How to Stop Toddler Tantrums: a foolproof guide that always works some of the time


If you’ve never been on the receiving end of a toddler tantrum, imagine that a small drunken person is screaming at you about illogical things like the injustice of having to drink out of a blue cup instead of a red one, or having to wear clothes when leaving the house or not being allowed to play with knives or climb inside the oven or maintain a diet of nothing but Teddy Grahams. Then imagine that every logical response you give that drunken person is reciprocated with tears, screaming, snot, and, my personal favorite, “going boneless” and writhing on the floor as one who is possessed.

Yeah, lots of fun.

Well, the time has come to finally reveal one of my best kept secrets: How to END toddler tantrums. Personally, I’ve found that the most effective way to combat these emotional tirades is to fight illogic with illogic. Let’s be real: using things like logic and reason with a raging toddler is pretty ineffective. Saying things like, “No, you can’t climb into the oven to check on dinner because you’ll cook yourself” means NOTHING to a toddler. He wants what he wants. End of story.

So, my weapon of choice: confusing the crap out of my toddler by acting equally senseless and illogical. Will it prevent a tantrum from beginning in the first place? Probably not. Will it stop a tantrum from continuing? Always. Maybe. Some of the time. Anyway…

Here are just a few things we revert to in the Holloman house when our toddler gets into a state:

  1. Juggle ANYTHING while singing circus music. Apples. Hot Wheels. Stuffed animals. Diapers. FULL diapers. If you don’t know how to juggle, it’s worth learning, because flying objects with goofy music are mind-boggling enough to stop an emotional rant.
  2. Transform into a dinosaur and start eating everything in sight. In the midst of B’s screams I’ll break out into a ferocious roar and stomp through the house, proclaiming that I’m hungry and I’m looking for a two-year-old to munch on. Usually about 30 seconds in I’ll have gained me a little dinosaur friend who wants to stomp around and eat things with me.
  3. Hide. This one was discovered by accident, because one day I literally just hid under a blanket because I didn’t know how else to block out the screams. Ironically enough, the screams stopped and my two-year-old buddy climbed under the blanket with me, giggling and claiming he wanted to hide, too.
  4. Make your baby dance on the table. This is a recent one I probably enjoy a little too much. I’ll hold my three-month-old up and make her “dance” on the table while beat-boxing or rapping or singing show tunes. It’s so confusing for B he usually forgets what he was screaming about. If you don’t have a baby handy, you can improvise by busting some moves yourself.
  5. Injure yourself. Not really. Just pretend. I’ll “accidentally” run into the fridge or wall or “trip” over a toy or fall onto the couch yelling: “wwwOOOOOOAHHHHHoooooaaahHHHoooooBONK.” My pain is evidently B’s entertainment. Oh well. Whatever works.
  6. Leap into a getaway car and start driving out of control. And by “getaway car” I mean a couch or bed or anything that can be magically transformed into a vehicle. This one’s particularly effective for B, because he’s kind of obsessed with anything that has wheels. I’ll dive onto the couch, buckle my seatbelt, shift into gear, and go peeling down the road to Chick-fil-A (which is usually where we end up driving on our pretend excursions). Almost every time, B will jump in the car with me and make me move to the back seat so he can drive. (He’s kind of a control freak.)

So there you have it: six golden ways to snap your child out of his or her emotional volcanics. However, on the inevitable occasions when one or all of these methods fail, just remember that your tiny friends aren’t trying to make your life miserable—it’s just an unfortunate byproduct of all the feelings trying to fit into their small little bodies.

What crazy things have YOU tried to get your toddler acting like a civilized human being again? I’d love to hear from you!

Here’s to staying sane in the midst of tantrums—one dinosaur impression at a time.

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