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10 tips for reducing toddler and parental tantrums

10 tips for reducing toddler and parental tantrumsWe often think of tantrums as an inevitable consequence of having a toddler, but you can reduce the tears and over-the-top reactions with consistent and creative parenting.

Even with your best parenting, all kids will have the odd tantrum. They are a natural reaction to a world built for big people, with boundaries in place that little people don’t understand, and especially when they don’t have the words and skills to express their desires.

If you can’t say, “but Mum, I want to play a while longer”  the reaction is likely to be, “WAAAAHHHHH!”.

10 tips for reducing toddler and parental tantrums

1. Model the behaviour you want

Mainly, don’t have tantrums yourself in front of the child. If you need to go outside to kick a brick wall or scream, do it. If you lose your cool, your kid will think that’s a great new game – getting Mum/Dad to lose their cool. It also shows the child you think this is acceptable behaviour.

Show your children you are open to new ideas and events, not easily disappointed, and flexible – for the most part, they will follow suit. If you have calm, rational reactions to challenging situations and persevere in the face of difficulty, your child will learn to be calm and persevering, too.

2. Don’t give in once you’ve said “enough” or “don’t touch”

And think very carefully before you say anything, so you NEVER go back on your word. Once you have allowed something, even once, your toddler will think it is now and always an allowable activity. If your child knows you will change your mind easily, they will push for this.

Stick to your own rules without making a big fuss over it.

3. Give incentives

When you have to leave a place or finish an activity, give the incentive of a next thing to look forward to. “We have to leave now” is nowhere near as enticing as “we have to leave now so we can do some finger-painting at home!”.

Keep your eye on the prize – reiterate the incentive often (elaborate if you need to, but don’t change it) until you achieve it.

4. Give them warning

Give a ‘five-minute warning’ before nappy changes, activity changes and leaving a place your child is enjoying. Say WHY these things are necessary (“We need to change your nappy so you don’t have a wet bum, we need to go so we can get to Grandma’s”).

5. Carefully choose your response to tantrums

Save your ‘big reactions’ to good behaviour; kids love to please us, and consistent praise of good deeds, words and actions brings more of them. Some small transgressions are best ignored, others with a gentle reprimand.

Tantrums tend to ensue when toddlers are hungry, tired or over/under-stimulated, and can be avoided by paying close attention to your child’s needs and providing snacks, quiet time or a nap before they realise they even need these things. And don’t overload toddlers with choices and activities at these times.

6. Keep it simple

When giving directions to your toddler, use simple language you know they understand. Repeat your directions a few times or change the words you use if they don’t get it. Touch your child on the shoulder and say their name before you give directions so you know you have their attention.

Rather than expecting them to pick up the blocks on the floor or put away their shoes when they are engrossed in an activity, choose transitional times between activities for these kind of tasks.

7. Set important boundaries

Some things are annoying for toddlers as they are objects their parents often touch, like hot mugs of coffee, but which are totally out-of-bounds to them. Make your life easier by ALWAYS watching where you put your coffee, not ever letting young children play with cups and mugs (it’s much harder to go back if you allow it even once), and teaching WHY it is important not to touch …”the mug is HOT.’

Cultivate in-built instant reactions to “Hot!” and “Stop!”. Hot means keep your hands away. Stop means go no further, or freeze where you are.

8. Use positive directions/redirection

Take the focus AWAY from the object/activity you want to dissuade, and focus on something new that is allowed. Don’t harp on about the disallowed activity (this brings the focus back to it), make the allowed activity/object seem new and exciting.

Get down to their level and look them in the eyes when you speak. If you are showing them something and want their attention, tap, scratch or use noise to show them where you want their attention.

9. Teach them the right words

If your child wants a drink or is hungry and is using crying, whining noises or anything other than words to tell you, explain the way to ask for what you think the child wants–“yes, I want juice” or “no, I don’t want it” etc. My toddler thinks this is a great game, watching Mum talk to herself like this, and he finds it so funny that is defuses most whinge-attacks.

10. Tell the child how to, rather than NOT to, do something

Say “pat the dog gently” or “glass can break–touch it like this”. Toddlers need experience of how to do things and if told constantly NOT to do things, their frustration levels rise and tantrums ensue.  Be patient when instructing your child–then count to five and be patient again!


I hope these tips can go some way towards helping communication between you and your toddler, and keep toddler tantrums to a minimum.

Keep on parenting with love, gentleness, compassion and consistency and you will bring positive change to the life of your family.

