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Coping with toddler tantrums

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Toddler having a tantrum, girl in bed crying
Suddenly finding yourself having to cope with daily toddler tantrums?

Even the most laid back of mums can find those 'terrible twos' testing, but ultimately it's how your child will learn boundaries and what behaviour is acceptable, or not. It's all part of their development - so although when your gorgeous baby turns into an angry toddler overnight it can be overwhelming, it's important to remember that they're meant to misbehave at this age.

And if it helps, you're definitely not alone - your child isn't the only one who's thrown a paddy in the sweet aisle of Tesco, or cleared a busy train carriage with their cries.

How to cope with toddler tantrums

There's lots of advice around on how it's best to get a toddler to behave and it can be hard to know what's right for you and your little one.

Most of us think that discipline means punishment. It doesn't. It's about helping your child to understand the consequences of their behaviour in a loving, caring way.

Here, parenting expert Sally Couthard gives us her top tips:

Early morning tantrums

Get up a little earlier. Mornings are the peak tantrum time and your patience wears thin in the dash to get to work, the nursery and the shops. Give yourself a few extra minutes to save tempers all round.

What triggers the toddler tantrums?

Remember that loud noises, new people, strange places and scary situations can also trigger tantrums in young children. Sometimes, it's not a reaction that they can help.

Avoiding toddler tantrums at home

Make your house safe and accessible in every way possible . If all you ever say is 'Don't touch that', you're inviting your child to get frustrated and lose their temper.

Think about your child

Don't overdo it with your schedule or amount of activities. A tired, hungry child is a tantrum waiting to happen, so stick to regular mealtimes and bedtimes.

Coping in a public place

It's tough, but don't make a scene. If you're in a public place, take your child to another room, or a quiet corner or the car park, for instance, until they have calmed down.



Still not sorted? Here are 15 of our top tips for coping with toddler tantrums and getting your little one to behave:

1. Praise them
So many toddlers throw 'temper tantrums' just to get attention. At this age, your child is just beginning to test the boundaries you're setting and learning 'right' from' wrong'. The key is to give them lots of your attention with hugs and praise when they're behaving well, but try to ignore them when they're having a hissy fit. They'll soon realise that screaming and shouting will get them nowhere, and it's a much better tactic than bribing them with sweets or treats.

2. Try diversion tactics
Sometimes, the best way to deal with a temper tantrum is to distract your child. They can wind themselves up into such a rage that they don't even remember what they were angry about in the first place! Of course, the worst temper tantrums always seem to happen in public places like the supermarket or when you're eating out. First try to take them away from the situation and 'talk them down' calmly. If that doesn't work try distraction tactics such as ' Oh, look at that aeroplane/ let's go and find the cereals for breakfast tomorrow'.

3. Hold them tight
If your little one has spiralled into a really frenzied temper tantrum, sometimes holding them tightly to you can calm them. Soothe them by talking to them gently.

4. Avoid temper tantrums starting in the first place by avoiding situations that often cause them
For instance, when your child is tired, bored or frustrated. Make up a 'temper tantrum' kit with favourite toys, books, comforters, drinks and snacks and keep it to hand.

5. Listen to your little one
We all have busy lives and it's easy to get distracted at times. But if your child is trying to tell you something or show you something they've done, they'll soon stop bothering if you dismiss them or say 'that's nice' without really looking and will probably start playing up. Make time to interact with them properly. Get down on their level, look them in the eye when you talk to them and make them feel special.

6. Stay positive
Don't keep telling them what you don't want them to do or use negative language such as 'you're naughty'. That can knock their confidence. Instead, be positive and tell them what you do want them to do such as: 'I want you to help me tidy up,' instead of ' I don't want you to make a mess again.'

7. Put yourself in their shoes
Just because they're your child, don't expect them to behave just as you did at their age. Try to understand their personality, their likes and dislikes and tailor your discipline to your child.

8. Be consistent
Yes, sometimes it is really difficult not to give in to a tantrum. Life seems easier all round if you let them have those sweets or that toy. But try to be consistent about your rules and boundaries, so that your toddler knows that you mean what you say.

9. Just say NO
Your child may try to push your limits to test you. They want to know their boundaries to see how secure their world is. So saying no really is often the kindest thing and what they want and need

10. Don't make threats
If you can't carry them out, this will just encourage your child to keep pushing to find the real boundary. Telling them they can't watch TV if they don't stop misbehaving, then allowing them to 10 minutes later just gives your toddler mixed messages and they'll get confused.

11. What about bribery?
Promising them a treat if they behave is fine from time to time, but don't make it your normal response.

12. Let them make choices
Your toddler will be more likely to co-operate with you if they feel trusted. They need to make wrong choices to understand and learn through the consequences. So let them make choices about everyday things. For instance, they can choose what top to wear in the morning.

13. Whisper to them
If they're being really noisy, sometimes talking very quietly yourself can help them as they try to listen to what you're saying.

14. Set a good example
Children learn by copying, so show them that by being caring and polite yourself it not only helps others but gets a positive reaction from people too. It's fine to let your child see you upset, it's part of life and important that they recognise that, but try to avoid them seeing angry outbursts too often.

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15. Give them lots of hugs and love
Nothing beats lots of physical attention to make your child feel secure and loved, and don't forget to regularly tell them how much you love them.

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