In this episode: Janet responds to an email from a parent says she feels like a failure when dealing with her two-year-old’s tantrums. She writes: “We’ve been great at heading them off before they begin and recognizing why they’re happening, but we are completely at a loss what to do once we’re stuck with one.” She’s tried several different strategies without success.
Hi, this is Janet Lansbury. Welcome to Unruffled. Today I’m responding to an email from a parent who has said that her strategy toward her two-year-old’s tantrums has been to patiently ride them out, since she feels from experience that there’s nothing she can say or do in that moment to make it better. But she feels like she’s failing, so she’s wondering if there’s something more affirmative or proactive that she could be doing for her toddler.
Here’s the email I received:
“Hi Janet. Thank you for your wonderful books, podcast, and advice. Like a lot of your followers, my family has benefited immensely from the wisdom we’ve learned from you, and I admit I often hear your voice in my head. I was listening to one of your podcasts, and it prompted me to write about my own problems with toddler tantrums. We’ve been great at heading them off before they begin, and recognizing why they’re happening with our two-year-old, but we are completely at a loss as to what to do once we’re stuck with one.
I call it ‘yes, no, and nothing I do is right.’ He will simply scream at me with half-intelligible demands. I’ve long since learned not to try to go along with these requests since fulfilling them leads to him immediately demanding the opposite. For example, screaming for his bunny then results in her being thrown across the room. A request for a cuddle will lead to him throwing a fit and saying no cuddles. I don’t like ignoring him, it doesn’t feel right when he is clearly in distress, but even patiently sitting nearby is equally fraught with danger as he’ll tell me to go away or not sit there. I just can’t win.
I know it’s developmentally appropriate and so normal to have a tantrum or two, especially when he’s tired or sick, but I seem to fail each time it happens. I’ll sit patiently, but when I feel like I’m losing my cool, this can be half an hour or more. I leave him in his bed and tell him to relax while I go elsewhere to listen to his cries from a distance. Do I need to ride it out? It doesn’t happen often enough for me to be concerned about his development, but it is intense at times, and I feel like I’m failing when we could be having a positive connecting time. I always err on the side of less is more. But maybe there’s something more I can be doing for him, apart from the obvious like getting him into bed when he needs to go to sleep. Thanks in advance.”
Okay. Well, like so many of the messages I receive, this one is from a parent who knows the answers to a lot of her questions and is already on the right track in so many ways. But it sounds like she just needs a little more encouragement to go all the way with the direction that she’s going.
When she says things like, “I’m being patient,” “I’m waiting,” even, “I’m riding it out,” those are indicators that she’s investing in the tantrum in some way, she feels responsible for getting him through this. She’s feeling like she maybe has a little bit of control. And I’d like to suggest that she doesn’t at all.
It’s a very, very common scenario. I’ve been through it many times with my own children, with other people’s children. It is a tantrum, and the dialogue that children are having when they have expressive language saying, “I want this, I need this.” And then she offers him the bunny and he doesn’t want the bunny. He wants her to leave, but then he doesn’t want her to leave. Those are all part of a tantrum, and as this parent has realized, it’s important not to get caught up in the specifics, perceiving this kind of flailing of, “I need this. I want that. Do this. Do that,” as reasonable requests for things that he really does want that would change this whole tantrum for him.
And maybe we do fall for that first request, but then when we see that the bunny didn’t help, he threw the bunny or whatever, it is, by then, we’ll ideally let go and realize, Oops, this guy’s gone at this moment. He’s in it. He needs to move this out of his system. And at that point, it’s as if we’re not even there. Our child is just in the middle of a storm. He’s inside himself, and he’s letting go of something that’s really important for him to let go of.
When we can really understand the experience and how healthy and positive it is for our child to be able to get through it all the way, we can start to let go even more, and that’s what I would advise this parent to do. Let go of this all the way. Trust it all the way. Avoid getting caught up in that feeling that if she just did something, she could change the course of this. We can’t. It’s got a life of its own, these meltdowns, these rebalancing episodes that children have. They are not ours to do anything with or even try to wait out, because even that can be felt by our children as discomfort coming from us that then sort of juices up their meltdown. It makes it harder for them to really let it go all the way.