About Baroness Mischa

Baroness Mischa is a circus and stage performer, writer, avid gardener and musician.  She lives in Melbourne with a partner, their toddler, extended family, and menagerie.  She has a great interest in how to assist ...

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10 Comments so far -
  • Lana Murpy says:

    Such a savior! Worked well with my kids

  • Rholmes says:

    Never had a tantrum problem with either of my kids (a strong-will and determined girl, and a temper-prone boy). Numbers 1,2,5,7 and 9 are THE most important…and they must be started extremely early, earlier than one might think. My kids never even considered throwing a tantrum because of the consistent training.

    I don’t agree with redirection because it’s very short term and teaches absolutely nothing. When the issue arises again, the child will act/react same way as the first time. This is a time to help the child see that the very behavior is not acceptable…but it has to occur at the time of the behavior because they have short memories. And unless we address the situation at the moment of the situation, the child will not be able to associate what we are addressing to a behavior. Redirecting doesn’t address the problem at hand and, in the not-too-long run, creates more work for the parent and actually does nothing for the situation. Work smarter. Not harder. Worked for us…no tantrums…ever.

  • Robinson says:

    Hi Baroness
    I found the tips for reducing the tantrums for both parents and baby are very effective. I just want to add one thing and it is;
    1. Moderately avoid when the toddler do emotional and non-rational things.

    Thanks for your great post.

  • Catjam says:

    Great suggestions. We have always had our toddlers wave snd say good bye to places that are hard to leave. Any suggestions for getting 2 year old to stop dropping unwanted food/cups/whatever’s onto the floor or other objects into people’s laps? At my wits end!

  • Gayla says:

    Thanks for these tips! I have noticed that giving him something to look forward to (like, we have to leave the park now so we can go home and eat lunch, and then you can have a cookie!) works very well when it’s time to stop doing something and he doesn’t want to.

    I appreciate your advice–I have found many articles about toddler tantrums, but most of them either explain WHY they happen or explain what NOT to do. (Helpful, yes, but I want to know what TO DO, hehe.)


  • Tash says:

    Great and insightful points I would add these rules need to be adapted as they grow. Especially with things like point number 2 which turns into modelling stubborn behaviour rather than developing negotiation skills. Mind you I currently need to negotiate with a teenager which can take hours 😉

    • Baroness Mischa says:

      Hi Tash, you are right about having to revise certain rules as toddlers develop. I have a whole future post mapped out about that one. I tend to be a ‘most things are allowed if done in a safe way’ kind of parent, but things that are out of bounds for safety reasons stay out of bounds in our house until the toddler reaches a new phase of development and can take more direction as to how to do certain things. I have found that if I change my boundaries too often, it becomes confusing and tantrums ensue just to see if I will change the boundary this time. If the child has displayed the ability to work within the boundary and gained the skills and patience to do something new, yes, rules need to change. Unfortunately, I can’t write about every eventuality – I need to keep my posts short as I have too many ideas! I hope people can pick and choose the things they find relevant and realise that these are just the basics of ideas what have worked for me. Thank you for your comments.

  • Baroness Mischa says:

    I did actually have the ‘saying goodbye’ tactic saved for a future post – it’s a great one. Kids feel happier if they have an official ‘goodbye routine’ – a simple wave and off you go. If you stick to the going part straight afterwards, they fo learn to leave an object or place fairly easily in my experience. I love the song/hand movement nappy-change idea. Singing is a fab way to bring joy to lots of parenting duties, and kids are often entranced by their parents’ voices.
    Thanks for your commentd and support – I hope others find these ideas useful. I have s bucket-load of tips I will greatly enjoy sharing.

  • Love this! Is amazing how simple these things seem when you read them! I’ve got a few tips I’ve used. We used to always get our son to wave goodbye to thing when we were leaving – I don’t mean people, I mean parks and rides at shopping centres. He liked waving goodbye and it distracted him from the act of leaving. We’d get some weird looks as we walked away from playgrounds with my toddler son calling out “bye park!” at the top of his voice. Another thing – not quite tantrums, but nappy changing difficulties… my little girl has no control over the urge to clap when you sing “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands”. She is absolutely compelled to clap, no matter what she’s doing. It is an awesome song to sing at nappy change time as she’ll lie still and clap (meaning her hands are too busy to pull at the dirty nappy or touch anything gross!). Twinkle Twinkle works as well as long as the baby knows the hand movements!

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