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Dealing with toddler tantrums

What's with the terrible twos? Learn how to tame your toddler's tantrums, now.

Dr Richard C. Woolfson
magyoungparents@sph.com.sg

Life with a two-year-old can sometimes feel like an emotional roller coaster. One moment he’s laughing and bursting with confidence; next, he’s howling and desperate for a reassuring cuddle. At times, you may struggle to find ways to deal with your toddler’s ever-changing mood.

The problem is that your child has yet to gain full control over his feelings. He tends to react impulsively and makes little attempt to moderate his reactions. So if he is happy, he instantly smiles. If he is sad, he cries immediately. And if he is annoyed, he shows his rage. It’s as if there is no middle ground, only extremes.

Plus, the typical two-year-old only sees everything from his point of view. That’s why, for example, he demands that you play with him even though you have told him you are tired.

He loves you, but as far as he is concerned, the world revolves around him – and so you should do what he wants, not the other way round. Anything or anyone who stands in his way becomes the target of his outburst.

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Now that your tyke is between the age of two and three years, you can encourage him to take ownership of his feelings and accept responsibility for his behaviour.

Of course, you’ll still be the one who has to say “no” when he oversteps the line. And you’ll still have to calm him when he becomes too excited, soothe him when he is distressed and set limits when his temper explodes. Yet, you can start to switch the balance of power slightly.

That’s why it is helpful to step back a little. For instance, don’t rush in the moment he starts to scream at his brother, or when he cries because he can’t find his favourite toy. 

But if his temper or tears continue for too long, then you must take charge. Still, you have at least given him a chance to sort things out on his own before that point is reached.

The more your child thinks about the effect of his behaviour on others, the more he’ll try to control himself. Give him a helping hand with this.

Explain, for example, that when he loses his temper, his friends will be afraid and will not want to play with him. Or when he laughs, you’ll feel happy, too.

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