How to Deal With Toddler Tantrums Like a Boss

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Are your 2-year old’s tantrums out of control?

Or, is it just mine? 

It seems like every other day I’m googling: How to deal with a two-year-old

My little one sure loves to test my patience and ability to overcome difficult matters. Yes, I’ve endured worse in my life, but sister, I tell you some days it’s so hard to keep my cool when every other thing out of my child’s mouth is “no,” “mine,” or a blood-curdling scream. No toddler meltdown is funny, yet some days the only thing I can do to maintain my sanity is to laugh it off

A toddler’s tantrum is like a hurricane of emotions, usually composed of anger, disappointment, loss (where’s my cookie?!) and frustration.

This emotional explosion can lead to crying, screaming, stomping, falling down, kicking, hitting, biting, throwing stuff, and banging her head.

And, my toddler loves to do them all!

She is growing up, developing fast, and has a mind of her own. If your toddler hasn’t started the nerve-fraying meltdowns, you’re one lucky son of a biscuit.

how to handle toddler tantrums like a pro | mom ins a super hero costume

But, it will be here before you know it and you’re going to wish someone had prepared you for that frightful day when your toddler tries to call the shots telling you how, when, and where things should be done.

A 3 ft tall pot of attitude is brewing so you better be ready, mama!

Here are ways to help prevent toddler meltdowns during those everyday mundane tasks.

Getting in the car seat

getting in the car seat|man arching his back meme

Nobody likes being strapped down. Well, ahem…maybe some of those freaky mamas out there, but I’m not trying to be all about that. Being strapped in tight little quarters is torture for most, especially for toddlers.

To help prevent a meltdown, help prepare your child for the car trip by giving them a heads up on what you are doing and where you are going. You could say, “After we have lunch, we are going to drive to Target to get some milk.” Kids tend to be a little more chill when they know what to expect. 

If she’s able, let your child get into the seat on her own. Then, strap her in. I have a basket of toys and books I keep in my car and will give my kiddo a toy to play with or a book to read before we set sail. The toy typically distracts the kiddo long enough for the car ride to the store, farmers market, you name it.

If you notice that your child is starting to get a little antsy, play some of her favorite songs. This will help her associate being in the car with fun rather than torture.

We listen to Pinkfong, Super Simple Songs, The Gummy Bear station, and Mother Goose club radio often. You can find these free stations on Google Play or iTunes on your phone and just Bluetooth it (or use Sirius XM) Believe in the power of the Gummy Bear song, it has literally stopped my toddler’s tantrums in its tracks. 

Roaming Target or the grocery store

Whenever I head into a store, I set low expectations for my toddler. I come prepared for problems. I bring in a little sandwich bag of snacks, like veggie straws, for her to snack on, or one of her old baby dolls (or portable toys). It works the majority of the time.

When my husband is with me, we head straight for the stuffed animals and let our kiddo choose one to snuggle with if it’s going to be a long shopping trip. Before we head for the register, my husband will distract her with something else (like something we already planned on buying) while I snag the animal from the cart and put it back. She has yet to cry for the animal. Distraction is magical. 

The key to shopping with your kiddo is giving them some attention and getting them involved in what you’re doing. Point out different food options and let them choose which one to keep. Ask them about the colors and shapes on the boxes or clothes you are passing. Keep them engaged. 

If your kiddo just isn’t having it, and a meltdown ensues, ignore those around you, focus on your child, and as calmly as possible, stake your claim: “you will not get what you want by screaming or crying. Once you stop, we can talk about it.” 

If your child is too young to understand, sometimes it’s best to just take them out of the shopping cart and hold them for a bit. This alone is often enough to soothe them and quiet their wails. 

Just don’t give in to their demands out of embarrassment, or you’ll discover that your kiddo will learn that throwing tantrums is how she can get her way.

Related: 12 Activities to Encourage Your Toddler’s Independence

Changing diapers

Meme by MacManor_Mama

Like adults, toddlers don’t like being interrupted when they’re in the middle of watching TV, playtime, or any other “important” task. Don’t be surprised when your little one wants to do the twist and shout when you try to bless them with a fresh diaper. Instead of changing the kiddo as soon as the stank starts wafting from the diaper, try to pick a time when she is transitioning to a new activity, like when she is looking for a different toy or book.

Once she selects her goodies, lay her on the floor (they find floors more agreeable than a changing table) and begin changing her. The toy or book will distract her (if you haven’t learned by now, distraction is your BFF) long enough for you to change the diaper.

If your toddler is old enough to understand, you can even ask them to help mama and undo their diaper. Don’t forget to tell them, thank you! Your kiddo wants to be involved, and even more, she loves the kudos she gets for being recognized as mama’s little helper. 

Taking a nap

Meme by FunnyBeing.com

Just like mama, your toddler needs her rest. But, what kid wants to take a nap when there are toys to play with, slides to be slid on, and parks to run wild in?

Your toddler may start fighting their daily nap because, frankly, she’s getting smarter. She might figure nap times are for babies and she’s a big girl now, mama! So, you may want to try rephrasing “nap time” as quiet time or “book time with (insert favorite stuffed animal’s name).”

