How to Help an Angry Toddler

How to Help an Angry Toddler

Whoever called it the “terrible twos” may have been onto something! With their wide range of emotions, increased mobility, and seemingly endless energy, toddlers bring a whole new set of challenges to parenting. If you’re wondering how you can help settle an angry toddler, have no fear. There really are a few tricks that work. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of tips and strategies you can use to calm your little one down when they get upset.

[Edit]Steps

[Edit]Give them a mindfulness jar if they’re overwhelmed.

  1. They’re easy to make and super effective. A mindfulness jar a visual sensory tool that can distract and help a child relax when they get worked up. To make one, fill a clear plastic bottle about ¾ of the way full with hot water, add of clear gel glue and some glitter, then seal the cap and shake it up well. Whenever your toddler is throwing an angry fit, give them the mindfulness jar and see if that helps settle them.[1]
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    • You can add a few drops of superglue to the lid when you close it so it stays sealed shut.
    • Go crazy with different kinds of glitter! Give your little one a ton of colors to look at floating around inside.

[Edit]Put on some music if your toddler is crying.

  1. It can actually calm their nervous system. Play some music for your kiddo if they’re really upset and crying and it could turn their mood around. It may get them up and dancing along, but the music can also decrease their heart and respiratory rate, which can naturally calm them down.[2]
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    • You don’t have to stick to nursery rhymes, either! Some uptempo pop music can work just as well or even better than a lullaby. Try out some different music and see what your toddler likes.

[Edit]Ask them to talk instead of whining or yelling.

  1. Encourage them to use their words and talk about their feelings. Toddlers can easily get themselves worked up, so try catching them before it happens. When your little one starts to shout or whine when they’re telling you something that’s upsetting them or talking about something that they want, calmly correct them and ask them to use their words and speak clearly. It can help them focus on what they’re saying, which may help avoid a meltdown.[3]
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    • It can be frustrating to be misunderstood! If a toddler is having trouble communicating, having them slow down and focus on speaking clearly can help.
    • Try, “Sweetheart, I can’t understand you when you whine. Use your words and tell me about it, okay?”

[Edit]Listen and respond to your toddler when they talk to you.

  1. Get on their level and show them that you understand. Allow them to take their time and put their feelings into words. Really listen to what they’re saying and respond kindly so they know that you understand them. It can make a world of a difference to a toddler if they feel like they’re understood. Try offering up a few words of encouragement and comfort to make them feel better if they’re upset about what they’re telling you as well.[4]
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    • It may also help to literally get on their level. Lower down so you’re at their eye-level and you don’t seem like such a towering figure.[5]
    • Try saying things like, “That must have made you upset” and “Did it hurt your feelings?” or “That must be frustrating, huh sweetie?”

[Edit]Give them a healthy way to let off some steam.

  1. They can run around or draw a picture to release their anger. This might not be news to you, but toddlers have a ton of energy! Sometimes it’s best to not fight it and instead redirect it somewhere else.[6] Tell your toddler to run to the fence and back, do some jumping jacks (if they’re able to do them), or just have them jump up and down. You could also ask them to draw you a picture of something so they’ll focus their energy on that.[7]
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    • There are all sorts of ways you can get your kiddo to focus their energy on something else. Get creative! Have them dig a hole in the yard, play tug of war with them, or wrestle with them.

[Edit]Stick to positive reinforcement.

  1. Threats and punishments won’t work on a toddler. Avoid giving a toddler ultimatums. It can easily backfire on you. Instead, focus on promoting the behavior you want from them by positively reinforcing the idea.[8] They’re much more likely to respond to you that way.[9]
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    • For instance, try, “I understand, sweetie, but if you want to watch the movie then we need to finish lunch first. If not, it’s no big deal, we can always try again later.” Instead of something like, “You need to eat your lunch or else!”

[Edit]Set up a special play area for them.

  1. Give them a separate area to play and explore. A toddler may not understand or get angry when there are things in your home that they can’t touch or play with. Try setting up a playpen that has a bunch of toys and activities that they can play with as much as they want. That way, they can let out some energy and they won’t get upset when there’s something they can’t do.[10]
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    • For example, if you don’t want your toddler to pull books off of your shelf, try setting up some of their picture books in a play area so they can take them out, play with them, or flip through them as much as they want.
    • Another advantage of a playpen is you have somewhere to put your toddler where you know they’re safe and can’t get into anything dangerous.

[Edit]Find what triggers your toddler’s tantrums.

  1. If you can identify the problem, you can avoid future meltdowns. Pay attention to what seems to be upsetting your little one. If they’re avoidable or if you can make adjustments that will help keep them from getting upset, give it a shot! You might be able to save yourself a lot of potential headaches.[11]
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    • For instance, if your toddler prefers to use a certain sippy cup and gets upset when you try to give them a different one, try to make sure the one they like is available when you need it.
    • Of course, some things that upset a toddler may be unavoidable, such as getting dressed or having to bathe when they don’t want to. But there may be other things you can avoid to help keep them from getting angry.

