How to cope with your toddler’s temper tantrums

Some parents find their child's transition from being a mostly compliant baby to a toddler who has an opinion and quite likes the sound of "no", a little trying. But if you can learn to handle this new little person with an opinion on everything, you might find you quite like them.

When toddlers start to enjoy doing the exact opposite of what you want them to do, they are simply testing their boundaries, which is a very natural and essential part of development.

As they master new skills, whether it’s language or something physical like kicking your shins repeatedly, they will probably be enjoying every moment of it. Your job is to create a road map for these skills by setting rules and limits from the very beginning.

Here are some tips for keeping your toddler on the straight and narrow:

  • Say it and mean it. There is no point in discipline if you don’t keep it consistent. It’s no use telling your child not to climb on top of the table and jump up and down, if the next day you let them do it without telling them off. Make sure both parents stick to the same rules and even if you are distracted or too tired, always make the effort to discipline your child for something they know they shouldn’t be doing.

  • Have consequences. If you tell your child they will be put in time out if they continue to misbehave, follow through and give them time out. Empty threats just mean they will think they can get away with it again because there are no consequences for their behaviour.

  • Be fair. If you won’t let your child have an ice cream, don’t sit there and scoff one yourself. Keep the same rules for everyone and this includes other children.

  • Sense trouble before it happens. If you know your child will make a beeline for the hairdryer on the floor, keep it out of sight and out of reach. If you know that your child is going to pull that china doll down off the shelf at Grandma’s, ask her to put it out of sight before you get there.

  • Tired toddlers are more likely to have tantrums. If you need to be out and about, do it when your child will be fresh and alert, not when they are late for an afternoon sleep and you decided it would be a great idea to hit the supermarket. Imagine how you feel when you’re tired and see how you would like being dragged around in a supermarket trolley.

  • Use the art of distraction. Toddlers may be learning new skills, but they haven’t yet discovered the secret of distraction, and can be easily encouraged out of or away from problem behaviour by getting them interested in something else. If “no” isn’t working, simply remove your child from the activity, take him into another room and get him interested in something else.



  • Don’t slap or hit your child to discipline them. It’s not okay to hit a child in anger and other forms of discipline – like time out – are more effective.

  • oost children respond fairly quickly to time out, which involves removing the child from the situation for a specified time. If your toddler has been hitting or showing anger, he should be told why the behaviour is not accepted, taken to a designated time-out area, such as a chair or a quiet corner, for a minute or two to have a think and hopefully calm down. Allow one minute per year of age for time out and never go and cuddle your child or stop the time out early – or they will learn that you don’t really mean it.

  • oost toddlers have tantrums, even the usually mild-mannered and well- behaved ones. They are usually the result of frustration because they can’t communicate their needs. If you know your child is having a tantrum as a result of something traumatic or hurtful, then you’ll need to cuddle them until they calm down. If, however, it is because of a power struggle where they want something they are not allowed, just ignore it.Be nearby, but just ignore them. If you do look over at them, you will notice the tantrum’s ferocity increases. They will eventually calm down and you can then go back and reward them for doing so.Some children can find it difficult to calm down. In this case, do not reward their behaviour but say you are going to help them calm down and give them a firm cuddle. Do not, under any circumstances, give in to their demands.

  • Choose your arguments and consider giving your toddler some control over little things. Will it really hurt if he’s allowed to have his fluffy toy in the bath? Yes, it means you will have to dry it out, but you are letting him learn the right way to ask for something. He can help you dry it out and see how long that takes and maybe next time he’ll let it sit on the shelf.

Related stories

Get The Australian Woman’s Weekly NZ home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 38% on a magazine subscription.