There’s a distinct moment as a parent when the 16 month old tantrum hits.
Where you realise you’ve got a toddler.
For me, it happened both times when a) they started walking, and b) they give you that cheeky look.
You know the one?
It happens rapidly, truth be told.
Going from a sleepy baby who happily sits gazing at you with love and adoration, to this loud, chaotic small child who lashes out with aggressive behavior, unprovoked, for no reason whatsoever.
Or so it seems to their mummy and daddy. Of course, there’s always a reason, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
16 month old tantrum
Young children are indeed unpredictable, keeping you on your toes in the grocery store and practising a deep breath here and there to avoid your blood boiling.
As their mother, you need to keep your language skills and behaviour skills in check, which is so hard!
The worst is when you’re in a public place, where you just know all eyes are on you, watching and waiting to see how you react.
Are you the breezy, calm mother who keeps her voice down and miraculously talks your way through toddler temper tantrums? Or the screaming, angry outbursts mother who literally can’t keep a lid on it herself?
We’ve all been there. Sorry, but we have.
But as a loving and caring parent, you may wonder what is the best way to deal with your toddler’s tantrums?
Let’s find out.
Why do toddlers have tantrums?
It helps to understand why your toddler has tantrums before going into strategies to help cope with them.
They ought to be called frustration tantrums really. Because that’s why they happen!
Toddlers are frustrated! The end. Nah, just kidding. Let’s discuss it further.
Your beautiful, headstrong little guy is rapidly growing and learning.
They’re eager to flex their motor skills, jump on things, climb things, spill things, smear things, and break things.
Yet all they get back is a big fat “NO!” for a large portion of their day.
Cue a temper tantrum!
What we must remember is that toddlers are unable to regulate their emotional outbursts.
They literally have zero ability to understand what negative behavior is or why their behavior is negative in the eyes of their parents.
Their big emotions can’t be controlled, no matter how much we parents scream or shout to “Be quiet” or “Stop crying!”
Toddlers simply can’t do that! And the reason? It’s pretty simple.
Basically, the part of their brain responsible for logic, reasoning, and emotional regulation hasn’t developed yet. It won’t fully develop until they reach the grand old age of 25.
Which explains, well, you know, teenagers…
So the part of their brain we’re talking about is the frontal cortex, aka the logical, rational thinking part of the brain.
It’s nowhere near mature enough to regulate emotions or handle strong feelings or negative emotions.
Toddlers are brand new humans! They learn everything from square one. A blank slate. As did we when we were tiny.
And no, your toddler’s behavior is not some sort of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or anything like that.
Toddler tantrums are a very normal part of child development.
So the next time your toddler throws a temper tantrum, the important thing to remember is:
- Their behaviour is normal (in terms of throwing a tantrum) because of the big feelings they’re going through, which they cannot process rationally in the heat of the moment.
- There are many ways to help your toddler deal with a tantrum to help them calm down.
Childhood temper tantrums = strong emotions
Let’s now talk about ways to help your toddler get through their tantrum effectively, giving them a helping hand to calm down quicker and feel better (and you to stay sane).
How to help your toddler overcome a full-blown tantrum
As a parent, the number one important thing to consider is whether the tantrum is happening in a safe place.
I know this is the last thing you’re thinking about, especially when the tantrum happens in a shop with everyone staring at you, but bare with me.
Toddlers cannot control their physical bodies when they’re mid-tantrum.
So it’s a good idea to make sure there’s space around them, ensuring they’re not going to hurt themselves by accident. Or hurt someone else.
If your child throws things or lashes out, you must keep them safe. If that requires you to pick them up and carry them out of the shop arms flailing, do so – to ensure their safety and the safety of others.
You keep yourself calm mama! Again, I know! It’s so hard.
And anger does come on quickly which is where being an adult stands you in good stead.
You can keep a hat on your emotions. Your toddler can’t. That’s it, in a nutshell.
It’s essential for you to remain calm and demonstrate good behavior so your toddler learns and models how you handle emotions.
That’s not to say you need to hide anger or not show sadness – quite the opposite. It’s important to display a range of emotions so that your toddler can learn.
How do you keep calm in the face of stress? How do you act when you’re angry? Your toddler learns from you, so be a good role model.
By staying calm, you’ll help them calm down quicker in their own way.
Set a good example and keep your voice low, calm and consistent. Speak normally to your child.
If you feel you’re getting angry yourself at their behaviour, remove yourself from the room and take 3 deep breaths, reminding yourself that your toddler is not behaving like this on purpose.
You may feel the need to raise your voice if they’re screaming so loudly you can’t hear yourself, but don’t!
During these moments, remain level headed and keep your cool. Your toddler needs you to stay calm. Do not raise your voice back, no matter how strong the urge is.
Eventually (and there’s no set time limit for this – every child is different), the tantrum will end and hugs will be what’s needed.
Be supportive and loving at all times to help your toddler feel safe and that it’s acceptable to have tantrums in the first place.
Again, they’re a very normal part of their development.
This is one of the failsafe solutions to power struggles that may cause a tantrum.
Offering your toddler the choice between a blue cup or a red cup instils authority in them, helping them feel like they’ve got a say in the matter.
They too want to feel seen and heard as we do!
