There is 1 small shift I have found helps parents confidently respond to toddler tantrums. Parents who don’t know this tip are often unsure what to do in the face of a toddler tantrum. They ask, “How do I know that I’m doing the right thing when I’m disciplining my toddler. Especially when they’re having a tantrum, how do I respond?”
Everyone’s watching. It’s embarrassing and overwhelming
So the key factor here, number one tip is that it’s not your job to fix, it is your job to support. And I’m going to explain what I mean about that. This makes a dramatic difference. Before I had the ability to embody this philosophy and mindset, I was super overwhelmed when a tantrum would happen. Especially because it seems tantrums usually happen in the middle of the library, when you’re around your in-laws, or when you’re checking out at the grocery store. Everyone seems to be watching and it’s embarrassing and overwhelming. Like, “Oh, I don’t know if I’m responding to this right.” I would panic because I didn’t have a solid plan. And without that solid plan, I felt overwhelmed. I also would question myself, wondering if my young child’s giant reaction meant I was doing something wrong.
Now, I have the key to staying confident, calm and patient
Now that I have realized and solidly know that it’s not my job to fix, it’s my job to support, it is a game-changer! It is the key to staying confident, calm and patient when my child is having a tantrum. Remember, tantrums are totally normal and to be expected. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with your kid. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you as a parent. Totally normal. They are your child’s way of showing dissent or that they are displeased with what’s going on.
It’s not my job to fix, it’s my job to support
When young children (especially age 1-4) have a tantrum, they don’t have the words or the emotional maturity to be able to tell you, “Mother, I am very frustrated that we have to leave the park right now and I really would have rather stayed longer to hang out with my friends.” They don’t have the words for that. They don’t have the understanding of themselves. So what do they do? They just show it in their bodies like. That is how they communicate. Behavior is communication. Always, behavior for a child is a form of their communication. So what are they communicating? They’re just communicating descent. They are telling you they are not happy with the boundary you have set. That’s okay.
Behavior is communication
So back to the key, it’s not your job to fix, it’s your job to support. Let’s say my kid starts to throw a tantrum because they were throwing sand at the sandbox at a park and I say, “We do not throw sand at a park.” And he continues to do it. I say, “Oh, we’re going to have to leave,” and he starts to throw a tantrum. What is that tantrum about? His behavior is just telling me the feeling that he is frustrated that we have to leave. He doesn’t like having that limit be set in his life. Okay, so I know it’s not my job to fix his upset about that, it’s my job just to support him. I know I’m doing the right thing by saying, “We’re going to leave the park.” I can focus on having a boundary with the behavior and supporting the emotion.
Knowing it’s not my job to fix, stay confident and calm. I know it is okay for him to have that emotion and I can support him in the emotion. You set limits on behavior, but support the emotion. The words I use to do that are things like,
- “Oh, buddy, you are so frustrated. I understand why you’d be frustrated. It is hard to have to have a consequence when we’ve made a sad choice.” instead of “Quit kicking and screaming. You made this decision yourself and you need to deal with it.” You know, I can set the limit and still support the emotion. It’s not my job to fix the emotion or make him stop having a certail feeling. All feelings are allowed. Certain actions must be limited.
Example: Leaving Music Class
Also, maybe it’s leaving music class. I had a situation I remember with my son when he was about two and we were leaving music class that he had so much fun with. And it was I was trying to get him into the car seat, and I just got the hip thrust out of the seat, like, “You’re not putting me in here. I’m not leaving.” And it was a perfect moment to practice that it’s not my job to fix. I’m not going to like take him back into the music class and magically have it continue. I can just keep the boundary. “We are leaving. We got to get home. We’re having dinner with daddy. I need to go home. And I see that you’re upset and frustrated. It’s so hard to leave a place that you’ve been having so much fun.” That’s how you focus on not my job to fix, it’s my job to support.
Example: Wanting your attention while you make dinner
Lastly, maybe it’s about wanting you while you are making dinner. And they’re pulling at your leg and wanting you to spend time with them. And you just don’t have the time to be able to spend with them. Again, it’s okay to just stand confidently and it’s not my job to fix. I can just support and say, “Oh, it’s hard to be patient and wait until mommy’s available, isn’t it?” and continue making dinner.
I’ve had times I let my kids totally sob on the floor next to me while I just step over them and continue making dinner. I do this because I know it helps the long-term goal of building grit and resilience. It’s important to me to not rescue them from their feelings, because I want them to grown the emotion muscles to be able to cope with life. When I know it’s not my job to fix, it’s just my job to support, I can say:
- “You’re having a hard feeling. And I know that you can handle that big feeling. I will help you handle that. (but I won’t rescue you from it).” I might pause at certain moments and kind of rub his back or pause to give a hug, then I can go back to, “I know this is hard and you are allowed to be mad/frustrated about this as long as you need to.”
What stands out to you? Want to learn and grow more as a parent?
I’m excited to hear how this is for you. Comment below what really stood out to you in this. What was an “aha!” moment in what you’ve read? Type it down below to solidify it in your thinking and for other moms and dads that are reading this.
Lastly, if you would like to progress in your parenting, reach out to me in the comments or join my parenting group: Sustainable Parenting. It’s a place where you will find support and strategies for parenting with more ease and joy each day – all while knowing you are being kind and firm, and growing the skills in your child they will need to be a successful adult.