SSBE’s quick guide to handling tantrums (infographic)

Even though my toddler’s tantrums don’t seem to be going anywhere just yet (please tell me there’s no such thing as “The Terrible Three’s”), they have been much quicker and dealt with more effectively than when they first made their grand entrance. I still remember the first few tantrums—some of them lasting over an hour—and feeling completely helpless. Nothing seemed to work. I tried soothing him to no avail. Completely ignoring him didn’t do the trick, either. And we seemed to leave every outing or party carrying a wailing toddler in our arms, trying to strap him in the car seat and make our quick getaway.

Nowadays, while our weeks and months are peppered with tantrums here and there, most end in about five minutes and don’t seem as terrible. One of the reasons is his age: he’s growing up, and with that comes better communication skills, more understanding of his emotions, and a developing brain putting all this together. He’s also learning what tantrums are and knows that even though they’re normal, they also won’t lead to any attention or get him anything he wants.

Another reason his tantrums have lessened in intensity, duration and frequency may be because of us—his parents. Having “done our time” in the trenches of tantrums, we’ve had quite a bit of experience with handling one whenever one should pop up. I started thinking about what exactly we do whenever our toddler throws a tantrum and realized that we’ve been relying on a process or pattern that seems to keep them at a minimum. So I did a bit of scribbling here, some laying out there, and came up with:

Sleeping Should Be Easy’s Quick Guide to Handling Tantrums — ta-da!
Download the FREE guide: JPG | PDF

Every child is of course different so this guide is by no means a comprehensive, one-size-fits-all solution, but the process outlined here has helped our toddler cope with the madness often found during these lovely tantrums. For instance, in the past, we found that removing him from the situation—even simply stepping to another room—was enough to calm him down whereas attempting to temper his frustration right then and there made him angrier.

In reading The Whole Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. (which I reviewed in this post), I also began to empathize first before trying to even reason with him. He seemed more compliant when he knew we were still “on his side.” And more importantly, I learned that often times, not talking or paying attention to him quickened the duration of the tantrums drastically. Disciplining, reasoning, and even consoling him with words seemed to exacerbate the tantrum.

I may just be jinxing myself again here and end up with another uncontrollable tantrum the minute this post is published, but generally I’ve been happy with the way we’ve handled his recent outbursts. Hopefully you’ll find the guide just as useful should you ever find yourself with an inconsolable toddler in the midst of another challenging tantrum.

Do you have a process for dealing with tantrums? Have you tried following the suggestions outlined in this guide and found them useful for your child? How does your child react to soothing, talking and other methods of calming down during a tantrum?

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16 thoughts on “SSBE’s quick guide to handling tantrums (infographic)

  1. I haven’t experienced a “full blown” tantrum yet, but even these little ones are so frustrating. I am hoping the terrible two’s aren’t coming early! Great post…

  2. Baguette had her first tantrum a week ago. Prior to that, I’d been able to interrupt them before they really got going, but this one just blossomed out of nowhere.

    It wasn’t really nowhere, of course–she was tired and frustrated. But so far she does respond well to verbal calming (I always start with the quiet “shh-shh-shh-shh” I used to calm her as a newborn), and that and a snuggle eventually calmed her down.

    At some point, she’ll have a tantrum that can only be resolved by stepping back and letting her melt down. I’m hoping that’s not soon, though.

  3. My eldest is three now and she’s never had a tantrum that has lasted longer than a minute or so, and I’m afraid to say I tend to just ignore her, and when she’s calmed down just give her a cuddle, and quickly move on to something else. But she does grumble or strongly disagree with me sometimes and I’m afraid she still does that a lot at three. So I don’t think you are out of the woods yet! ;o)

  4. Oh, man…I so wish I could tell you differently, but, sadly, the “terrible three’s” are very real and they are much, much worse! Brace yourself! 🙂

  5. People keep telling me that they’re kids had a harder time when they were three than when they were two. 😦 I’m really hoping it’s not true!

  6. It has been a long time since I’ve had little ones who threw those kind of toddler tantrums. Years down the road you will have fun teenage fits to look forward to. However, remember what you just wrote about how you, as parents, now have experience in the trenches. We all learn while being parents, when our kids are young, like yours are or when they have “grown and Flown,” like ours.

  7. How can the 3s be any worse. My girl has a flair for the dramatic and throws herself down on the floor doesn’t matter where. She’s not too shy to throw down a tantrum anywhere. One thing I do is just stay calm. Right now I feel like she is in a constant state of whining. I really don’t know how to get her to stop and I feel like I’ve tried everything!

  8. This is fantastic! What a great tool. I will not only use this when the tantrums become common (they are only in the early stages now), but I will pass this onto our Child Development teacher at the high school. What a great poster to hang in her classroom. Thanks for sharing this with everyone.

  9. When my toddler’s tantrums started, they were horrid too. Absolutely awful. Could go for an hour, screaming and crying. Then I decided to put her to bed, or in her bedroom, the instant she started throwing a tantrum. I’d tell her she could come out when she was ready to smile. Ever since then, tantrums have been less frequent and lasted less than two minutes! 🙂

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