Gentle Parenting Tip for 2 Year Old Tantrums
2 year old tantrums are a challenging part of parenthood. Tantrums can seem dramatically more challenging than sleepless nights with a colicky baby, or cleaning up poopy blow outs.
Something about tantrums just feels 1000 times harder.
But just because your 2 year old has tantrums doesn’t mean you have to throw in the parenting towel! You are going to tackle these tantrums with a gentle approach so as to treat your child with respect, while keeping your calm.
Why do 2 year old tantrums happen?
Your toddler has a lot of very big emotions, but little control over those emotions and few communication skills to express what they are feeling. They have tantrums as their way of expressing those big emotions because they cannot control them or use words to express to you what they are feeling.
2 year olds will be able to learn some skills to control their emotions and to express themselves without having a tantrum, but it’s a skill they need to learn from practice and just by getting older.
What should parents do about 2 year old tantrums?
The truth is, 2 year old tantrums are very common, and as the parent it’s important that we have the right goal.
Our goal isn’t to make our 2 year old stop having tantrums, our goal is to teach our 2 year old how to better express and process their emotions. That takes a lot of practice though, which means a lot of patience on our part. We can redirect their energy elsewhere, we can teach them how to tell us what they want, but it will take a lot of repetition for them to really learn and for it to sink in. Tantrums usually fade away as our child ages, so during the age of tantrums it’s important that we teach them how to process and express their emotions.
I have a full complete guide to handling tantrums here but basically our best approach as the parent is to…
- Step 1: Communicate with Body Language to your Tantruming Toddler
- Step 2: Communicate with Words to your Tantruming Toddler
- Step 3: Move on Together
You will comfort your child physically (which may mean giving them physical space or a comforting touch), use your words to comfort them, and then move on together by redirecting to another activity. Sometimes this process can take a while though, depending on when your toddler is ready to receive comfort so they can actually calm down.
2 year old tantrums are hard for parents
This is the real truth of the matter. Even if we know that 2 year old tantrums are super common, and we are doing all the work to help them cope with their tantrum, it’s still really hard for us as the parent to tread through that moment as it can become highly emotional for us as well.
We can become angry or even just plain defeated as the crying goes on and on and on. Sometimes your 2 year old won’t be ready to be comforted, and they will need to cry for a long time, and any amount of support won’t actually make them stop, they just have to keep crying to get it all out.
But this can be so draining for us!
Has your 2 year old’s tantrum ever made you want to pull your hair out or go hide under a blanket until they stop? Your mind can start racing with thoughts like there must be something wrong with them, you’re a bad mother if they cry like this, how come you can’t help them, etc.
Oh dear, yes, 2 year old tantrums are exhausting for us as the parent! Physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting!
And this is why we can end up dropping the ball when it comes to helping our child work through their tantrum.
We can become so overwhelmed that we end up expressing our frustration with them! Maybe we snap at them, or yell, or say something like, “Just calm down and stop crying,” even though we know that’s not truly helpful.
Then the tantrum gets worse…and we get more overwhelmed…and suddenly motherhood doesn’t feel so magical anymore.
So truly…how do we make it through the 2 year old tantrums!?
The 1 tip you can’t miss for 2 year old tantrums
Go into autopilot mode.
Yup, I wouldn’t normally suggest checking out mentally, but sometimes it can help us to not become so emotionally overwhelmed that we end up becoming harsh.
When we are on autopilot mode we know exactly how to handle the tantrum, we don’t have to think about what to do or say next, and it doesn’t feel as overwhelming.
Have you ever done a task for the first time and it takes so long and you have to really focus to make sure you get it right, it’s actually kind of tiring. But the more often you do it the easier it gets and eventually you’re barely even paying attention to what you’re doing but it still turns out perfect. Think maybe about driving to a new location or making a new recipe.
Once we confidently know what to do, the task becomes easier and we don’t feel as stressed about doing it.
That’s what I want us to achieve with handling our 2 year old tantrums. Learn the skills you need to handle the tantrum, and next time the tantrum comes just go right into autopilot if you know you don’t have the emotional energy in that moment.
The skills you need to go autopilot during a 2 year old tantrum
To be able to actually go into autopilot mode you need to have some tantrum strategies, and then actually see which ones seem to work well for your 2 year old.
Here is a list of strategies you can try to master for your 2 year old’s tantrums, but if you want super in depth information about tantrums you can visit my full guide on toddler tantrums.
- Get down to their level – Sit on the floor near them or crouch down
- Make eye contact – This helps make a connection which is comforting
- Move together to a different environment – Sometimes moving away from the cause of the tantrum to a different area can help your two year old calm down, maybe try moving to the couch
- Offer physical space – Sometimes they need room to stop around and will not want your touch.
- Let them know you are there for them – If you need to step away, tell them you are near by if they need you.
- Offer physical comfort – Without forcing it if it’s unwanted, offer a hug or for them to sit on your lap, or even just a pat on their back.
- Validate their feelings – “You are really upset that all the strawberries are gone.”
- Say “You Wanted” – “You wanted more strawberries but they’re all gone.” This helps to put language to the situation and shows that you understand why they are upset
- Redirect them to something else – Direct their attention to something else, sometimes a distraction is all it takes for them to calm down.
This seems like a lot, but as you practice these skills it becomes easier, and sometimes it helps to write them down somewhere so you can remember.
I also have this great free download, it’s a list of things you can say to your 2 year old during their tantrum, and it really helps to keep this on the fridge or somewhere else where you know you will see it often.
I like to think of it as a script or my lines, instead of trying to figure out what to say during a tantrum I can just refer to these phrases that I know are good! You can download it here.
When in doubt – appeal to their emotions
And if you are ever stuck when you are trying to be on autopilot mode, remember to appeal to your 2 year old’s emotions.
During a 2 year old tantrum they will be mostly just using the emotional side of their brain – logic has gone out the window! Reasoning with them to try to calm them down will not be effective.
Instead, since they are in a very big emotional moment you want to appeal to their emotions to help them calm down. That’s why with all the strategies I listed they are focused on the emotions (even physical comfort is an appeal to emotions).
So just remember to try to avoid reasoning away their tantrum, as this can often become a source of frustration for us as the parent. We can think, “They can clearly see there are no strawberries left, so why are they having this tantrum still!?”
No matter what, there will be 2 year old tantrums! That’s just the way the world works, and it’s our job to support and comfort them so they can learn how to control, process and express their emotions!
One amazing thing that is changing about the world is that so many more people are able to confidently express their emotions and use words to thoroughly explain what they are going through. This is happening especially because more children are learning not to suppress their emotions, but instead how to control, process and express them.
As a parent it can be tempting to just force our child to stop crying, but the truth is by using the strategies I have given you, we are actually empowering them with emotional intelligence.
The most challenging part of it for us as the parent though is to stay sane during all this crying and screaming, and to be able to use these strategies instead of first blowing up ourselves.
That’s why I recommend going on autopilot mode – not to check out from the 2 year old tantrum, but so we can move from one strategy to the next without getting worked up. So we can stay calm and help our child through it.
Do you have a 2 year old who is having a lot of tantrums lately? What’s one thing you find helps them to calm down? Leave your tip in the comments to help other moms looking for new strategies to master.