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Managing tantrums

Some toddlers will accept being held close during a tantrum, while others will avoid any form of restraint. The coping strategy of some toddlers is to flail their arms and legs and writhe about on the floor until they calm down and regain composure.

Arguing, remonstrating, screaming, or getting angry will only escalate and prolong the outburst. Isolating children is also not good practice, but calmly moving them to a safe place where they can blow off steam can help to defuse the situation. Anything that could be broken or could harm the toddler should be removed from the room.

Sadness and reparation are emotions frequently presented at the end of a tantrum. A physical hug provides reassurance and comfort. It also promotes trust in the adult, which provides good emotional stability

Planning ahead

Knowing what triggers a tantrum can help to avoid it. For example, if toddlers have a tantrum when they are asked to put their toys away, advance warning will give them the chance to wind down before the end of play.

If toddlers are fed and rested when they are taken shopping and given an active part to play, they will be less likely to get bored and frustrated.

If the adult expects to be tied up on the telephone, or their attention is likely to be diverted for a period, it helps to plan activities that will keep the toddler busy. Constructive or mechanical toys, colouring or dough will capture interest and reduce the likelihood of an emotional outburst.


Some circumstances can limit self-control. For example, if aggressive behaviour is encouraged at home, if children see hitting behaviour or they suffer abuse, it can be difficult for them to learn what is and what is not acceptable. If tolerance and patience are not encouraged at home, these qualities will be much harder to teach in the early years setting.
If we suppress their feelings by encouraging them not to cry or by distracting them, their fears will go underground. Suppressed emotions can cause trouble. When a big wave of sudden (or stored) tension, anxiety, tiredness, jealousy, frustration, or fear suddenly floods the toddler’s brain, there are big feelings that need to be released.

Most children improve their ability to communicate, become increasingly independent, and learn to handle their emotions before they go to school. However, if they continue to have tantrums and have problems in getting along with other people at school, they may need professional help. Early intervention can make all the difference.

Emotional security

Parents and practitioners, who talk to toddlers, spend time with them and praise and encourage the things that they do, equip them to handle moments of frustration and anger.

The following techniques can be helpful in raising self-esteem confidence and motivation and provide good emotional stability.

⭐ A regular and predicable routine that consists of rest and active play.

⭐ Giving the toddler undivided attention at different times of the day.

⭐ Where possible, refraining from asking ‘Why?’ questions. Toddlers are unable to provide an adequate answer, which increases frustration.

⭐ Steering clear of the ‘No’ word, which implies failure when the toddler is trying to do something right.

⭐ Avoiding telling toddlers that they are being silly when they complain or feel scared about something. Instead, help them to come to terms with their fears by talking about what has happened, and by offering reassurance.

⭐ Establishing clear and realistic guidelines and being consistent, so that toddlers know what to expect and where they stand.

⭐ Making compromises. For example, if the toddler does not want to put on a coat, compromise by leaving the zip undone.

⭐ Involving toddlers in everyday activities from helping with the laundry, to washing dishes, and preparing food.

⭐ Providing opportunities for emotional overload from climbing and jumping to dance and walking.

⭐ Encouraging toddlers to draw how they feel or use signs to communicate.

⭐ Enabling them to make choices and offering reassurance and comfort when they need it.

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