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52 Comments

  1. Christine Bacas Tutor says:

    Wow, you get props for the title alone on this piece! LOL! Love these suggestions, as I think my way of handling tantrums might be a parent fail. :-( Typically, I resort to bribery. I’m not proud of it, but what would you do at the grocery store with THREE kids? Granted, my son is 11, but sometimes he doesn’t act his age. Some bribery ideas (not that you need it with all the helpful suggestions you listed): dark chocolate square, extra 15 minutes on the Xbox, a Littlest Pet Shop toy (you can buy a cheap-o one for, like, 2 bucks). The missing key in my bribery is talking about it afterward. That seems like a no brainer, but I tend to be out of sight, out of mind. As long as we’re passed the situation, I just want to move on (and sure enough, it happens again!). Thank you for the tips, Kelly!

    1. Oh, no judgment at all, mama! Goodness knows I’m no whiz at handling tantrums. I love the idea of using those little chocolate squares for good and not evil. Evil being that I usually grab a handful at the checkout lane and stuff them in my face surreptitiously when Abby’s not looking.

      1. Jennifer Begley says:

        I am the queen of shoving something I don’t want to share with my boys into my mouth when they aren’t looking… I’m not ashamed, I share 95% of my life with these guys, wanting and getting something small for yourself is not a crime here!

        1. You’re right, Jennifer! I always feel sneaky when I do it but I should own it. :-) We deserve a treat!

    2. Lori Jensen says:

      First I didn’t know what Terrible Twos meant but I found out with my 2 boys.. It was a difficult time for us, not really knowing what to do.. Luckily I read an article on a blog tantrumshelp.info and tried the method they talked about. Wow, that really opened our eyes. It worked and our boys behave now. Can really recommend it!!

  2. I asked my mum one day how she handled my tantrums as a wee one, and she told me I’d only ever had one and I’d learned right away never to have another. I started a screaming fit in a grocery store about something and mum calmly dropped my hand and kept walking until she could see me but I couldn’t see her anymore. As soon as I realized she was missing I starting panicing and she called me back to her. Probably not a good idea in a day and age where a mother can get arrested for child abandonment for leaving her kid in the car while she walks to the mail box, but certainly proof that #7 has it’s merits.

    1. Justine, thank you for sharing your experience. I have memories as a kid of that “oh crap” feeling you get when you realize your mom is nowhere nearby. Certainly gets your attention, doesn’t it? :-)

  3. Margaret Novak says:

    I was in the store one day with my son, and I always warn him that if he runs off or grabs stuff of the shelves he will have to sit in the cart (a form of time out). And he ran off (had to chase him through half the store), so I made him sit and I could just feel the eyes on me as he SCREAMED and cried (my son is really loud, you have no idea). The one thing that got me through it was this older woman who came up and told me she was proud of me for standing my ground. I really needed to hear that I wasn’t a horrible mother, and I was doing the right thing. He’s slowly been getting better about sticking by me in the store, but we still have a ways to go. It’s a learning process for both of us. I’ll keep these tips in mind.

    1. Margaret, oh my goodness my cheeks flushed just reading your comment and thinking of being in that situation myself. Good on you for keeping your cool! And yes, I totally agree it is a learning process. You’d think having done the research for this post and written it all out, it would “stick” with me better. Not so much. :-)

    2. I would say if he is old enough to walk with you I would tell him as soon as you get to the store that if you want to walk with mommy then you need to hold my hand or hold the buggy and if you can’t do that you will sit in the buggy. I have and almost 3 year old and an almost 2 year old and that’s what I do with both of mine and it works most of the time. It makes them feel like they are big because they are walking but it also gives them boundaries to stay with me. And if they let go of the buggy I make them sit in the cart till they can listen.

