Toddler Tantrums: How To Handle Them With Distraction

It was dinner time, I was visiting my parents with L, my two year old, in Chicago for the first time since he was born. My last remaining grandparent had passed away and here I was with an overly tired and cranky child while I was cranky myself. It’s at this moment that everything just completely falls apart.

L can be a bit of a difficult child on some days and for the most part we try to find a balance between gentle parenting and stern parenting. Early on we discovered that spanking does not always work with L and in most cases just made everything worse so that’s not something we do.

Most if not all of our issues arise due to L having speech delay. He doesn’t know how to properly communicate his desires which can lead to him throwing massive tantrums.

We know that this is just a season and as we work with him his communication skills will get better. As they get better the tantrums will happen less and less. Sometimes though, we have to get a bit creative.

Check out my post Diary of a Mom: Feeling Like a Bad Mom.

Toddler Tantrum: Screaming

Back to our trip to my parents in Chicago. Outside of L being clingy he was pretty well behaved all day. Then it happened. The meltdown of all meltdowns right in the middle of dinner. Hitting, screaming, kicking, the works. He threw his dinner to the floor and refused to eat it. He refused to sit in his highchair. He just wanted to scream, hit, and throw everything around him.

After about 30 minutes of this I was about to lose it. That’s when my mom stepped in and told me to go cool down. I put him in his pack and play and stepped outside and away from the noise while my mom calmly ignored my son’s behavior.

I briefly cried then regained my calm. The tantrum was still going and I had the sudden realization that I needed a distraction before I picked him up out of the crib.

Since my son was walking, at a little under a year, he has loved Star Wars. Rob and I turned it on one day shortly before Episode 7 came out and L fell in love with the music. The star wars soundtrack was played a LOT in our home during this time because L loved it.

“Alexa, play Star Wars Soundtrack.” I said to the Amazon Dot.

The opening theme started playing and immediately my son stopped screaming and listened to the music. I breathed a sigh of relief and waited about 30 seconds while the music played. When he calmed down I picked him up and held him for a little while.

Once I heard him let out a calming sigh I knew it was time to try dinner again. He ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and we just chilled for the rest of the night. Even bedtime went smoothly which tells me he was just exhausted.

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Toddler Tantrums: How To Handle Them With Distraction

The key to finding a distraction is to find something that will calm a toddler meltdown without rewarding bad behavior. Music is a great way to calm a meltdown without rewarding the bad behavior. If your toddler is behaving badly because they can’t have a certain thing at that time than it’s time to find something that will take their mind off the “no” word.

While Rob and I are huge Star Wars fans and don’t mind listening to the soundtrack over and over, you may not. I do have a few things you can use that have also helped to calm our son.

Consider getting Amazon Music Unlimited so that you can try movie soundtracks or instrumental music. They currently have a free trial so you can try it out and find out if it works for you.

If music doesn’t work, you can try white noise like a vacuum cleaner or a white noise machine. Try any type of calm music. Some of the 90’s slow rock or soft pop could work. Try R&B, or funk, or blues. Don’t give up eventually you will find something that distracts your child from their meltdown.

Understanding Stimulation

Some toddlers and children get become overstimulated with the world around them. It confuses them and even when you watch for the signs a tantrum or meltdown can occur because of it.

Signs of over stimulation can be holding ears, hitting their head, flinging arms around, fiddling with their fingers, or even turning their body back and forth during a tantrum. Some of these actions can also be signs leading to being on the spectrum so do not hesitate to talk to your doctor if you are concerned.

Your child is most likely trying to regulate their brain to deal with everything around them. The best thing to do at this point is to be understanding, shut everything down, and make your home quiet. If you are not at home try removing your child from the situation so they can calm down.

Over time your child should learn to regulate themselves and these types of incidents will happen less and less.

What To Do After Toddler Tantrums

Your toddler is extremely egocentric. They don’t understand that other things need to be done or they have to wait. Your toddler still has to learn patience, or understand why they can’t have or do something.

Once the toddler meltdown is over and your child is calm you can start getting back into routine. With a calm child you can cuddle, give treats, eat, color, or do any activity. By rewarding the calm behavior your kid will begin to understand that calm behavior gets more attention.

The first few years of your kids life is a giant game of protect, ignore, and reward. Protect from danger, ignore the bad behavior, and reward the good behavior.

Toddler Tantrums In 2 Year Old

Toddler tantrums can range through many different levels of difficulty. If you think your child’s tantrums are extreme, do not hesitate to ask their pediatrician for advice.

Normal or common tantrums are screaming, hitting, kicking, and throwing themselves to the ground.

The other thing to remember is kids need constant reminders over what they can and cannot do or what is acceptable behavior.

The brain of a toddler is jam packed daily with new experiences, thoughts, feelings, and information. Everything around them is new, exciting, and even sometimes scary. All this stuff going on in their brain means it may take them some time to learn new things.

The thing to remember is YOU have to be consistent with them. You have to stay calm, remind them gladly, and stay firm on your ground. This helps your child to gain a better understanding if their own limitations and what is acceptable.

Check out my post Best Toys For Toddlers for the best silent toys a parent can have in their arsenal.

Let me know if the art of distraction works to calm your child’s meltdowns. What methods do you use to distract your child? Follow me on Pinterest and pin this to your parenting boards. Share it with friends or family who struggle with toddler tantrums.

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    Crystal Lynn

    Crystal is the founder & CEO of MommyThrives and also full-time mom to a very active little guy. She’s passionate about cooking, cleaning, and organizing and turns her experiences into actionable systems to make mom-life simpler. When she’s not busy, you can find her reading, painting, or even on occasion indulging herself shooting bandits in Borderlands on her PC.

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