How to Manage Toddler Tantrums the Montessori Way
Toddler tantrums are inevitable, but they don’t have to be constant. Try these 5 strategies to minimize tantrums and get back to enjoying life with your toddler.
I still remember my son’s first tantrum. It was equal parts adorable and terrifying. He was just barely a toddler, and he was committed, laying face down, banging his tiny fists on the floor.
Needless to say, my son’s tantrums didn’t stay so cute. They got bigger and louder and more frequent and I learned that they often couldn’t be stopped once they were underway.
While toddler tantrums can be stressful, inconvenient and exhausting, they are sometimes avoidable.
While these tiny tots are screaming and flailing, it can seem utterly ridiculous, but they are acting this way for a reason and understanding that reason can help to minimize the regularity of their tantrums.
Tantrums are a natural and unavoidable part of toddlerhood, a way for them to release the feelings that they don’t yet know how to express. There are things you can do though to prevent and minimize tantrums so that both you can your child can enjoy your time together.
Here are 5 things you can do when you suspect that your toddler is heading for a tantrum.
1. Identify and Meet Their Physical Needs
Even verbal toddlers are often unable to identify or express their physical needs.
They may be feeling hungry, tired or uncomfortable, and all they know is that something doesn’t feel good.
This may explain why so many toddler tantrums happen in the evening, inevitably while you’re making dinner. They’re both tired and hungry and they don’t know how to process these feelings.
You can often prevent these tantrums by helping them meet these needs.
You may decide to save the hour before nap, when resilience is low, for snuggles and reading books instead of running errands.
You may try setting out a plate of cut up fruit and vegetables for your tot to snack on while you make dinner so they don’t get ‘hangry’.
It’s amazing how little changes like these can help our toddlers feel good and as a result, make the day go more smoothly.
2. Connect With Them
Toddlers also throw tantrums when they need to connect.
They rely on us to power their emotional reserves. When they feel a strong connection to us, like when you’ve just spent twenty minutes chatting together without any distractions, or when you’ve just spent fifteen minutes running around the backyard together, they are less likely to melt down.
This is especially important to remember if you haven’t seen your child in a while.
When they return from preschool or you return from a weekend trip, make sure to take a few minutes to reconnect by spending some one-on-one time with them.
3. Give Them Some Power
Toddlers desperately want to assert themselves as individuals, as people separate from you. They want to feel like they have a voice or a say in the important matters in life, like what shirt to wear or whether to drink from the yellow or the green cup.
It’s tempting to get sucked into power struggle after power struggle with these tiny tyrants, but this isn’t fun or productive for anyone.
Offering choices and giving up a little power can go a long way in avoiding tantrums.
Do you really want her to wear her adorable new smocked dress rather than her favorite stained zoo shirt? Sure, but it is her body and giving her choices about what to wear lets her know that you see that.
Instead, you could say something like, “You really love that zoo shirt. I can’t let you wear that to church because it’s dirty, but you can wear it when we get home. Would you like to wear your blue dress or your yellow dress to church?”
This type of response lets your child know that you recognize how they’re feeling, while still limiting their choices to something you’re comfortable with.
4. Accept the Tantrum
Is accepting a tantrum really a way of preventing tantrums?
YES! Because accepting a tantrum that is already underway and allowing your child to complete the tantrum on their own terms, prevents future tantrums that day.
Can you stop a toddler tantrum midway through? Sometimes. Some toddlers can be distracted by a snack, a favorite toy or even their favorite song. But this is simply a distraction, not a solution. They’ll have to release the build of up toddler tantrum tensions at some stage, and if you stop a tantrum midway, they’re likely to resume it later.
So if the tantrum occurs when you’re at home, simply accept it. If you can, sit on the floor with them and just be present. They will likely come to you for comfort when they’re done screaming and then you can reconnect.
5. Make Them Laugh
This one may seem out of place, but it really works! Laughter — and I’m talking big full-body belly laughs — releases tension in a similar way to a tantrum. If you can tell your toddler is a little on edge, try joking around with them. See if you can help them release the pressure by laughing instead of crying.
- These Montessori techniques will help you empower your child to handle his own conflicts, rather than playing the dreaded role of constant referee.
- It can be a pain in the neck, for sure, but letting your kids do their sartorial thing is a surefire way to boost their confidence, creativity and decision-making. Se our article on why it’s important to let your kids dress themselves.