Dealing with toddler tantrums

Dealing with toddler tantrums

Here's our top tips to help you learn how to cope with toddler tantrums as your little person tests their independence (and your patience!)

In Toddler

Here's our top tips to help you learn how to cope with toddler tantrums as your little person tests their independence (and your patience!)

At a glance

Tantrums are not just common, but to be expected as toddlers assert their independence

Most will happen when your toddler gets tired, hungry or bored – so look for triggers


When a meltdown strikes, try to stay calm and just wait it out

Praise good behaviour and offer your toddler a hug when they’re calm again

When your little one is mid-meltdown, it’s hard to believe that this little bit of naughtiness isn’t deliberate. Tantrums are a normal and healthy sign of brain development. The answer to why toddlers have tantrums is simple. Like all of us, toddlers want to express themselves. But unlike us, they can’t yet articulate their feelings which can lead them to feel frustrated. And frustration strikes when your little one is tired, hungry or just testing their independence.

How to avoid toddler tantrums

Like most things, it’s often easier to prevent a tantrum than to stop one. Rather than fight their new independence streak, encourage them to explore it.

  • Get your toddler to do simple tasks themselves, such as putting on their wellies or tidying away their toys
  • Let your little one make simple decisions whenever possible, like, “Do you want to wear the red t-shirt or the blue t-shirt?”, “Would you like the apple or the orange?”
  • Give them a few simple rules, such as keeping food on their plate, and stick to them. Focus on praising them when they get it right, rather than disciplining them when they get it wrong

Bad behaviour often happens when your toddler is tired, hungry or sometimes just bored. Spotting your little one’s ‘tantrum triggers’ can help you head off a tantrum before it gets started.

  • Try to stick to a structured daily routine that involves regular meals and naps, lots of opportunity to play and a calming bedtime routine
  • Shopping trips are popular times for meltdowns, often due to bored and frustrated little ones. So try to keep trips short and engage your toddler in what you’re doing
  • If you see a tantrum brewing, try distracting them. Do something silly or funny to divert their attention – and it’s a good way to let off your own steam
  • Avoid saying ‘no’. Now that they’re used to saying it, the word can be a trigger. Try rephrasing to sound like you’re agreeing with them

“Have a naughty step and stand your ground. They’ll keep wanting to get off, but a minute or two does the trick and by then, we’ve both calmed down.”

Mom holding a baby having a tantrum

How to deal with tantrums

You already know that all toddlers are different and so are their tantrums. But there are some basic techniques to try when the meltdown begins. And remember, all other parents have been there – even though you may feel embarrassed by toddler tantrums in public, you’ll get more sympathy than you think.

  • Try and stay calm. It’s tough but fighting fire with fire rarely works
  • Don’t give in. Toddlers are pretty smart. If they see that tantrums work, they’ll keep having them
  • Hold them if you can. A firm but gentle cuddle can make them feel secure
  • Or ignore them. Sounds odd, but they may realise their tantrum has no effect
  • And finally, hug them when it’s over. There’s no use falling out about it and you’ll probably both need a cuddle

“I always ask – do you want a hug? The answer is usually yes.”

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Important advice to mothers

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. SMA® Nutrition fully supports this and continued breastfeeding, along with the introduction of complementary foods as advised by your healthcare professional.