So going over this bit by bit… this mother mentions that “he will simply scream at me with these half-intelligible demands.” Yes, it’s great that she’s seeing it that way, and she says she’s long since learned not to try to go along with these requests since fulfilling them leads to him immediately demanding the opposite. Yes, that’s right, and that should indicate to us very clearly these aren’t real requests of things that he really wants, much less needs. And that can be hard when children throw things at us like, “I need a hug.”
One time I was working with a child who was having a full-on meltdown, three-and-a-half years old, and had a lot of stress in his life at that time, and he was saying he needed water. He needed water.nThat was a very scary one for me to not try to fulfill at that moment. But if you were there, if you were in it with this guy, you could see that even if I had brought him water, he couldn’t have swallowed it at that point. He was so in another dimension. He was in his release of his feelings. So I had to trust and just allow that to be because I wanted him to be able to get these feelings out of his body so he would feel better.
And we can see when we do allow this and allow it all the way and let go of it, don’t try to work it or do anything with the feelings besides letting them happen, we see the difference in our child afterwards. We’ll see how they feel relaxed, how they feel calm, how they almost don’t remember what happened, and then we can offer them the snuggle or the water or something that they can receive that will help them feel supported instead of interfered with.
That’s the tough thing, because here’s our child on the surface saying, “Do this, do that,” and we have to be able to see beyond to what’s really happening. This is tough stuff. And children will tend to say those things that get to us. I’m not sure why that is, because I know it’s not conscious manipulation or anything like that, but they seem to know those soft spots in us, something that will maybe shake our belief in their right to release their tantrum and just let that be. It’s quite challenging, but this parent is already three quarters there, at least.
So then she says he would scream for his bunny, and then he would throw the bunny across the room. Yes, very clear. I’m in it. I’m flailing. I’m in the middle of this. I’m in the eye of the storm. Just stay clear of me and trust me. Let me feel this, let me get it out of my system.
She says, “I don’t like ignoring him. It doesn’t feel right when he is clearly in distress.” Yes, that’s the big challenge right there.
Our child seems in distress, and everything in us, most of us, will tell us that we need to make this better, we need to let him know that we love him, that we will try to fix it if we can. That’s what gets in our way, those wonderful loving intentions that we have. It’s so hard to see our children in distress and to trust that that’s a safe place for them to go and be.
But I would try to reframe what ignoring a child is in this situation. Trusting a child to move through those feelings themselves is far from ignoring. It’s actually one of the most loving acts between us, that we don’t judge, that we don’t fear, that we allow and we let go. We don’t try to fix it or change it or shorten it. We just let it be. That’s not ignoring. Ignoring would be turning away and blocking it out, and that’s not what I’m suggesting at all. I’m suggesting letting our shoulders drop, relaxing. If we do have to get up, we maybe say briefly to our child who probably can’t hear us anyway, “I’ll be right back. I’m going to the bathroom. I’m going to the stove,” and we do what we have to do.
She says, “Even patiently, sitting nearby is equally fraught with danger as he’ll tell me to go away or not sit there. I just can’t win.” This one gets kind of controversial, this part about when children tell us to go away. I hear a lot of people say that we should go away when a child says that, and what I’ve experienced and what I strongly believe is that we should not go away, especially with a child this age. Maybe with an older child, a six or seven. But I would see this as yet another expression, release, lashing out. “Go away!” is one of them, and in my view, it’s much more loving to be the big person there who doesn’t take that personally, doesn’t feel rejected, and doesn’t feel worried that my child really needs to be alone here. I would see through that as a child lashing out at me, just like when children hit in the middle of a tantrum or kick. It’s a feeling that our child has, and again, I think the most loving thing we can do is see that for what it is, to understand our child in that situation, and allow them to verbally lash out at me knowing that this really isn’t about me at all. It’s about my child who’s in the middle of some really uncomfortable feelings, and he will feel better when he gets to the end of them.
