If you’ve never experienced a toddler tantrum, then either you don’t own a toddler or you’re lying. Even the most angelic of small people can turn into the biggest wailing, flailing mess on earth occasionally. It’s just one of those parenting hurdles we all face. However, despite it being a complete losing battle to try and reason with a tantrumming toddler (side note: why is tantrumming not a word? And should it have one M or two?), I hereby share what I consider the ten stages of dealing with a toddler tantrum. A bit like the five stages of grief except no one judges you when you’re grieving.
- Prepare: It’s like being trapped in a zoo enclosure with a hungry lion. You can see exactly what’s going to happen. You can’t run (apparently leaving your child at the park and making off as fast as you can in the opposite direction isn’t acceptable). So you have to make something else seem like a tastier treat than you, whether that’s an actual tasty treat (‘here, have some sweets, chocolate, crisps, ten Fruit Shoots, ANYTHING that will stop you crying’) or the lure of something fun like shouting at ducks or shouting at mommy to push you higher on the swing.
- Accept your fate and start silently apologising to other people at the park using only your eyes. Try to convey a deep sense of sorrow while also reassuring that you usually don’t stand for this kind of thing.
- Bargain: hissing ‘please don’t start making a scene, I’ll let you skip your nap and then stay up til 10pm if you just stop crying’ has been proven to work on a toddler beginning a tantrum approximately zero times ever, but it’s still worth a try right?
- Ignore: it’s fine, I’m just strolling through the park with a howling toddler and it’s all completely dandy, I’m not about to cry myself and then spend the rest of the day wondering what I did to deserve such a devil child. In fact, they’re shouting so quietly I can barely hear them.
- Plead: ‘whyyyyyy are you doing this? Please just stop. Please.’ This would have a better success rate if they could actually hear you over the sound of their intense wailing.
- Lose your shit: luckily, they’re crying so hard by this point they have no idea what you’ve just hissed under your breath. Extra points if you threaten to leave them on the steps of a nearby church. Unfortunately, no extra points if you actually go through with that threat.
- Ignore: this might seem like the same as stage four but it’s not. By now you’re so fuming that you’ve given up pretending you’re enjoying a lovely walk and admiring the trees, instead you walk at a pace akin to Mo Farah in the last stretch of the Olympics and silently fume about how awful toddlers are.
- Praise other child: ‘Aren’t you such a good boy? You can come to the park EVERY DAY because you don’t cry!’ This step is partly to see if toddler will realise what they’re potentially missing out on by trying to ruin your life every time you step outside your front door, and partly to point out to passing strangers that you’re in partial control and one of your children isn’t acting like it’s the end of the world.
- Offer snacks: you may have done this earlier in the process, but now you’ve got their attention by essentially telling their sibling how amazing they are, a snack might just be the tipping point back to normality.
- Peppa: when you’ve exhausted all other options, it’s time to fall back on the person who taught them how to be a brat in the first place. Switch on an episode, hand them the phone and watch the tears dry quicker than you can say ‘muddy puddles’.
Harriet, Alexandra and Max x