My Toddler Is Having a Meltdown: 4 Tips to Avoid Tantrums

Picture this . . .

The children are playing in the playroom. You are busy and want to get going with the evening routine. Instinctively, you gather the kids and get into clean-up mode.

Everything is running smoothly. The children seem at ease. Your toddler, who loves Play-Doh, pleas for five more minutes (translation: until she’s done).

When you reinforce clean-up time, your toddler doesn’t budge. You get uneasy and start storing away the Play-Doh into its respective colored containers. Cue toddler meltdown.

She screams, pouts, and throws herself on the floor.

Not surprisingly, today is starting to look like every other day: You versus Toddler.

You try to calm your writhing, howling, little one down and move on, but you end up frustrated. You feel like you are doing something wrong. Don’t you?

Don’t worry and don’t despair. You not only not alone. And there is something you can do, starting today, to begin to ease the tantrums.

First, before getting into any type of resolution, let’s get to the root of the problem and understand why young children have meltdowns.

Toddlerhood is tough on tots, and testing boundaries, screaming, and crying is normal behavior during this stage. Up to 18–24 months, while in the sensorimotor stage, children are exploring with their senses and actions. Around two years of age (toddlers), youngsters transition to the pre-operational stage, (which goes until age seven) and start to communicate with symbols and words. It is around this transitional time that toddlers experience the feeling of “guilt” and “shame.” They want to show independence and, as a consequence, articulate their own rules.

It is also during this phase that the remaining baby teeth are coming in, and toddlers tend to experience pain and discomfort with teething as well.

As you can see, multiple factors might get in the way of a child’s “good behavior,” especially during this delicate time in their development.

What can you do to help your toddler avoid tantrums?

Now that we better understand what our little ones are going through during the difficulties of toddlerhood, with the following tips, we can help them navigate it better and avoid so many tantrums.

1. Anticipate Your Toddler’s Routine

Give your toddler advanced notice (10-15 minutes) before announcing it’s clean-up time or time to leave a place where she’s having fun. Then, they will clean up to take a bath and have dinner.

In some instances, young children seem distracted at first and go back to what they were doing, but when you repeat the message, they normally acknowledge. This way, your toddler has a smooth transition, dropping the chances of tantrums or mischief.

2. Ensure Your Toddler’s Basic Needs Are Fulfilled

  • Is the child hungry?
  • Did she have adequate nap time? Did something happen, which made the child skip the nap?
  • Does the toddler have on fresh underwear or a clean diaper?

Those are important questions you should always consider when it comes to a child’s routine—especially for the young ones, who don’t have enough words in her vocabulary (or none at all) to fully explain what she needs. This simple step saves you hours of headaches since you don’t have to play a “guessing” game and avoid frustration from the child’s side, who should be content for having her needs met.

3. Set Age-Appropriate Boundaries for Your Toddler and Enforce Them

Let your toddler know that a tantrum is not okay, and if she doesn’t listen, she will lose a privilege. Sometimes during the heat of the moment, parents and caregivers can get frustrated. Not to mention, if you are already upset with something else, the situation can quickly escalate, and even a single raise of your voice can blow things out of proportion.

An ideal alternative to yelling, or just saying “no” or “stop,” is telling your toddler the behavior is unacceptable. Not only that, but it is important to emphasize that the behavior will not be tolerated. If the child doesn’t stop, there needs to be consequences.

4. Encourage Your Toddler to Be a Good Listener

Oftentimes, we pay too much attention to the bad behavior and too little to the good.

Everyone likes a pat on the back. And children respond to positive reinforcement. Toddlers, especially, crave attention and love; therefore, encouraging their good actions is a way to reinforce a positive attitude.

This may go a long way toward not only for having the toddler comply with your request, but also toward stimulating effective listening skills. When your child begins to notice that her good behavior is appreciated, she’s more likely to follow through with more of your requests.

Learn more about encouraging desired behavior in your child versus fostering an addiction for approval (encouragement vs. praise) in our post “5 Ways to Raise Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence.”

To Sum up

While toddlerhood can be challenging for parents and children, it is also a time for unforgettable discoveries. With patience and the right attitude—and a few savvy parenting tips and tricks—parents and caregivers (and toddlers!) can pass through this stage with more ease.

Although there is no magical formula to deal with pouting, whining, and tantrums, the right approach from parents is sure to aid precious tots during their trying transitional period.

Remember to enjoy your toddlers now because before you know it, they’ll be teenagers!

Contributed by Kelly Santana-Banks: Kelly is a writer of nonfiction and children’s books, and a former early childhood teacher and caregiver. With more than ten years of experience working with children and a strong background in child development, she is an advocate for education, especially in early childhood. You can find more about her on and Twitter.

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3 comments on “My Toddler Is Having a Meltdown: 4 Tips to Avoid Tantrums

  1. Thank u for this. Sometimes I’m reduced to tantrums too. It’s such a big help to be reminded of what toddlers are going thru and why they do the maddening things that they do.

    • Tantrums are contagious, especially when you haven’t slept in years, right? But understanding the process they’re undergoing definitely helps us DEAL. 🙂

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