[Edit]Talk about house rules often with your toddler.

  1. Phrase them as positives so they’re more likely to follow them. Don’t wait until your little one breaks a rule to tell them about them. Instead, calmly bring up and talk about different rules regularly so they get the message loud and clear (it can take toddlers a little while). Talk about what’s okay and what’s not okay using fun and friendly terms so they don’t harsh or scary.[12]
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    • For instance, you can call time-out a “time-in” or say, “Quiet feet!” instead of, “No running!”
    • While you’re walking around your home with your toddler, you can say things like, “And those are shoes, see? And we don’t take shoes and move them, right? We leave them right where they are.”
    • Use positive language and an uplifting tone to say things like, “And look! There’s a kitty cat! Remember, we don’t pull on a cat’s tail right? Because that can hurt the cat.”

[Edit]Use time-outs for whenever they break the rules.

  1. It’s a simple way to help them settle down. Whenever your toddler is breaking rules, getting upset, or throwing a full-on tantrum, words may not be enough to calm them down. When that happens, remove them from the situation and have them sit somewhere quietly for a couple of minutes. Once they relax and stop throwing a fit, you can let them out and talk to them about it.[13]
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    • For 2-year-olds, stick to around 2 minutes for a time-out. A good rule of thumb is 1 minute for each year of age.
    • If your toddler leaves the time-out area, gently put them back into it and restart the time-out clock. If they throw a major tantrum, just ignore it unless there’s actually a possibility that they could hurt themselves.

[Edit]Praise your kiddo when they behave appropriately.

  1. It can help reinforce it. It’s actually almost more important that you give your child credit and praise whenever they do something right so they’re more motivated to keep doing the right thing. Don’t hold back! Tell them how great they are and what a good job they did. Get really animated and make a big deal about it. It’ll make them smile and they’ll love getting all the extra attention.[14]
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    • If your toddler picks up their shoes and socks, tell them, “Wow! Look at you! What a great job! So helpful, thank you!”
    • If they share a toy with a sibling or another toddler, heap the praise on them by saying, “Very nice! That’s so sweet of you to share. Great job!”

[Edit]Teach your toddler to say “no” instead of fighting.

  1. Help them find a better way to stand up for themselves. When a toddler gets upset with other children, they may resort to getting physical or shouting at them. Tell your little one that they can calmly tell other kids, “No” with a firm tone of voice. They can also turn away or leave the situation if it’s making them upset. It’ll help them learn to establish healthy boundaries from a young age and avoid resorting to violence when they’re angry.[15]
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    • Try saying, “So if the other kids want to take your toy, just say ‘No, thank you. I’m playing with it right now.’”
    • You can also gently remind them of rules by saying, “Remember, we don’t hit other people. We are nice to them. If we don’t like what they’re doing, we say, ‘No, thank you.’”

[Edit]Make sure your toddler gets enough sleep.

  1. It can make a huge difference. It may seem simple or like a no-brainer, but toddlers are much more likely to lose their temper if they’re tired. Put them down to bed around the same time each night and make sure they get a nap if they need one. It could save you (and your little one) a whole lot of frustration.[16]
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    • Kids between the ages of 1 and 2 need around 11-14 hours of sleep each day, including at least 1 nap.[17]

[Edit]Control your own temper.

  1. Set a good example for your little one. It’s completely normal and natural to get frustrated, but it’s important that your toddler sees you handle your frustrations in a calm and mature way. If you get upset or angry at your toddler or anyone else, express it using quiet, peaceful words. Don’t shout, stomp around, or storm off or your toddler just may mimic you![18]
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    • That goes for everyday activities, too. If someone cuts you off in traffic, for example, don’t shout at them or curse them out. Your little one is always watching how you handle things and learning from you.

[Edit]Tips

  • Sometimes just removing your toddler from the situation is enough to get them to settle down. If they’re really upset about something, try picking them up, carrying them away, and calmly talking to them about it.

[Edit]References

  1. https://www.pbs.org/parents/crafts-and-experiments/make-a-mindfulness-jar-or-calming-timeout-timer
  2. https://www.parents.com/baby/care/crying/ways-to-soothe-a-crying-baby/
  3. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/temper.html
  4. https://childmind.org/article/how-to-help-children-calm-down/
  5. [v161803_b01]. 21 May 2021.
  6. [v161803_b01]. 21 May 2021.
  7. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/temper.html
  8. [v161803_b01]. 21 May 2021.
  9. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/Pages/Aggressive-Behavior.aspx
  10. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/Pages/Aggressive-Behavior.aspx
  11. https://childmind.org/article/how-to-help-children-calm-down/
  12. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/temper.html
  13. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/communication-discipline/Pages/Time-Outs-101.aspx
  14. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/Pages/Aggressive-Behavior.aspx
  15. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/Pages/Aggressive-Behavior.aspx
  16. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/temper.html
  17. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sleep12yr.html
  18. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/Pages/Aggressive-Behavior.aspx
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