This parent says, “I can’t win.” I would let go of the fight or the game or whatever it is that she wants to win there, because I think that’s a sign that she’s invested, she’s engaged, she’s trying to make something happen even though she’s doing it in a very restrained manner. And when we are invested that way, there’s a much greater chance we are going to start to get triggered, get uncomfortable because we feel so out of control, we feel so powerless. That’s a scary place for us to go, and we can avoid that if we trust and let go, don’t try to work it, don’t even try to say anything, let it be.
She says, “I know it’s developmentally appropriate and so normal.” Yes it is. “I seem to fail each time it happens.” There’s no failing unless we’re trying to achieve something. Instead, be passive to these feelings. You’re not ignoring him.
She says, “I sit patiently, but when I feel like I’m losing my cool, this can be half an hour or more.” So patiently, again, means that she’s waiting. She’s maybe counting the minutes and I understand that, too. I do. These episodes can seem like they’re lasting for days and days on end, but if it’s a half an hour more, that would be an indication to me that my child isn’t feeling a clear space that’s open for him. He maybe feels my stress. He maybe feels me holding on to uncomfortable feelings myself. My child is feeling some pushback. He doesn’t feel entirely comfortable to let go. If we can do this, if we can do what I’m suggesting, it shouldn’t take that long.
It will feel, again, very, very long, but will probably not last more than 10 to 15 minutes and I hasten to even say that because I don’t want anyone to be looking at their watches. That’s just not going to help us.
If we feel like we’re losing our cool, yes, I would leave, but I wouldn’t tell him what to do. She says, “I tell him to relax.” I would actually want him to keep venting, knowing that that’s the way he will rebalance and feel better. So I would leave, just not even saying anything, just nodding your head and saying, “I will be right back,” and looking at him with empathy and welcoming him to feel what he feels. That openness, that trust.
She says, “Do I need to ride it out?” No. Get off whatever you’re riding and let him ride it out. Children don’t need us to ride with them, and riding with them again can lead us to losing our cool, and also make our child feel pressured or pushed back on when they need that space to be clear.
So don’t ride it out, and I wouldn’t ride out children’s feelings at all day-to-day. Their feelings will be a rollercoaster. Young children have intense feelings, and they’ll be joyful, they’ll be down, they’ll be scared, they’ll be happy. We won’t survive parenting in these early years if we ride these with them. We’ve got to trust them to do the ride, and we’re there for safety.
She said “it doesn’t happen often enough for her to be concerned about his development.” Great. “But it is intense at times.” Yes, young children are. That’s why toddlers tend to get such bad press. It’s an intense time of development, an emotionally volatile time. So I would like to reassure this mother and anyone else listening that feels like they’re failing, that this is how they develop emotional health and self-regulation… by learning through us that their feelings are normal, their feelings are okay, and they don’t need us to ride with them. They’ve got this.
She says, “I always err on the side of less is more, but maybe there’s something more I can be doing for him.”
I’m with her on erring on the side of less is more. Less doing, more trusting.
“Maybe there’s something more I can be doing for him apart from the obvious.” Nope. She said she’s been great at heading these tantrums off and being preventative, so she knows that part, and what I’m offering today is this other little piece of the puzzle that will complete it for her. It’s very freeing to trust.
So I really hope some of this helps.
Also, please check out some of my other podcasts on my website, janetlansbury.com. They’re all indexed by subject and categories, so you should be able to find whatever topic you’re interested in.
And both my books are available on audio, Elevating Child Care and No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame. You can get them for free from Audible by following the link in the liner notes of this podcast. Or, you can go to the Books section of my website. You can also get them in paperback at Amazon, and in eBook at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple.com.
Also my exclusive audio series Sessions. These are six individual recordings of consultations with parents discussing their specific parenting issues, and these are available by going to sessionsaudio.com. That’s sessions, plural, audio.com. You can read a description of each episode and order them individually, or get them all, about three hours of audio for just under $20. sessionsaudio.com.
Thanks for listening. We can do this.
