I Tried These 5 Popular Tantrum Busters And This Is What Worked
Find out if there's actually a solution to your toddler's tantrums.
Overwhelmed with advice on how to best stop her daughter’s tantrums, this mum put five popular methods to the test. Do you have a ‘tantrum cure’ you swear by?
I thought the terrible twos was just a myth. Something exhausted parents would use to explain why their kids were trying to break the sound barrier. Surely this wouldn’t happen when I had a child. Cue the eye-rolling and a big fat “Ha!”
My daughter just turned two and has picked up this pesky little thing called a free will – and is hell-bent on putting it to good use. My usually sweet-natured little girl can turn into someone who would make the Hulk cower under a rock.
The truly scary thing is anything can set her off – giving her a spoon instead of a fork with her yoghurt, putting a jumper on, taking the jumper off, closing the fridge door … Forget walking on eggshells, I started to feel like I was walking on nuclear bomb detonators.
So instead of putting hazard signs around our house (it was a consideration!), I did what any parent does, I googled it. After the obvious search: “Do toddler exorcists exist?”, I looked for tantrum cures and all the results made me feel like wailing. There was a smorgasbord of contradictions: ignore, cuddle, distract, empathise, copy – and each one had an army of devotees. How was I going to choose? I couldn’t, so I tried them all.
The belief behind ignoring the tantrum is that by taking away your attention you don’t reinforce their behaviour. “I just ignore him when he carries on,” a mum wrote. “He stops when he realises he doesn’t have my attention and won’t get what he wants.”
While it made me nervous, I was determined to give it a go. Unfortunately, I was put to the test during brekkie at our local café.
Here’s the thing, she’s usually an angel in front of others (I think it’s because she’s building up character witnesses before she throws me in the loony bin), but it’s like she knew. After trying to stand in her high chair for the fifth time, I saw her bottom lip jut out.
I felt ill as I looked around at the other diners, but I picked up my fork and pushed my eggs around on the plate. I felt the stares on me as my little one squealed and after what felt like hours, but was only a couple of minutes, I broke. I picked her up and took her outside. Safe to say that was an epic fail.
I love cuddling so this one should be right up my alley. Wrong! The advice was to give them a firm cuddle so they know you’re there for them.
Well, it was like trying to cuddle an angry octopus. Arms and legs would flail everywhere as I held on, but it seemed to only make her angrier. And angrier. Until eventually she would pry free of my arms. This just didn’t work with my daughter and near the end, I started to feel like I was using a cuddle as a form of restraint instead of comfort, which wasn’t ideal.
What I did find useful was letting her experience her feelings and reiterating that I was there for a cuddle, and eventually, she would come in for one herself. This wouldn’t stop her tantrum, but it was a nice way to finish one.
The common theory is that kids have short attention spans so distraction is the key to stopping tantrums. “This is the only thing that works,” a friend revealed. “We start dancing, pull funny faces or try to get her focused on another toy.”
So I tapped into my inner Jim Carrey and prepared to go all out. After a kitchen bench incident that was about to escalate, I started jumping around and singing in a funny voice. It worked … for about a minute.
Then she started again. After the sixth time, she had enough of my ridiculous behaviour and let loose. It seemed my child was not so easily distracted. I’ve tried it a few more times and it’s most effective as a preventative measure – so I have to get my timing right and pounce at the first sign of trouble.
“I empathise when my girl is throwing a tantrum,” a fellow mum wrote, “because just like adults, they want their feelings heard and validated.” That made sense, so I got my Dr. Phil on and prepared to communicate. If she was frustrated with not being able to do something or having to leave the park, I would verbalise it.
It would take a while but eventually, she would settle and move on to the next thing. After doing it a few times, I noticed that it works best when she is frustrated and not when she’s in meltdown mode at not getting her own way.
My MIL swears by this, insisting that the only way to stop a tantrum is to copy exactly what they’re doing – only louder and crazier.
“It gets their attention and stops them focusing on the wrong thing,” she says. First up, this takes a lot of energy and while she does stop to see what I’m doing, I feel like the novelty has worn off and she just ups the ante now, so I might use this sparingly.
Plus, when my daughter plonked herself down in the middle of a shopping centre and I had to follow suit, the mortification is not something I want to experience again (and I think my fellow shoppers would agree).
You know that smorgasbord of contradictions I mentioned, well say hello to your new BFF. There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution so I now mix it up depending on the tantrum and how early I catch it. And if that doesn’t work, there is one thing that always helps at the end of the day: a nice glass of wine. Guaranteed to work every time. Cheers to the next phase!