Toddler Temper Tantrums
The Attachment Parenting way

Toddler Temper Tantrums can be very intimidating to many parents. Good news is that they don't last forever. Usually toddlers and preschoolers will throw tantrums between 18 and 36 months and after they turn 4, you get a break from tantrums.

Toddler Temper Tantrums

Temper Tantrums (sometimes called as Terrible 2's or terrible 3's) are famous for whining, crying, screaming, kicking, falling, throwing things, holding breath, some cases even throwing up ….

If you have a toddler I am sure you have been there and done that with your child. Toddler temper tantrums are common and if properly addressed they can be not that bad at all.

 Toddler temper tantrums.
What are they? Why do they happen?

It is a good question and it should be asked every time child is throwing a tantrum.

Knowing the reasons of child's behavior will help parent to address the problem much better and maybe avoid the tantrum all together.

First, lets look at it from the scientific side. One of the human brain parts is called prefrontal cortex (PFC) which regulates emotion and controls social behavior. It develops at age 4. So here is an explanation to tantrums.

Kids at that age are physically programmed to throw tantrums. You cannot stop them, but you can help to deal with them and maybe prevent some of them.

prefrontal cortex

According to scientists the PFC (the part of the brain that is not fully developed by age 4) is helping children to learn a new language much faster than adults. So kids are trading new language skills to good behavior.

So I think I would rather take few tantrums but have my child learn a new language. 

Also, the stress that toddlers and preschoolers have increases their cortisol level, which is the KING of the Tantrums. 

  • Wondering what kind of stress toddler can have? Believe me, their world is very imaginary and full of magic (like old scary witch or a dragon who spits fire), which can be frightful to the little ones.
  • Notice how the face of your child changes when other kids take his toy or you hug the other sibling. The jealousy and not knowing how to share can raise their stress and accordingly increase the tantrums.

There are 4 kinds of tantrums. It is important to understand which tantrum is your child having to be able to respond properly.

1. Power tantrums happens when child hears "no" and he doesn't know how to respond to that. Simply give him a choice. If he wants to eat ice-cream before dinner, tell him that he can eat ice cream after dinner. Instead, give him a choice of 2 different vegetables to choose from.

2. Attention tantrums should be ignored. However, you still have to respond by explaining that you will talk when he is ready to speak nicely. The child will find out that throwing a tantrum will only make parent ignore him, the positive attitude will have parent more involved.

3. Frustration tantrums usually happen when a child cannot do things he wants. For example, my little one used to get frustrated when he couldn't fit a car under the couch. Simply, assure them that you understand why is he upset and try to show him how to do the task. Don't do it for them.

4. Over-stimulation tantrums occur when young children don't know how to deal with the feeling of hunger, fatigue or being overwhelmed. Feed him, put him to sleep and keep him in a calm place to avoid the tantrums.

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Handling temper tantrums

toddler temper tantrums

Stay calm. I am sure most of parents could relate to the situation at the supermarket, where your child insists for unhealthiest candy on the whole isle.

When little ones want something and they get a "no", they just simply don't know how to stop wanting and how to deal with the negative answer and the disappointment in an acceptable way.

They want it so strong, that the only way for them to show it, is through the tantrum. 

What should you do? Take a deep breath, remain the control of the situation, stay as calm as you can and leave the store. At the car or in the parking lot explain to your child that as soon as he calms down, you can talk to him. It might take few minutes, so keep your cool, stay patient and calm.

As soon as your child is ready to talk, stay away from strong desire to lecture or punish him. Instead, help him to understand and explain what has happened and why such a thing is not appropriate. You could tell him:

"I understand that you really want that candy. But these candies are not healthy for you, mommy and daddy doesn't want you to get sick. How about we go back there and find something that is very healthy and very yummy. What do you say?".

Plan your errands and shopping trips according to your child's moods. Make sure he is not hungry or tired when going out. The same applies to the parent. When you are grumpy, even the small things can irritate you.

Enjoy your activities when both of you are at your best. Then it is so much fun.

Distract you toddler. It worked 8 times out of 10 for me.