Hi Janet, This podcast comes at a heavy-tantrum time for our family. My daughter is about to turn four and something’s going on for her. I’m curious about how we can be respectful of her process and the rest of our family (my husband, her 18 month old brother, and myself). Is it appropriate to move a child to her room for a tantrum? Do we need to sit with the child as this parent does, for the duration? And if so, how does that work when a tantrum comes at mealtime or in the mornings when we all have to get ready to go? I’m all for letting her get out her emotions and creating space for her to fully release them. However, what does that look like in the context of family life when there’s other things going on? Any help would be appreciated!
Hi Jen! As I mention (but only briefly) in this podcast, the key is to accept, allow, normalize, and let go of the tantrum. That doesn’t mean stopping everything and waiting as if this is a special or unnatural event. Alternatively, I would not isolate the child, because that also makes a big event of the feelings. If you need to move yourself to another room to do something, let you child know you hear and accept where’s she at, and that you’ll be back to check on her. If this as mealtime, I would let it go and continue your meal as best you can, keeping the bigger picture in mind… the message that it’s truly okay to feel whatever she feels. Her parents don’t get angry and the house doesn’t fall apart. I would also look at what this is: “something’s going on for her. So that you can understand better what she’s processing. That will make it easier for you be accepting and even empathetic.
Hi Jen! As I mention (but only briefly) in this podcast, the key is to accept, allow, normalize, and let go of the tantrum. That doesn’t mean stopping everything and waiting as if this is a special or unnatural event. Alternatively, I would not isolate the child, because that also makes a big event of the feelings. If you need to move yourself to another room to do something, let your child know you hear and accept where’s she at, and that you’ll be back to check on her. If this is at mealtime, I would let it go and continue your meal as best you can, keeping the bigger picture in mind… the overriding message that it’s truly okay to feel whatever she feels. Her parents don’t get angry and the house doesn’t fall apart. I would also look at what this might be: “something’s going on for her. So that you can understand better what she’s processing. That will make it easier for you be accepting and even empathetic.
Hi, Janet! I’ve recently discovered you and have been bingeing on all your archived content. Thank you for providing such valuable and clear information. Your work will have an eternal impact on our family, as what we learn and implement now will be handed down through generations.
Jen’s question is essentially mine, too. We have a 4-year-old, 2-year-old and 10-month-old. I can’t always have the iiiiiiintense screaming/wailing/gnashing of teeth happening on top of everything and everyone else. It doesn’t seem fair (or helpful for moods overall) to the others to have to endure one kid’s lashing out. I’m talking in the really disruptive, loud, prolonged instances, not the run of the mill feelings that pop up a hundred times a day that we just accept and roll with. For example, gigantic fits at bedtime I usually let go for a little bit with simple acknowledgement, empathy, and space. But there comes a point when I say, “I can see you don’t like X, and it’s OK to feel that way. But i won’t let you wake up your sister.” And then I’ll move the tantruming child to another room until she’s done or just sit and hug/rock her depending on the level of volatility. Could I handle it differently?
Any specific tips you can give here or in a future podcast on how to approach these types of things with 3 or more small ones at the same time would be so helpful.
We have this at bedtime sometimes too for the 2 & 4 yo that recently started sharing a room and keep/wake each other up. I’d love to hear more ideas on how to handle this!! Thanks!
Thanks for that. How do I handle my self-harming 4 year old during a situation like this? I want to give her the space she needs but that usually involves skin picking. I tell her during an episode like this that I can’t let her hurt her body and hold her hands but that makes her tantrum worse. Is this the right approach?
This is so true my 3 1/2 year old when going through his tantrums says “ your are not my friend “ I don’t even respond . Is that ok to do. I also have other 3 kids so when he is going through it I just don’t do nothing and I’m less than 5 min he is usually fine. So times it lasts longer but I guess I learn with my other 3 older ones nothing to do. I have. A fast question they say terrible 2’s but with my kids the 3’s have been the most challenging that’s normal correct ?
