Simple suggestions for taming toddler tantrums at bed time and all through the day.
Firstly, I am no expert on toddler tantrums at bed time or any other time for that matter. My experience solely comes in the form of one fiercely independent and strong willed two year old diva. She is currently fast asleep with a straw hat on her head which was one of her terms she negotiated for actually staying put and not jumping out of bed like a jack in the box. Eighty seven percent credit goes to Daniel tiger for how I manage toddler tantrums. I regularly refer to and apply lessons I have learnt from his parents and every other person in his neighbourhood. What I would give to be a part of their world. If you are pro screen time then it’s a lovely programme to watch with your toddler. If you’re not then just give it a whirl after the kids are in bed, I swear you will get more out of it than any self help parenting book. There is a Daniel tiger song to solve every parenting problem and I am not ashamed to sing them in public if they help.
She is currently fast asleep with a straw hat on her head
Toddler tantrums at bedtime
For me toddler tantrums at bedtime are the ultimate parental test. After a full day keeping my little person alive and entertained all I long for is a bit of personal space and peace and quiet. It is my time to crumple into a pile on the sofa and do the things I spend all day telling Eva she can’t do. like eat lots of chocolate, watch the television and eat more chocolate. So when the evil little bed time tantrum appears out of no where it literally brings tears to my eyes. My patience has usually expired by this point in the day and she is usually over cooked on the exhaustion scale so usual tactics just don’t work. Whilst I think complete eradication of the toddler tantrums at bed time is impossible there are somethings you can do to try to help.
- Create and stick to a nice and calming bed time routine. For us that’s a nice bath (usually followed by a tantrum about getting out), Pyjamas on with cuddle time and then into bed for a story.
- Make sure your toddler isn’t over tired as that is just a recipe for disaster before you have even started. An over tired child actually finds it harder to switch off and go to sleep.
- Start bed time early. If you have time and suspect a bed time tantrum is brewing then try starting your bed time routine a little earlier. I tried this trick this evening and it has been our best bed time in weeks. The aim wasn’t necessarily to get her to sleep earlier but the extra time allowed me to be more patient and creative. she had a longer bath and got out without any arguments when I gave her a few options, one of which was scooting to bed. A bit of reverse phycology worked a treat and we had a lovely few minutes giggling as I challenged her to put on her nappy and pyjamas using phrases like ‘I bet you cant put this on all by yourself’. when she was in bed she decided she wanted to play a magnetic fishing game. My usual response of ‘no’ would have definitely triggered a mass meltdown but that extra time meant I could give her the choice of one game or one story. She did renegotiate her terms after the first game and play twice more but after that third short and relaxing game she actually willingly gave it up and laid down. That extra time allowed me to be slightly flexible and give her more control over bed time. I still stuck to our routine and was consistent with timings and leaving the room but the fact she felt in control really helped.
Hangry Pants tantrum
I am a diva when I am hungry, seriously I struggle to concentrate, get headaches and get a very short fuse so why would our toddlers be any different? It might sound like a no brainer but food, water and sleep can really help in preventing a break down. Even now I can sometimes overlook these obvious fire starters. The other morning Eva woke early at 5:30am, she was uncharacteristically whingey and difficult from the second I went to get her. We don’t normally get breakfast until 7-8am and she is a great talker and normally communicates well if she is hungry or thirsty so it just didn’t dawn on me that there might be such a simple explanation for her behaviour. I was literally dreading the day ahead but then something quite remarkable happened. I made breakfast and she ate not one but two bowls of blueberry porridge, an apple, half my bowl of cereal and half of nanny’s croissant. She was probably having a growth spurt but she was instantly transformed to my kind and quirky Boo Boo. She was just Hangry.
- Carry snacks and water on you at all times.
- Be conscious of nap and meal times. When possible plan the trip to the supermarket when they are well rested and full.