Let's say your toddler is having a tantrum because he wants chocolate chip pancakes and you spend last 30 minutes cooking delicious blueberry pancakes. Simply, redirect his attention to something that you know will make him happy: "what would you like to do after breakfast? Ride your bike or go the park?". He will forget about wanting chocolate chip pancakes and will focus his energy on the activity after the breakfast.

Keep it funny and be creative. Before the tantrum gets too bad, try to use some humor. Be careful not to make fun of your child. For example, eat that blueberry pancake and show him your magic blue tongue. Tell him, you only get that kind of tongue when you eat these special pancakes. You could both look at the mirror and have a great morning laugh.

Reward good behavior. When your child is behaving well, ALWAYS praise him and tell him that you like how he asked for things, or how he shared things.

Don't give in. Stay consistent and teach your child how to control his frustrations and that there is a better way to show his feelings.

Your child will not get it right away. He might not even get it in few months. But believe me, one day your patience will definitely pay off.

Secure attachment between you and your child will help you read his cues better, which may prevent some tantrums.

Wearing your toddler can eliminate some tantrums, especially in public places. There will be less throwing himself on the floor.

Additionally, a breastfed toddler will learn to comfort himself at the breast, increasing his healthy attachment with his mother while also decreasing his tendencies toward fits and tantrums.

Breastfeeding will sooth and calm any meltdowns much easier.

Positive discipline plays important role in tantrums. It is essential to respond and teach kids the right way of communication by showing a good example. They learn from you. They will handle stressful situations they way you do. So punishments, yelling, threatening, hitting will only increase the tantrums in the future.

Watch diet. Make sure your child is eating balanced, healthy, nutritious meals. No junk food, no soda (water is the best), not much sugar (or not at all). If in doubt, check for food allergies.

Start tantrum dairy. Start a simple dairy to follow your child's behavior. Record time, duration, situation before and after. After 7 days examine the results, look for patterns and  make decisions accordingly. Find a sample of tantrum dairy here.

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Avoid Parent Tantrums

temper tantrums

Your child has already had 6 tantrums this week. You are about to have a meltdown yourself. Instead, read these tips to keep your cool.

  • understand that toddler temper tantrums are your child's normal development. Every child has it and it will pass. 

  • have a plan on what to do when tantrum approaches. 
  • don't expect tantrums to go away soon. Your child has to learn how do deal with his frustrations first, before he gets older.
  • avoid thinking that your child is manipulating you. They simply don't know how to deal with this bad feeling that they have. 
  • humor helps in every situation. It doesn't mean that you should laugh your head off when your child is having a tantrum (in fact, if he sees you are laughing at him, it will only make him more mad). I usually text my husband a funny update on our child's behavior.
  • ignore other people. You will get looks when your toddler is screaming in the middle of a busy street. Sometimes good ones and supportive ones, but unfortunately most of the time it will be judgmental looks. You should not care of what a stranger (or even your noisy neighbor) thinks about your child and your parenting. You know more then them anyway. They either don't have kids or had them long time ago and forgot all about it.
  • be easy on yourself. Don't think you are a bad parent because you could not handle the child's meltdown the way you wanted.
  • take a break, if you feel like you want to spank or scream at your toddler. No need to pull your hair and feel sorry for yourself. Leave your child with your spouse and take some time off outside the house. The best way to be an effective parent is to take care of yourself first.

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How long does the toddler temper tantrum last?

This research shows how long do tantrums usually last and how often do they occur.

How long

How many

1 year old

2-3 years old

4 years old

2 min

4 min

5 min

8 times/week

6-9 times/week

5 times/week

If toddler temper tantrums become more severe, more frequent, they still occur after a child turns 4, you are worried your child might hurt himself or others, you should consult a professional.

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Attachment Parenting melts the meltdowns

Practicing Attachment Parenting from scratch and following its 8 principles will help you to deal with child's tantrums.

Remember, toddler temper tantrums are a part of normal child's development. Do not feel bad, stress out or most importantly do not treat it as child's spoiled-ness. Be kind, supportive, show love and sympathy.

I will tell you the truth. There are times when it is really challenging to keep up my model of attachment parenting with my 2 year old, who just bit me, but then I always ask myself why he did it, instead of reacting with a scream.

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