Hi Janet! I’m new to your blog, this is actually the first podcast I’ve listened to. My issue with my two year old is that his tantrums happen mostly when we’re getting him dressed for School in the morning. He refuses to wear a certain sweater or sneakers. Last week was pj day and my husband insisted that our son wear a Xmas pajamas that he didn’t want to wear. Liam has a favorite pj, and we’ve allowed him to wear this every night to bed, but we’ve also allowed him to pick and choose what he wants to wear during the weekends. That pj day, Liam threw a tantrum all the way to school. He would try to take his pj off with no avail. When I dropped him off, he kept crying until the teacher had to take the pj off and change him into his regular clothes. Yesterday it was with a sweater. I get agitated, but my husband usually spanks him, which I don’t support but feel I can’t stop him from
Doing. My son is also lagging in speech, he sings along to songs and will repeat gestures and words he hears on TV, and talk gibberish, but doesn’t really speak. It’s becoming frustrating and while your podcast gives great advise, how do I make him understand that we need to be able to dress him for school without him throwing a tantrum? Thank you!
Oh my goodness, reading that your husband hits a two year old was really confronting for me. I suggest that you listen to these podcasts together – spanking will have lifelong impacts on your child and his emotional development.
Hi there. I never comment on things. I also had a child with a speech delay. I also believe parent’s do well when they can. So, if your husband is spanking your speech delayed child (that is, a child with a lagging skill through no fault of his own and who is communicating the only way he knows how – but is being met with adult expectations that he is not capable of meeting at this time- and then being physically punished for not meeting that expectation) tells me your husband also has some lagging skills that he is taking out on your child. Which is not fair to your son at all – and (I’m sure you know) will not get you the result you’re looking for at best, at worst – it will erode the foundation for a trusting, safe, nurturing relationship with your son. There is so much research out there to show the short and long term negative impact of spanking on child development. There is nothing positive that comes from spanking. For the sake of your son, please get the support your family needs – there are amazing resources in most communities. Most states and counties have early intention services through a local regional center (for things like language delays), there is speech therapy, IEPs through the school district, family therapy, individual therapy, and parenting support groups. I know I have utilized most of them myself at different times in my parenting journey, to great benefit. It all may take a lot more investment than maybe you thought would be necessary at his age – consider though, the alternative in not investing the time now. This is more than a sweater issue, or getting ready for school issue. Kids do well when they can. Your son is doing the best he can.
Thanks so much for your website and podcast, both have helped me a lot. I’ve also read some of your books and one of Magda Gerber’s. This particular podcast was very useful for me, however, I would appreciate your thoughts on a slightly different context for these tantrums. My little boy is 22 months old. He doesn’t really throw tantrums during the day but he does experience night tantrums. Sometimes when he wakes at night (any time from 10pm onwards), he can wake and have one of these very intense tantrums, screaming hysterically, asking for everything but not really wanting it, etc. After reading this post I understand that I have been exacerbating the tantrums, which is probably why they have gone on for 2 hours on several occasions (e.g. today I am exhausted from one that happened last night). I have made the situation worse by buying in to his requests. So, when a night tantrum happens again (they are infrequent but traumatic enough to leave a lasting impression on me for days, let alone my little boy), I will do my best to follow your advice in this post – not buy in, trust him and allow him to ride it out (I appreciate these tips). One of my questions is, given this happens at night, what do I do about the light? He normally sleeps in the dark with no light. But, given you’ve said its best for the parent to stay nearby, is it useful to sit there in the dark? Do I speak occasionally so he knows I’m there, or say nothing? Do I leave the light on until he is finished? Last night I was beginning to lose my cool so I finally left and handed over to my husband, after being in my son’s bedroom for more than 1.5 hours (from 2am to 3:30am). My husband didn’t give the tantrum much time, he just checked on our toddler and then went back to bed (screaming still happening), and probably after 10 minutes or so the tantrum stopped (although by that point our little one was probably exhausted). So that does mean that, at night, we just go in, make sure there is nothing wrong (dirty nappy etc.), and assuming everything is fine, leave the room again in darkness? Or, alternatively, sit there in the dark and let him ride it out. Or sit there in the light? Any additional help that you can provide with this is very much appreciated. I haven’t otherwise been able to find much information about ‘night’ tantrums, but I do have one other friend who’s twins (2.5yrs) do the same thing (so it seems like it is a ‘thing’ that some of them do, I assume to work out day time stress). Thanks again, Michelle
Janet Lansbury I’d love to hear your opinion on this too please if you have time. Our 20month old has night tantrums too and they go on forever, and I worry he will hurt himself as he climbs out of the cot/if we have taken him out he throws himself about. I know we need to let the feelings happen, but is there a reason they are happening at night and should we be leaving him in his cot? Normally a very happy little boy in the day time. Thanks for your time and advice.