So give them this where you can. If you can do so at the first sign of a tantrum brewing, this may calm things down before the tantrum gets worse.
I usually offer a choice when it comes to the small things such as pasta or rice? Ham or beef? Cheese or tomato? Or red or green? Hot or cold milk?
It’s such an easy way to avoid a tantrum or help calm a tantrum quicker by being a distraction method.
Ice cream or no ice cream? It’s a choice. And toddlers love choices.
Know their red flag.
Often as parents, we can stop a tantrum before it materialises.
The key things to look out for are whether they’ve passed their nap time? Hello, tantrum if so.
Also, has there been a change to their daily routine (hello tantrum again) or are they hungry? Thirsty? (Oh my, what a tantrum)
By pre-empting a tantrum before it starts, as in giving them food before they get really hangry (hungry) you’ll likely avoid a tantrum altogether.
Is your toddler able to communicate verbally with you? And get a response back? If not, it’ll cause deep frustration, which leads to a tantrum.
This is far more common in younger toddlers when their language simply hasn’t had time to develop, but can happen in older children if the point isn’t getting across in the right way.
As their parent, you must try and understand what your toddler is sharing with you, either by their words or actions.
I know, it’s hard! But giving the impression that you’re listening and on their side will help calm your toddler and diffuse the tantrum.
Eye contact and body language are equally important. Your toddler wants you to support them and be on their side.
So be their rock by staying calm and offering a hug when they’re ready to take it (which they will).
Distraction can also be useful to diffuse a tantrum.
There are different opinions on distraction methods (some parents don’t agree with it) but it has been a good option for us when tantrums happen in a public place, or when separation anxiety kicks in at preschool drop off.
Perhaps offering their favorite toy? Playing a song on the radio? Singing and dancing? Or asking a question and getting them thinking?
Change their environment.
When there’s a full-blown tantrum happening, consider changing the environment by going outside or switching rooms. This can help soothe your toddler and calm the tantrum.
Earlier bedtime. Or Later?
Feeling tired is a surefire way to bring on a tantrum. Also, not being sleepy can cause a tantrum!
Toddlers too suffer if they don’t get the hours of sleep they need, so as their parents, you need to control their bedtime routine.
A consistent bedtime routine helps avoid tantrums altogether. And it doesn’t need to be difficult.
Dinner, bath, brush teeth, story time, and then bed is our routine, and our 3 year old now has a somewhat peaceful bedtime experience. Now I’ve said that I’ll jinx it I know…
Avoid physical punishment and verbal punishment
This I hope is obvious, but I feel the need to say it anyway. Toddlers are not naughty, and they’re not doing anything wrong by having tantrums.
They cannot control their behaviour-and understanding this will help you parent better and understand their needs, which will lead to fewer tantrums.
Allow your toddler to teach you.
Children are our greatest teachers by far, showing our true colours and highlighting behaviour that we want to work on ourselves.
For example, my husband cannot stand the sound of crying. It used to get to me, as I don’t have an issue with it (I have other triggers which I work on).
There is something in the noise of crying that really upsets him, and he’s learning to remove himself from the situation to calm down, rather than shouting and causing even more upset.
Sometimes all you need is a 5-10 second break outside the room, to re-set your emotional brain and switch into supportive parent mode.
Yes, giving your child what they want will diffuse a tantrum but then you’ve got a child who always gets what they want, and what is that teaching them? Really not a lot.
You must maintain your boundaries. Being firm is necessary when setting boundaries and standing your ground as the parent, so when you say no, mean no! And when you say yes, stick with it.
If it’s tidy up time before cartoon time, maintain that every single time without fail. Teaching your toddler through doing is the best way to learn, and they’ll respect you and learn to trust you by sticking to the boundaries set.
Screen time is a super-sensitive topic in most houses.
I personally think too much TV is very bad and can affect the development of your toddler, so I personally limit the amount my toddler watches quite severely.
However, he watches TV occasionally. He never ever watches on my mobile phone mind you, and I’m stern about that.
The way I get him off the TV without causing a tantrum (60% of the time) is to count down and pre-warn him that it’s time to turn it off in 5 minutes, then 3 minutes, then 2 minutes and so on.
This works in our house, just in case you want to try it. Needless to say, switching off the TV often triggers a tantrum anyway – all the more reason to avoid TV if possible!
This is a fantastic book by two incredible experts in the parenting field. I haven’t mentioned the word ‘discipline’ here in this post, as discipline is often perceived as negative, but this book changed that for me. There are no raised voices or authoritarian parenting here. Toddlers learn to respect their parents and understand themselves too by applying the principles outlined in this book.
Another book that was recommended to me when the tantrums first started in our house (it’s an oldie but a goodie). Written in a really light-hearted and somewhat humorous way, Dr Green gives many solutions to toddler tantrums, some of which will be brand new to you.
I hope you find this blog post helpful.
If you do, please share it with your friends and on FB/IG. I also urge you to read this post next if you’re a stay at home mum.
This post is written based on my personal experience as a mum to two toddlers. I am no parenting expert and don’t claim to be!
This post contains affiliate links, meaning I might earn a commission at no cost to you if you make a purchase through this site. I only ever recommend products which I believe will help you, and which I use and trust in myself.