      1. Dani, thank you for sharing what works for you!

  4. My daughter is also older at 9 but when she was shifting from toddler to kid we started working on money management because it has not always been OUR best strength :-) our trick was to have an allowance that she got that was spent any way she wanted. I always made sure she had it in cash and in her hand when we went to Walmart and when she spotted something I would always say “Is that what you want to spend your money on?” She never wanted to part with HER money! The hardest part was not trying to talk her out of stuff. And if she didn’t have enough I could say “hold on to your money this week and next week you will have enough and if you still want it we’ll come back” its not perfect but it cut down whining bunches and I felt like I was teaching her some skills in money management too!

    1. Cate, that is BRILLIANT. I will definitely be trying that out! I’ve been wanting to do some research on money management because I feel like that’s something I never learned as a kid either, so thank you for the reminder. :-)

  5. Thanks for the post. With three kids (my oldest is 4), I can always use more help with handling their breakdowns & calming my own. And while I’m not ninja bad-ass at handling them always, I have been working on my Buddhist cool-mom control. I ask myself (in my head), “What does this situation require of me?” And as it turns out, I usually have a good idea of what is needed & it isn’t me freaking out.

    1. ATD, I love that question you ask of yourself. I may try it out myself. :-) And you are so right – as mamas we have great instincts about what the situation needs from us. We just need to trust ourselves more often!

  6. My son is now 22 and I can now look back and I honestly miss being a parent of a small child. Jake loved matchbox cars and since they were only a dollar, it was not a big deal…until he began to enjoy $6.00 wrestlers more than the cars! New plan was needed. I tried to be mindful that he was always fed and not sleepy when we shopped. Which was not always the most convenient times for me, but I did know our experience would be better. But I had to undo my “gift” a trip theme. We talked and I would remind him before we went in the store, that this time we were on a growing trip. This meant that I would not be buying a toy, since I knew he was getting so big, he could make the trip and be able to show everyone how good he was without getting a toy. I would brag and brag on him, telling him that people were noticing how good he was doing at being a big boy. As long as I told him before we went on the trip and entered the store, he really never had a problem. Just a couple of “thumbs up” were needed to keep him smiling. Of course, some trips could still be a gift trip, but it really wasn’t required. They really just need you or your attention and time more than any gift or treat. “This too shall pass” is so true and then you will miss these special times of growing. I know I do.

    1. Nancy, thank you for sharing your perspective. I love the idea of a gift trip vs. a growing trip! It’s all about giving kids the space and opportunity to learn these life skills, you know? And thank you especially for the reminder to enjoy this time when our little ones are so well, little. :-)

  7. I think validating their emotions is one of the best things we can do. I mean it’s not like us adults always hold our cool so why should we expect our little ones to? I love this post and I feel as if I can handle errands with my little one now armed with options!

    1. Heather, I’m so glad to hear that this post gave you some ideas you can use! You are so right that validating their emotions is essential. It’s so tempting to say things like “that’s no reason to cry” or “it’s not a big deal,” but to them it IS a big deal! Please do report back if you get any new ideas of what works from the “trenches.” :-)

  8. we talk, talk talk talk talk. My 3 year old is always assured that is ok to be mad/sad/tired/grumpy (and he knows mom had those same feelings) but he has better “choices” as to how he expresses his feelings. yelling is “not ok” not a “good choice” he is often told that when he is done throwing a fit, we will then talk about it. i always stop and let his feelings be expressed in the moment, the check out lady can wait while i tell him i am going to pay then we will talk. we even have a song we sing “mommy loves her baby when he’s mad/sad/happy”

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I just love the song you sing together. What a great way to validate his emotions.

  9. My son would probably throw the calm down jar. :(

    1. Suzanne, I haven’t gotten around to making our own calm-down jar, so I can’t speak from first-hand experience. But if you like the idea, maybe a small plastic jar might work and withstand any outbursts of anger?

