Perhaps the worst thing about the “terrible twos” isn’t a toddler’s never-ending declaration of “NO!” or his newfound habit of screeching at random times, or lashing out and hitting or biting a peer at the park.
No, most parents would probably say the worst thing about the toddler years are the tantrums. Toddlers are famous for these tear-filled, shouting, body-writhing outbursts that evoke raised eyebrows and head shaking in the grocery store, and crippling embarrassment in a parent.
Parenting experts will tell you to remove a child having a tantrum from a situation or public surroundings as soon as possible, and then sit and hold him or her, talking soothingly until the tantrum subsides.
But how do you head these explosions off in the first place? The key is to know and watch for tantrum triggers and employ these tactics:
• Make sure your little one has had enough to eat and enough rest. The lack of either can set the stage for a monster tantrum. If you see your child becoming crankier, tearing up more or rubbing her eyes frequently and just looking fatigued, it’s time to head home (or to the crib, if you’re already there).
• If your child is ill, even with just a cold, keep his activities to a minimum. Don’t go out on ambitious outings; stay close to home and follow a calmer routine – again, allowing for plenty of rest, food, fluids and snuggle time.
• Stick to daily routines and schedules as much as possible. If you’re visiting a relative or friend, or you have visitors in your own home, this disruption can stress a toddler and prompt a tantrum. Keep nap, snack and meal times intact. If you usually have reading time or lap time with your child, keep to that schedule as well.
• Distract, distract, distract. If you sense a tantrum coming, try to engage your child in something else: "Look at that big truck going by!" or "Let’s make some music with spoons and bowls." Pull out a book, head off on a short nature walk ("let’s go find some cool bugs and leaves!"), or give her a gentle hug and tell her how much you love her.
Related: More Tips on Taming Toddler Tantrums
Deirdre Wilson is senior editor at Dominion Parenting Media.