The Too much fun Tantrum
Don’t you just love it when you find an activity or game that your toddler adores. When you take them out for the morning and are filled with a warm glow at how many memories you just made. When they paint a beautiful picture with a big smile on their face or when they are running around the garden blowing bubbles and giggling as they pop? Yes, I adore each and every one of these moments until its time to stop playing, to go home, to clean up or worse case scenario the bubbles run out. The too much fun tantrum is completely relatable and I must admit even as a grown up I regularly want to throw my own tantrum over finishing the last bit of chocolate, having to leave the Spa when my pamper day is over or when I finish the last episode of an epic tv series. So a bit of understanding can definitely go a long way.
This is our most regular occurring toddler tantrum and I use various tactics with a mixed success rate. Communication is definitely the big one here.
- Communicate with your toddler. If you were half way through writing a witty Instagram caption and someone snatched your phone off you before you had time to finish it how would you feel? Would it make the situation slightly better if someone had warned you that in a few minutes time they would need your phone to make a phone call, you might still be a little miffed but at least you could quickly finish posting first?
- Explain to your toddler what is going to happen before, during and after an event or activity. For example before we go swimming I tell Eva that she is going swimming, that we need to get ready in the changing rooms before we get into the pool and then we can have fun playing and splashing. I explain that we have our turn in the pool but when it’s over we have to get out and get dressed and although I know that makes her sad we can comeback and play another day. I have a similar conversation while we are playing in the pool and then a few minutes before we are getting out remind her that our session is coming to end and she can have one last play, I check she understands and even ask her what is happening next to make sure knows. This often works but is not full proof. Sometimes whilst explaining what is going to happen she will try to negotiate, argue or get upset but more often than not when I give the last instruction to leave the pool she will do it without too much fuss.
The little Miss (Mr) independent tantrum
Our little people are turning into just that. They have their own minds and bodies and want to use both on a regular basis. My little miss independent is going through a phase where she has to do everything completely by herself, I mean everything. If we take a second to actually think about this then we should be insanely proud of how much they have already learnt and developed to get to this stage. In reality though the frustration of watching a toddler trying to carry a full cup of water to the table whilst leaving a trail of water behind them followed by pouring whatever is left onto their heads as they try to place it on the table easily distracts us from their achievements.
- I only have one tip here and that is let it go. If it’s not dangerous and you have the time just let them get on with learning and asserting their independence. Deep breaths really help here. Help them when they ask and encourage them when they try. It could be getting dressed, washing themselves or trying to clean up but the more they practice the sooner they will be able to do these things independently which will ultimately eradicate these tantrums anyway.
So those are just a couple of our main tantrums and my personal tactics for coping with them. In reality, it doesn’t even tickle the surface of understanding and dealing with toddler tantrums. If like me your heart rate increases and your blood starts to prickle during a meltdown then the chances are you will not have the mental capacity to remember every article you read on the subject and apply all the best methods. The main things to remember are they are not personal, take deep breaths and try to stay calm. Be a role model for how you would like them to deal with stressful situations.
Things to do and try
• Use a slow and calm voice when talking to them
• Bend down and get on their level
• Empathise with them and put their feelings into words. ‘I can see your feeling sad/angry/frustrated because you don’t want to leave the pool is that right?’
• Reassure them that you love them and offer affection but don’t push affection onto them if they are not ready. I often add it onto the end of the above sentence. ‘I can see your angry that you’re not allowed to eat anymore sweets. Mummy always loves you. Would a cuddle help?’
• Offer them something to eat or drink it could be partly the cause.
• Always stay nearby so they don’t feel deserted but give them space if they need it.
• Try breathing exercises, singing or games. Refer to a Daniel Tiger song if you know one. Seriously ‘When you can’t get what you want stamp your feet three times’ has worked for me many times and usually ends with her smiling.
• Play some music
Think of tantrums as a right of passage in parenthood. Yes they are embarrassing and the easy option would be to just pick up your toddler and exit the area but more often than not that person you think is looking and judging you is actually thinking what a great job you’re doing, reliving one of their own similar experiences or trying to offer you a reassuring, knowing smile. Let’s get real here, no one who has ever had children will have escaped tantrum free so the chances are most people watching are really just sympathising. So try to focus on your tiny human and what they need in that moment which is your time and patience.
Please comment and let me know your tips and tricks for dealing with toddler tantrums. if you try any of the above please let me know how you get on.