      That said, every trick in this list won’t work for every kid…the little stinkers are all so different! With our second baby, it’s been like learning how to be a parent all over again. :-)

      I came across this blog post recently and thought I’d share it in case it has some useful take-aways for you…

      15+ Sure-Fire Tips for Calming an Angry Child
      http://lemonlimeadventures.com/tips-calming-angry-child-explosive/

      1. I have actually been surprised that my 5 yo hasn’t thrown ours. I made it out of a plastic water bottle instead of a jar just in case. He only uses it sporadically and sometimes will get it down when he’s not upset. Honestly, I think it calms me down to look at it even if he doesn’t always pay attention!

        1. Emily, that’s great to hear that your son hasn’t thrown the calm-down jar! Thank you for sharing your experience. :-)

  10. One trick that always worked for me at the grocery store? If they asked for something, I’d say, “Umm, let me check my list…nope, its not on my list. Sorry, we can’t get it.” Simple but always worked with my kids. They knew I never went anywhere without a list!

    1. Heidi, I love the simplicity of that trick! I’m also LOST without my list, so I bet that would totally work with Abby too. She’s very familiar with the fact that I check the list about 27 times each grocery store trip. :-)

  11. blithespirit says:

    This is more about keeping your child from getting into trouble before the fit happens. I would always let my boys “touch” what they wanted to but with this stipulation, ONLY GENTLY AND ONLY WITH ONE FINGER! Worked every time.

    1. That is so simple it’s brilliant! And you’re so right that’s it’s all about prevention, prevention, prevention. Thank you for taking the time to share your “and only with one finger” trick!

  12. So what do you do when your child is only 14 months old but is already throwing fits (probably due to not taking naps)?!?!

  13. these are great but one word always worked for us…reinforce. pick how you’re going to handle the situation and do it everytime. when the kids were a bit bigger we had the rule that bad behavior means we go home after one warning. we used to choose times and places (yes, set them up) and then followed through so that when we were somewhere we really wanted to stay, they behaved.

  14. Laura Weldon says:

    I pretty much can’t help myself, your posts are so damn useful I have to share every one.

  15. I want to THANK YOU for an amazing, inspiring post!! I have it bookmarked and now that I have read it for the 3rd time, I figured it’s time to share with you how awesome this post is! I do tons of research on spirited children, meltdowns, etc (not as a pro, just as a parent of 2 intense, energetic, determined kiddos who are “more” of everything than the average kid ;)). This tantrum advice is SPOT ON- truly combines the best advice I’ve read across the board, and delivers it in a perfect format. Thank you for the work you do- and for inspiring me to be a ninja badass mom! I may not always succeed, but even just the idea of being able to call myself a ninja badass afterwards helps to calm ME so I can give my kiddos what they need. Seriously- your post is pure gold!

  16. Wow! These are great ideas, lots I have never even heard of. We must set boundaries with love and balance.

  17. I totally agree with these suggestions. I have a tantrum-prone 3.5 year old and would only add that if you can find a way to use humor, that goes a long way toward short-circuiting some tantrums.

  18. Like us, kids also need to get their anger out and as a parent, you need to ensure that they vent in a non destructive way. The next time your child is crying or whining, get them engaged in something interesting so he or she completely forgets about the meltdown. Interestingly, kids have pretty short attention spans and their minds are easiest to divert. So the next time your child wants to buy every toy at the supermarket and become a ticking time bomb, try something to quickly switch gears and say “hey, can you help me pick a flavor for ice cream?”

  19. Jillian Woelfle-Olson says:

    This is LITERALLY the most helpful article I’ve read on Tantrums. It’s so relatable and conscientious! I shared this with my husband immediately because he gets angry with our daughter and it makes it worse. I heard from others to ignore, and especially since I was a child of physical abuse, I did not want to be like my parent– so ignoring seemed logical. Thank you so much for this article, I can’t tell you enough how appreciative I am. Being a parent is hard, especially if you didn’t have a great example growing up– it’s nice to hear others struggle and to have a reference point.

