Toddler tantrums are inevitable. I have talked about this before.
And there are lot of strategies out there on how to handle tantrums, but did you know that there are different stages to a toddler's tantrum and not every strategy works at every stage?
In today's blog, I'll break down each stage of a toddler tantrum and what you should do at each stage. You'll be on your way to calmly handling any toddler tantrum even when they pitch a fit for wanting to eat with the green plate instead of the red plate even though at first you did give them the green plate, but they said they wanted the red plate.
Stages of a Tantrum
Like any good book, a toddler's tantrum follows the same elements of a plot.
First, we have the BEGINNING or EXPOSITION. This is when the reason for the tantrum is introduced. Now, sometimes the tantrum can end before it even started.
Maybe on this particular day they are able to handle it. Maybe you prepped for this kind of thing, and your toddler takes it in stride. That's great! Although this tantrum would make for a very short and boring story, we are thrilled as parents that a toddler was able to happily and healthily move on.
Second, we have the RISING ACTION. The reason for the tantrum is introduced and now our toddler is starting to process what just happened. There might be some reasoning, begging, whining, pouting, stomping, crying, but it isn't all out, although it is ramping up to be.
Again, a tantrum might be stopped somewhere along the line of the rising action.
But, if it is not, we are lead to the CLIMAX of a toddler's tantrum. This is the point where our toddler's brain is totally dysregulated. They can't think clearly. They can't reason. They might not even be able to form sentences. This is an all out meltdown.
Finally, our toddler is going to start to calm down in the FALLING ACTION. This can take a while depending on the intensity of the climax. Again, in this stage they might try to reason with you or beg you. They, might have also gotten all their emotions out and be completely depleted.
Lastly, they will reach a RESOLUTION where they are back to their normal selves and they are able to move on with life.
So, now that we know the 5 stages of a toddler's tantrum what do we do during each stage.
THE BEGINNING OF A TANTRUM
Some common reasons for a tantrum are the following:
To help a toddler healthily handle those reasons, I like to use a lot of GREENLIGHT STRATEGIES throughout my day.
While greenlight strategies will never totally reduce the number of tantrums a toddler has, they will help reduce them.
Also, remember this. All kids have tantrums. You are not a bad parent if your toddler is having a tantrum. Tantrums are healthy. They are your toddler's way of saying he needs help and this is an opportunity to help him.
But how do we help?
THE RISING ACTION
During the very beginning of the rising action, you want to CALM YOURSELF FIRST. If you aren't calm, you aren't in control. Your toddler is. And toddler's do not like it when they are in control. They really don't.
The second thing to do is HOLD BOUNDARIES. If boundaries aren't held, the tantrum is over and your toddler realizes he can cry harder and longer to get what he wants for next time.
Third, you are going to VALIDATE FEELINGS, VALIDATE THE MAGNITUDE OF THOSE FEELINGS, and use the magic phrase "YOU DIDN'T WANT THAT TO HAPPEN."
If the tantrum is still ramping up, you can try strategies such as MAGIC BREATHS - where you both model how to breath and help your toddler take deep breaths. You can use SIGN LANGUAGE to help your toddler calm down. You can also become a BROADCASTER.
Hopefully, those strategies work, but if not, you've reached the CLIMAX.
Lauren Barrett is a multi-passionate mom working to help all parents become their best selves and build positive relationships with their kids through mindful parenting. She has a degree in deaf education and a Master’s in Reading Education. She is a high school teacher of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing by day, a cross country coach by the afternoon, a writer/author by her son's nap times, and a full time mom to an amazing toddler. Lauren is a 2x author of the Add One-A-Day 30 Day Challenge and children's book, Henry's Hiccups, a blogger at Lauren Barrett Writes, and has been published on sites like A Fine Parent, Pregnant Chicken, Pop Sugar, Her View From Home, and Scary Mommy. She loves her faith, running, visiting MLB stadiums with her husband, chocolate, scrapbooking, pretending she would actually do well on the Amazing Race, re-watching The Office, listening to Bobby Bones, and helping out all moms. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, James, and son, Henry. Follow her on Instagram and get her free guide on what to do during the middle of a tantrum.