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Toddler temper tantrums: How I learned to stay stress free

Picture the scene, it’s a beautiful day, you’re at your favourite restaurant about to sit down to a fabulous Sunday lunch, when suddenly all hell breaks loose.

How many times have your meals out been ruined by a toddler tantrum?

I had my first experience of the ‘terrible twos’ one beautiful Sunday afternoon. We had attended our favourite family restaurant for Sunday lunch. My daughter, Tilly, was sitting between us in her high chair. The menu looked mouth-watering and everything was dandy. Then suddenly the crystal clear wine glasses began to vibrate over the crisp white table linen and knives and forks started to shake. At first I thought it was an earthquake. But it was far worst. Tilly was having a tantrum.


[Related: 
How I help my two year old get over shyness]

With her tiny little feet she kicked the table from underneath. She then tried to break free from her chair. Then came the screaming, causing all eyes to turn on us. “I want daddy” she screamed. Thinking this would calm her, I took her out of the chair and handed her to daddy. The wailing stopped for exactly six seconds before she once again tried to break free. “I want to get down,” she wailed. Threats like “If you don’t behave we’re going home” fell on deaf ears. By now the tantrum was in full swing.

We were attracting more attention than Joan Collins. I couldn’t understand it. She wasn’t even two. It wasn’t fair. I felt cheated. My daughter was only 22 months. Had she begun the terrible twos early, like some kind of early menopause syndrome?

A bemused waiter came to take our order. “What would you like?” he asked. “Just our coats,” I replied. Yes, it was time to leave.

We suffered the terrible twos for quite some time. My daughter did not mind where she had a tantrum. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it.

Rather than let it spoil our time, I thought up different ways to deal with the situation so that when a tantrum struck, I was armed and ready. I even gave it a name: ‘Tantrum Tamer’. It worked most of the time, which was definitely better than none of the time. More importantly – it got us through. Here’s how I coped.


[Related: 
How to switch off the waterworks]

Whenever a tantrum struck I would go through a series of five stages with my daughter:

Physical contact and understand helps with toddler tantrums

1. Even if my daughter was screaming at the top of her voice and showing no signs of listening, I would get down to her level so we were face to face. I would explain in a low calm voice that I understood that she was feeling upset. I would then say that if we both took a deep breath together we would start to feel better.

2. I soon discovered that if I made things more child friendly and more like a game, I got better results. Hence the name ‘Tantrum Tamer’. I would say to my daughter, “Shall we try the Tantrum Tamer?” This consisted of a series of actions, starting with a hug. For me this was twofold. If she was totally running wild I could restrain her. Secondly, children quite often respond to touch.

Next we would breathe deeply. I would ask my daughter to take a deep breath in and then blow out with puffy cheek at least twice. It usually calmed me down, too. I would then tell my daughter the lovely warm feeling in her tummy was the Tantrum Tamer working. It would take a little time but would definitely work faster if sheHow to amuse toddlers in the car sat quietly.


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3. I would not only talk calmly to my daughter, but physically look and act calm so that she could see The Tamer was beginning to work. I would smile widely, and say things like “I feel so happy” or “I’m ready for a nice nap”. Anything my daughter would respond to.

4. If all of the above failed, I felt it was time for more drastic measures such as taking away a treat. I would say that she would not be able to go to the park until she was better behaved. If you decide to try this, you need to use your judgement on what penalty will work best for you and your child at that moment. The thing to remember is that this is the last warning.

5. Stick to your guns. If things are not better at this stage then you must carry out the penalty. Don’t be hoodwinked into giving another chance because this will only come back to bite you next time.

For me the terrible twos were a huge learning curve. Although I feel grateful for the experience, I have to admit that now that it’s over, I can breathe a sigh of relief – at least until the teenage years!

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