If my toddler doesn’t go down in her crib easy at nap time, I will tuck her in with her blanket, then give her a few books to look, along with her favorite owl stuffed animal to cuddle. I let her know it’s time “book time with owl” and I’ll be back once book time is over. More often than not, she falls asleep on her own.

You can do this same routine even if your toddler has already graduated into a big kid bed. If you have a wanderer, just place a baby gate in the doorway of her room and let her know she must stay put and read quietly.

Experts state that toddlers should receive between 12 and 14 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period to maintain positive mental health, good behavior, and sound energy levels. Some doctors believe that if your child is at least 3 years old, and getting at least 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night, it is okay to start phasing out nap time.

You know your toddler’s moods and behavior better than anyone else, if she can’t get a nap in at a minimum, I’d recommend scheduling quiet time.

Staying put during dinner

Like with car seats, your toddler may hate being strapped in a high chair for longer than ten minutes. If your kiddo is still rocking a high chair, make sure they are pulled up to the table and eating with the rest of the family vs. off to the side. Even being a few feet away from the table can make a child feel like they’re on out on a little island. Remember, your kid is used to being right up your butt pretty much. Am I right? 

During dinner, try to include your little one in the conversations. Talk to them, ask them about where they are doing, heck, ask them about their day. Let them choose what food to eat first.

mom going crazy| toddler tantrums driving you crazy|solutions for toddler meltdowns

Once your toddler is too big for a high chair, mealtime can get a tad bumpier. She may want to gobble down one or two bites, then run off to go play, come back, leave. You know the drill. 

According to the experts, since your toddler is “not growing as fast, they need fewer calories and seem to have a poorer appetite.” Despite this fact, many parents attempt to force their toddlers to stay with the family at the table and “eat more than they need for fear of poor health or a nutritional deficiency.”

One thing that will help you keep your sanity is to lower your expectations, mama: don’t assume your toddler can last at the table for more than ten minutes.

Related: 20 Toddler Discipline Strategies to Start Using Today 

Brushing teeth

I’ve never met a toddler who enjoys brushing their teeth. As soon as the toothbrush is in sight, their mouth clamps shut like a drawbridge protecting the castle. You gotta understand though, it sucks to have some hard object poking around in your mouth (that’s what she said…sorry I couldn’t resist). But, you can surely make it more fun! 

Let your toddler pick out a children’s toothbrush from the store (or the dentist’s closet if they are old enough for the dentist’s chair), they have tons of cartoon-covered toothbrushes to choose from. The same goes for the toothpaste. There are lots of different flavors ranging from fruit punch to grape to bubble-gum. Give your child some control by letting them choose. If your child is a little bit older (3+ years), sometimes an electric children’s toothbrush does the trick too! Most love the little gum massage, it’s like a little toy for your mouth!

It’s all how you frame it, moms. Would you rather brush your teeth or play with a mouth toy?!

When it’s time to clean those pearly whites, set the example and have her watch you first. Move your head around, dance a little, make it joyful! Afterward, ask her to practice on her baby doll (with a dry toothbrush) and make up a song about brushing your teeth, or if you’re not creative, use Elmo’s fun tooth-brushing song. 

Sesame Street: Healthy Teeth, Healthy Me: Brushy Brush PSA

When it’s time for the real thing, let her try and brush her teeth on her own. It will take practice and she will get better with time. But, at least the hardest part will be over, getting your child to WANT to brush their teeth. 

Taking a bath

My daughter used to love taking baths. When she was younger, I could barely get her out of the tub. Nowadays, it takes a bit more time for her to warm up to the idea. If I’m running short on time, I just let her take a shower with me. 

Oftentimes, my daughter will want to continue playing in the shower even though I am finished and ready to get out. When that happens, I pull the plug and let it fill up with water (using the shower sprays, not the faucet). Within a few minutes, voila, it’s bath time! She is often distracted by her bath toys that she doesn’t even realize the shower is no longer going and mommy is standing at the sink instead of in the water next to her. If you can’t fathom having your baby monkey attached to you in the shower, try out these other ideas that have also worked well for me. 

If your toddler has a meltdown when you fill-up the tub, she may be afraid of getting soap in her eyes or nervous about the creepy drain. Try to discover what is making her frustrated about bath time. Perhaps, you might want to put a toy in the tub and have her watch the water drain, so she can see that her Barbie won’t disappear down the water pipes. If it’s the soap, maybe she can pretend she’s a deep-sea diver and sport swim goggles to protect her eyes from the bubbles. 

Once she’s in the tub, let her take charge. Give her the washcloth and let her clean her face and body. Be sure you have a variety of fun toys that your child doesn’t have access to outside of bath time. For example, bathtub markersfoam bath letters, and numbers (that attach to the wall), bath boats, and waterproof bath books all make excellent options.

Eventually, your child will begin to see bath time as a treat, instead of a punishment.

What methods do you use to help with toddler tantrums? 

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Author: Brandi Wiatrak

Hey, Mama! I'm Violet's mom and Chris' step-mama, Brandi. This space is a peek into my cold-brew fueled life navigating motherhood and the world. With brutal honesty, humor, and sarcasm, I talk about the joys (and sucks) of parenting, ways to live a simple & sane life, and awesome adventures to embark on with your family. Come aboard my crazy train! Wine and Gerber Puffs included.

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