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What to do when your toddler has a tantrum

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Behaviour Tantrums and strops

All you want is for your little one to be happy, so it can be hard to see them get upset or cross. Not to mention exhausting for you both! We can’t promise that we have all the answers, but we do have some good ideas for how to manage tantrums.

Stopping a tantrum before it starts

Tips for distracting them

If you see them gearing up for a tantrum that you really don’t have time to deal with, you can always try distracting them. It can be tempting to hand them your phone to do this, but try not to rely on this too much. Instead, try singing a funny song, suggesting they help to look for a toy or taking them to another room – anything that shifts their attention.

Here are some easy ways to distract them that also have benefits for their development. But remember, it’s still a good idea to try and get to the bottom of what was upsetting them.

Stopping a tantrum while it’s happening

No matter how hard you try, your toddler probably will still throw the odd tantrum or refuse point blank to do something – probably at the most inconvenient moment!

Try to rise above it, if you can, and keep calm. Talking to kids and soothing them when they're upset helps them learn how to manage their own emotions. Studies show that shouting doesn't make kids’ behaviour better. In fact it can make them grow up to be more anxious and aggressive. So best to avoid it when you can.

And remember, this phase won’t last forever. Here are some tips to help you keep your cool and feel in control.

Coping with tantrums in public

We’ve all been there – you’re in the supermarket and your child decides they want an expensive sugary treat then chucks a massive strop when you tell them they can’t have it. Or you’re struggling onto the bus and your wee one decides they’re not going to get on. When your toddler has a tantrum in public, it can feel as if everyone is staring and disapproving.

But try not to let it get to you – most of the people around you have probably been in your exact same position at some point and are very sympathetic. Remember, tantrums are a normal part of a child’s development – all kids have them. By keeping calm and soothing them, you’ll help it blow over quickly.

Getting support

The ‘terrible twos’ can be tough. Think about what support might help you at this time. Some parents feel that talking to other parents with children of a similar age can be reassuring. While they might not have any answers, just talking things through can be really helpful. A parent and toddler group can be a great place to meet other parents to chat with.

Remember you can also talk to your health visitor or family nurse about your child’s behaviour and how you can deal with it. You could also phone or chat online to Parentline Scotland for advice and support.

We know you’ve probably got a lot on your plate at the moment, but you might be interested in looking at these free online parenting courses for parents and carers. The Solihull Approach Online courses cover a range of topics and ages from pregnancy to 19+ years. These courses are for everyone, for everyday parenting. They don’t tell you how to parent, that’s up to you. Instead they offer a way to understand what might be going on and space to think about how you want to respond. 

You can find out more on the Solihull website and access the courses for free using the code TARTAN.

Being a parent is the best job in the world, but it can also be one of the most stressful. There will be days when it all feels a little too much. To help you manage the challenges ahead, Parent Club has some tips on coping with being a parent and keeping calm with your wee one so you can build a rewarding relationship together.

Animation of cartoon character frustration meter

Animation of cartoon character frustration meter

Last updated: 8 Jan, 2024