    1. Jillian, I’m so glad to hear this resonated with you! Tantrums are such a struggle, even now on my third kiddo with lots of practice, ha! Hopefully these tips will help you and your husband in the future. <3

  20. I enjoyed reading your blog so much this morning. Great, thoughtful and honest advice. Thank you for sharing!

  21. One thing I’ve found helpful is to smile when my girl is “starting” to get irritated. Sometimes we can avoid a tantrum. Don’t underestimate how
    your mood can affect your child. As we age, we can get an angry resting face so watch out for the unintended grumpies.

  22. My kids are a year apart at two and three years old. Both girls. My three year old has been really easy and doesn’t tantrum often. Usually, just at nap and bed time and nothing makes her stop except actually falling asleep. My two-year-old’s tantrums, though seem to involve me and anytime I leave the room. Staying in her sight only makes it worse. How do you handle a tantrum when what she wants is YOU and your attention. Exclusively. It makes getting anything done while she’s awake hard. I usually grit my teeth and ignore her tantrum while I try to get done whatever it is I’m trying to do. If I stop and give her the attention she wants it just makes the tantrum ten times worse when I put her down. I’m at a loss at what to do.

    1. I’m in the same boat right now, my one year old boy suddenly found out he can throw a tantrum, and all he wants is to be held most of the time! I can’t even do a 5 minute task around the house without him fighting for my full attention… what is the trick? I already give him 100 percent the rest of the time… sometimes he throws a fit just because I give him a kiss, so I’m really confused by his tantrums lol…

  23. These are great tips. When my child throws a tantrum in the grocery store I remain calm and continue my shopping. The tantrum usually stop within a minute or two. Lately we were getting tantrums about wanting sweets. We stuck to our rules that he needed to eat all of his lunch or dinner before he got a sweet. The next day he ate all of his food with no fight.

  24. I like the suggestions, but this works when you can get the kid to at least listen. Since our second one arrived I feel like our 3+ just loves to scream and cry till he goes breathless ( should add he’s has a case of asthma that doc says he’ll outgrow soon). Most times standing in a quiet corner and talking to him works but sometimes he just doesn’t want to try any of calming techniques, those times I feel like ignoring him is the only thing that gets him to calm down in a few mins (feels like the longest few mins of the day)

  25. I loved this article. It sure does open our eyes towards the possibilities of handling tantrums in a better manner. I find the biggest issue- is to keep calm and stand firm in front of the baby. And if this happens in a public place, it is all more the worse!

  26. The minefield can be one over with understanding and acceptance of reality and feelings. Sometimes I think I’m being too real about life, and the cost of living, and the importance of accepting feelings and only getting what we need when we go shopping. It’s boring. And shouldn’t be the concern of a child but funnily enough they do seem to understand the complexities of advertising. And having a list is a great idea! Great blog. Thanks for sharing.

  27. I love all of these tips! I quickly realized that I needed to loosen the reins. And in doing so, we averted tantrums. And securing your oxygen mask – genius!

    Thanks for sharing these.

  28. Mary Stiles says:

    You say, don’t give in”, what do you suggest to do when your child’s wants something they can’t have that’s not in any way harmful to them? Ex: candy bar for a one year old.

  29. We had our first real in-store tantrum last week. After several warnings I left my cart and we went outside until he calmed down and then came back in and he wanted to be held the whole time, sigh. He’s 33lbs. Haha. It’s a small grocery store and the whole time I was thinking about how everybody was judging what I did or didn’t do with him, which is tough. So I should just stay and let him have it out? I have a co worker who always tells me I need to beat him with a wooden spoon. I’m like uhhhh. He’s my first one so I feel like I’m really fumbling through this parenting thing at the moment. Timeouts seem to be better than spankings for him, and he is great for the babysitter, just not for Mom and Dad of course.

  30. This post is full of helpful information! My daughter is 16 Months and the tamtrums just came out of nowhere, I feel less stressed and more prepared for the next tantrum after reading this. Thank you!