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Understanding Toddler Tantrums & Helping Your Little One Regulate Their Emotions

Toddler Crying

Toddler tantrums often start around the age of 15-18 months old and can last until 4 years old when they a more able to control their emotions and feelings. Be reassured it’s normal and all part of their development and some children will have more than others – it’s like shaking a bottle of fizzy lemonade… at some point it will explode! 

Why do they trantrum?

It’s important to understand why little ones react in this way and in turn this will help you deal with them appropriately.  

  • Developmental milestones

  • They are on the move all day 

  • Dropping their morning naps 

  • Increasing self-awareness 

  • Wanting to be independent 

  • Language development 

  • Feelings they don’t understand, cannot process and cannot express 

What are they trying to tell you?

  • Cannot express in words, either because they cannot say or do not know the words to express their feelings.

  • Tired 

  • Hungry 

  • Feeling ignored 

  • Fear 

  • Anxious 

  • Frustrated 

  • Angry 

  • Embarrassed 

How can you help? 

  • Patience – infinite! 

  • Understanding their age and development level 

  • Consistency 

  • Don’t panic and try to remain calm. I know it’s hard sometimes, but if you react with patience and understanding, it will likely diffuse the situation a lot quicker  

  • Ask how they are feeling 

  • Talk to them about the situation “I understand you wanted to continue playing , but we have had lots of time in the park and enjoyed ourselves but its time to go home now and have dinner”

  • Take them aside if in a public place, so firstly they are safe and secondly so that both of you don’t feel so judged from being watched. 

  • Talk to them, when not having a tantrum about feelings and that you understand that they find it hard to deal with those feelings. 

  • Ask them to do something rather than tell them, we all appreciate that.

  • Don’t give in – it’s important to be able to say no to little ones and set your boundaries. Imagine as an adult if you had no boundaries – it sounds amazing but in reality, it would lead to being completely out of control.

  • Except that if you say no to something they are going to react.

  • Have realistic expectations of your little one’s limitations – for example, taking a 2 year old shopping for 3 hrs, strapped into a buggy is asking for a fall out! 

  • Give cuddles during and after if wanted 

  • Distraction – change the subject and move onto a different activity or game

  • If possible try and move things out of sight or reach – limit you need to say no or moving them away 

  • Anticipate – if they are on there way to something you don’t want them to touch,  get in there before they reach their goal and distract them with something else “wow look what I’ve got!”  while grabbing something they would be interested in.

  • Have a box of safe household objects that you get out occasionally – an old remote control, an old mobile phone, a set of plastic measuring spoons, empty boxes, bottles, bright coloured tissue paper, saucepan & spoon to bang – think noisy and/or colourful 

  • Give them time, your time 

  • Don’t rush them. If they want to try and put their socks on, let them try, they may surprise you. Tell them “when you’re ready, I would love to help you”

  • If they struggle with transitioning between tasks or activities in the day, make a day board with them. You can create a weekly planner with them day by day. Under each day, using pictures you draw or stick pictures of mealtimes / nap time / activities / nursery or a class / bath time / bedtime / quiet time / story time / mummy time / daddy time / the list is endless! This often helps 3-4 year olds who constantly say “I don’t want to do that” to understand that it’s time to change what they are doing. Each morning, run through the day with them and talk about what you have planned, reminding them how much fun they have at each activity. 


I hope you find these tips useful, please feel free to share with anyone who may need some advice. If you would like some 1-2-1 help with your little one, please get in touch and I would be happy to help.

Sam, The Baby Guru


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