How to deal with temper tantrums

My toddler had another tantrum this afternoon. He started complaining once we get out of the car from picking him up from my aunt’s. It was so similar to another tantrum he had that I’m guessing he doesn’t like having to transition from her place to home so often, especially if the transition is based on an actual time rather than his mood and when he’s ready to go home. He complains in the mornings too when we have to take him at a certain time in order to make it to work.

Anyway, back to the tantrum. Of all the tantrums he’s had, this was by far the shortest one.

We walk out of the car and he wants to do everything that’s opposite. When we went outside, he wanted to go inside. When we were inside, he wanted to go outside. I picked up on the pattern early on so the first thing I did was keep my mouth shut and get him inside the house as soon as possible. He complained and didn’t want to walk, so I had to carry him (so heavy!) plus my daily load of his lunch, my lunch, his library books and my purse.

Once we got inside, I did what needed to be done, including taking off his jacket and shoes and putting any food back in the fridge. After that, he stood by the door, crying, “Want to open the door!” I didn’t try to embrace him or talk to him because I didn’t want to encourage negative behavior, but I did want to be in his presence so that he knows that I’m supporting him and listening to him. So I just sat down on the floor a few feet away while he was crying. He would look at me periodically and I would give him a look that said, “I’m sorry you’re feeling upset.”

After a few minutes, he started to yell less and less. He was getting distracted and looking at the door stoppers on the wall. When he had a reasonable pause in between cries, I said, “Circle,” since he was looking at the circle door stopper. He went back to the door and said, “Want to open the door,” but not yelling, more like a statement. So I said, “Maybe we can open the closet door.” His face lit up and he ran to our closet door and closed and opened that door.

That whole scene lasted probably ten minutes, from the time we got out of the car to the time he closed the closet door. I think withholding attention (questions, comforting, admonitions, etc.) while he was crying helped. It also helped that we were at home so there weren’t too many stimulants overwhelming him. In hindsight, I could have even stepped it up a notch and given him his Lovey because giving them comfort items helps them learn how to soothe themselves.

We’re still constantly learning how to deal with tantrums, and I’ve learned so much with each one, and all the mistakes we’ve made in the past. There’s no guarantee that future tantrums will be as quickly fizzled out as this one, but I’m glad with the way he was able to soothe himself. I’ll try this same method again and see.

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