How to Stop Toddler Tantrums & Misbehaving

by Shelley Frost
Frustration sometimes leads to toddler misbehavior.

Frustration sometimes leads to toddler misbehavior.

You hear about the "terrible twos," but for many toddlers, the misbehaving and temper tantrums don't end on their third birthdays. The toddler years are full of behaviors that can drain your patience -- like biting and hitting to full-blown, kicking and screaming tantrums. It's not unusual for a tot to go from smiling one minute to out-of-control the next. You won't find a cure-all for the undesirable toddler behaviors, but you can take steps toward keeping your toddler calm and avoiding all-out tantrums.

Step 1

Create a daily schedule that matches your tot's natural rhythms. If he gets tired and cranky at 1 p.m. every day, plan for nap time instead of running errands after lunch. Pushing him when he is tired or cranky increases the likelihood of a temper tantrum or misbehavior.

Step 2

Change the environment at home to discourage misbehavior. If he gets in trouble frequently for touching your breakables, move them to a higher shelf or pack them away until he is older.

Step 3

Give your tot plenty of your undivided attention when you are together. Toddlers sometimes act inappropriately if they don't feel like they're getting attention, according to the KidsHealth website.

Step 4

Encourage your toddler's growing independence by letting him do things on his own and by giving him choices. It's faster to put his jacket on for him, but letting him do it builds his confidence. Offer him simple choices that give him some control. For example, you might say, "Would you like to wear your sandals or your tennis shoes today?"

Step 5

Teach your tot to tell you what is on his mind. Toddlers often have difficulty putting what they feel into words. Point out his feelings when you notice them. Say, "You look like that toy is frustrating you. Is it difficult for you to play with it?" Noticing positive emotions also helps him express himself. For example, you might say, "Look at how well you rode your tricycle. You look very proud." Encourage him to verbalize what he is feeling without your prompting.

Step 6

Recognize how your toddler acts just before a temper tantrum. For example, he might start stomping on the floor or pounding his fists. If you can catch the tantrum early enough, you have a chance to distract him or help him solve the problem that's making him crabby to avoid a full-scale meltdown.

Step 7

Look for the real cause of the poor behavior. You might realize that he's knocking over his friend's block tower because he's ready for a nap. Or, that his hunger is causing him to whine. If you can satisfy his need, you can stop the temper tantrum in its tracks.

Step 8

Move your toddler away from a situation that is causing the poor behavior or temper tantrum if possible. For example, if he isn't getting along with a playmate, carry him to a different room where he can calm down. Comfort your upset tot by talking in a calming voice. Yelling or threatening him may cause him to become more upset. If the tantrum escalates, MayoClinic.com advises that give your child a timeout. To do this, sit him in a designated place where you don't engage him for a few minutes, giving him a chance to calm himself. Be firm and explain that you will not engage him until he quiets down.

Step 9

Talk about the inappropriate behavior once the situation settles down and your toddler is calm. Explain why his actions weren't acceptable. For example, you might say, "If you invite Robbie over to play, you have to take turns with your toys or he won't want to play with you anymore or share his toys with you."

About the Author

Shelley Frost started writing professionally in 2007. She specializes in parenting and education topics. Frost gained her experience in various positions in the education field, including classroom teaching and tutoring. She holds a BA in elementary education with a reading endorsement.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images