to help him prepare for what’s happening.
Help him understand emotions.
Emotions are incredibly confusing for toddlers because they feel them, but they don’t necessarily comprehend what’s going on. Understanding emotions is the first step toward being able to handle them better instead of having a tantrum when overwhelmed. Parents and caregivers can play a significant role in how a toddler understands and reacts to emotions.
When your toddler is feeling a certain way, react appropriately, and use words to explain it. For example, your toddler might start crying because you’re washing his favorite blanket and he won’t have it for naptime. You might give him a hug and say, “I can see you’re sad that you don’t have your blanket. I know how much you love to snuggle it. How about you pick out another one to use for now, and I’ll make sure your favorite one is ready when you wake up.”
Showing concern and giving him some words for his feelings can be just what he needs to calm down before his emotions escalate.
There’s no foolproof way to avoid a tantrum, especially when your toddler is sick, tired, or filled with emotions, but meeting his needs for comfort and security can usually help to diffuse what could have been a challenging situation. Next, learn how to stop a tantrum in its tracks.