We’ve read and appreciate your podcasts and prefer them to other “parenting” advice. I care deeply about creating space for my son to feel all of his feelings. One sticky point for me though is while I trust my son’s ability to move through his emotions, I also am concerned that standing by neglects or overlooks his skill development. Should we not also offer tools (for him to choose and try out on his own) that help him learn strategies to navigate his emotions (deep breaths, drawing his feelings, going for a walk outside, etc.)? I’m concerned that giving him space to scream, throw his body around etc. teaches him to do this. His tantrums last upwards of an hour and begin seemingly from nowhere, though I am sure it is a real place for him. (We are not having another baby.) Letting him hash it out feels outright cruel by the end of it, especially when we put him to bed screaming. Help please!
Thanks for your kind support, Lauren! About your boy… what causes these meltdowns? Do you feel like you are normalizing these for yourself or are you remaining engaged and active in supporting him? The problem with the tools is that they give a message that is the opposite of acceptance.
Thanks for your kind support, Lauren! About your boy… what causes these meltdowns? Do you feel like you are normalizing these for yourself or are you remaining engaged and active in supporting him? The problem with the tools is that they can give a message that is the opposite of acceptance.
I appreciate your insight and the other parents contributing as well.
I am 100% in on the letting the child experience the “ride” of the emotions and me as a parent not participating in them.
My only concern is that my 21 month old son is sort of like the Tasmanian devil when he is tantrumming. And I worry greatly about his safety. Like running into things, banging his head again the wall and throwing his body around. He was experiencing one of these in a doctor’s office the other day and I felt torn between letting him have free reign over his body and holding him tightly to avoid any injury.
I took a bath toy away from him the other night and he threw himself into the lip of the bath tub resulting in an almost stitch-worthy cut on his chin.
I don’t want to underestimate my son’s strength but I also want to let him ride this out on his own without me getting involved and all of my energy and feelings around his tantrum and safety.
My 16 month old baby boy will tantrum so hard that he will sometimes hurt himself (bangs his head against the crib) or smacks his head. I try to let him ride it out but obviously don’t want to see him hurt himself. What do you suggest? I’m trying to make him stay in his crib because his tantrum is about going to bed.
I really don’t mean this in a snarky way, but this was much more useful to me than a lot of other responses I’ve seen. It is broken down in such a helpful way. I’ve also struggled with this exact thing. Any word, eye contact or touch from me during my 2 year old’s tantrums is gasoline on the fire. I usually just sit quietly with her, my eyes down. And that feels crazy, I won’t lie! I question myself in those moments. She is very interior and has this beautiful, complex inner emotional life. I see a lot of her processing of hurt and frustration has mostly happened pretty subtly in her life up until now. And now we’re getting hour long screaming, flailing, hitting tantrums! Part of me is like heck yeah, girl, get it out! But I do sometimes wonder if there is a need I’m not meeting in those moments. As you describe, afterwards she is intensely loving (sometimes it borders on cloying and I worry then too that she feels like she needs to earn my affection back or something).
It is all so hard! Such an easy concept in theory but so difficult to apply.
