The ‘terrible twos’ won't be totally terrible, but you will become familiar with tantrums. Tantrums aren't a reflection on you as a parent; all toddlers have them. Building strategies for responding to tantrums and working as a team with your toddler can help resolve the issue at hand.
Acknowledge your toddler's reality
Toddlers are still learning the way of the world. Children's brains are still developing; skills like rational thinking and bargaining need to be learned and practiced. Keep in mind when your little one is having a big fit, they are probably confused, upset, or dealing with some feeling they don’t yet have the emotional resources to manage. Your toddler's tantrum is not malicious or personal.
See things from the perspective of a child, rather than an adult. Acknowledge your child's feelings within the realm of how they see things. Practice active listening and try to initiate discussion rather than argument or punishment. This might sound like:
'I know you want to see grandma right now. I'm also looking forward to seeing grandma. It's late, and grandma is sleeping, but in the morning let's give her a call and organize a time to visit. How does that sound?'
Notice how this phrase tells distressed toddlers that their feelings are valid and although they can't get their way right now, you will compromise to find something suitable. This positive framing of the situation will likely get better results than a more negative-sounding phrase such as 'Stop crying. We can't go see grandma.'
Prevention over treatment
Tantrums are likely to happen when your toddler is feeling tired, stressed, hungry or confused. Be attentive to your child's cues and recognize when your toddler may need a nap and a snack before you go run errands, rather than halfway through a lolly-aisle meltdown.
Preparing your toddler's expectations might prevent a nasty shock later on. Explaining 'We're going to the store for dinner ingredients, but today is not a lolly-aisle day' could prevent disappointment. A heads-up before changing activities is always a good idea. Saying 'We're leaving here in 5 minutes so please find your shoes' or 'Dinner is almost ready so please finish your game and wash your hands, can give your toddler more time to adjust and go with the flow. Remember to be a role model for good manners when asking your child to do something.
Some tantrums are a way to get attention, good or bad. Even negative attention, such as shouting at your screaming toddler, might reinforce their behavior. It's important to keep calm when talking to a toddler throwing a tantrum. A sense of humor also goes a long way, but be mindful not to laugh at your upset little one.
Keep your approach consistent. Standing your ground this time, but giving in next time, will send mixed messages about what is appropriate behavior. Throughout a tantrum try repeating a statement such as ‘That's not happening right now, I'm sorry.
You know your child best! Keep in mind your toddler will not grow up to resent you because of the ice-cream denial of 2019. Use your best judgment to make the choice that is best for your child (which is often not what they want at the time).
Toddlers are discovering their independence. Encourage this by involving them in as many decisions as you can, but keep the options narrowed to things you find acceptable. For example, rather than 'What would you like for dinner?' ask 'Would you like soup, or pasta for dinner?'
The whole family is on a learning curve as your child hits new developmental stages. Toddlers are still learning language and self-expression. Be their teammate and work together to understand why they are struggling. Teach them 'feelings words' so they know how to tell you what they're experiencing. Give your little one lots of opportunities to ask questions or tell you what they're thinking.
Some parents find 'making deals' helpful. This process includes the toddler in the resolution. Maybe you can't go to the park now, but if your toddler brushes their teeth and gets in pajamas, you'll do something nice afterward like read an extra story or facetime grandpa – allow your toddler to choose their reward.
Sometimes you will need to put your foot down. Some situations call for a 'no' rather than a 'no, but.' Use your discretion here and recognize when your little one needs more discipline. 'Time outs' or confiscating screen time could help get the message across. Make sure to explain why this is happening, and talk about a better way to behave next time.
Hug it out
Once the tears have stopped and the foot is no longer stomping, indicate that it’s time to move on. A hug can signify that the tantrum is over now and you still love each other. Use this time to have a calm chat with your little one about what made them feel that way and how their reaction could have been better.