I keep coming back to this advice as we are going through some very intense, screaming and long tantrums with our 3.5 year old. We are expecting another baby in a few weeks and he somewhat knows the drill from having a 2 year old brother (which may be the cause of his anxiety and stress right now). I’ve been giving him space and time to tantrum but his screaming and yelling of demands is so loud I often need to bring him inside to not disturb neighbors, especially since these can go on for over 30 minutes. He also kicks doors and throws things which I tell him I can’t let him do. My only solution has been to restrain him which then results in him trying to pinch, bite, or hit me, which is becoming more difficult as I’m reaching the end of my pregnancy. I appreciate your wisdoms and so hope we can help my emotional guy as we navigate the addition of another child.
thank you for being The Bomb dot com. You’ve helped us so much.
Aww, thank you, Lizz! It’s my pleasure!
Hi Janet, thanks so much for this article: my 2.10 year old has frequent melt downs, anywhere 4-10 times a day I’d say. They are long and intense. She can be so happy and then somebody touches her shoe, or we have run out of toothpaste and then there’s the longest melt down with so much shrieking. I feel like part of it is there’s no nursery currently, maybe another emotional reaction to her 6 month old sister who she’s so lovely with, and she has asthma which always is a trigger for her emotionally though the doctors say there’s no connection.
I feel concerned because she tires her body out so much with these big feelings. With the asthma combined she ends up coughing intensely. I observe and empathise. I sit by her and wait. I try my best to be with her and patient but it’s also hard when the shrieking causes the baby to cry, then I have to pick the baby up and that takes some of her focus away. I have time just the two of us daily and when I can see the reaction is connected to her sister I verbalise it as per your sibling blog post.
In the blog you said it’s developmentally normal, does this amount sound normal? At day care they told me one of her goals is self regulation which is really uncomfortable for me, I feel like a 2.5 year old shouldn’t be ‘taught’ to self regulate. Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for this? I rely so much in parenting on the insight that I have learnt from you and your posts.
Thanks so so much
Your podcasts are saving me right now! To keep it brief, what might I do when my almost 16mo old is hitting me during a tantrum?
Thanks in advance,
Tips on what to do when these intense tantrums include grabbing and throwing anything in sight? I feel like I can’t be the observer when there are cars whizzing through the air; that I have to somewhat control what is happening – helping to keep him safe and the house from damage. Any tips? What do other do? We had one of these episodes this morning and I felt like I was trying to control the situation too much, but there is no space without SOMETHING to throw.
Does this strategy change at all at an older age? Would you let a 7 year old have a tantrum like that? It seems to me like at some point we have to teach them that is not the appropriate way to deal with emotions. Developmentally makes sense for a 2 or 3 year old but at some age shouldn’t they develop better coping mechanisms? I’m thinking in terms of another recent post where you mentioned you wouldn’t let a child bully another. We don’t let our child do certain behaviors unchecked because society deems it inappropriate or unkind so how does this compare to that approach?
But how do you sit with a screaming and yelling child (in which always lays a full hour) when you have a 6mo baby who is in the other room crying because the yelling woke him? If I bring the baby into the room to hold while I sit with the yelling toddler, that scares the baby! Please help! I feel like I’m supposed to sit with my toddler but I can’t be in two places at once.
“Rebalancing episodes” is officially my new term for toddler tantrums. It’s amazing how small changes in perspective can help me so much in these situations.
Hi Janet, thank you so much for your amazing work and for sharing your knowledge. It really does make parenting easier.
I’ve recently been told by a health professional that when my 3 year old is having a tantrum, I should seat behind him and hold him firmly in silence (not aggressively of course, just firmly enough to keep him seating down) until he has shown signs of calming down. I was told that this helps them regulate their emotions and shows them that they’re supported. I tried this a couple of times, but it seems that whenever I do that he gets even more fired up and cries asking me to let him go, as you can imagine hold a toddler mid tantrum whilst trying not to hurt them is very challenging. I eventually do let him go and the tantrum does stop right after and he calms down a few minutes later, but I feel really bad and wonder if this is the right thing to do. It does’t sound/feel right and I fear it will subconsciously leave him claustrophobic or be afraid of expressing himself in front of me. Would really truly appreciate to hear your thoughts on this. Many thanks, Sofia