I was in the grocery, knew I was approaching the toy aisle, and braced myself. Adam was sitting happily in the grocery cart, but I knew what was coming: a tantrum!

I knew he was tired and hungry – this was an emergency run to the grocery. I knew I was tired and hungry, too. Adam and I were not at our coping best. The last thing I wanted was a meltdown.


Use my grandmother/coaching skills when the tantrum started? Talk to him about what he was feeling? Use it as a lesson in emotional intelligence – frustration tolerance and self-management?

I did what any sane grandmother would do:

· I avoided the aisle completely.
· I got out of the store as fast as I could.
· As soon as I’d paid for them, I gave him a Capri drink and a little box of raisins, and gave myself some too!
· I kept calm and talked in a soothing voice. It was 6 p.m., and he was a little time bomb waiting to go off. Nor was I at my best.


Tamtrums are an inconvenient part of life with toddlers, and the best defense is a good offense. Avoid the circumstances that provoke them.

Management depends upon your emotional intelligence because a toddler doesn’t have any! They’re still pretty “basic” -- they lack the vocabulary to express themselves in words, they lack the ability to cope with delayed gratification, and then have zero self-awareness. You’ll be teaching all these things, but developmentally, they aren’t capable yet. It’s up to you to avoid provocative situations as best you can, especially when your toddler is already tired, hungry or stressed.


Toddlers are also still fairly easy to distract, and sometimes that’s the best course of action. They’re just learning “object permanence.” In other words, if they’re screaming for something (a candy bar they see) and you can remove it, it can be a case of “out of sight, out of mind”. Like if he’s in his high chair, whisk the candy bar away, grab a utensil and start tapping out the rhythm of one of his favorite songs, sing and make faces. Sometimes it works!

My friend, Becky, sings a special soothing song at such times. It’s become conditioned with her daughter. She starts to calm down.


Every parents least favorite happening. What to do?

– Remember, you’re not a bad parent. Toddles R tantrums.
– “Reasoning” with them won’t do much good and will waste your energy.
– You don’t need to get angry yourself, or punitive. This won’t stop the tantrum, but it will doubly stress you. It can, in fact, make the tantrum worse.
– Don’t ‘catch the infection’ - Your child feels out-of-control when she’s angry, and looks to you NOT to be.
– Leave the situation if you can. Give up and go home, or at least leave the immediate scene – i.e., if they’re screaming in the movie theater, take them out to the lobby. “A change of scene” sometimes works. Also it’s courteous to those around you. I found leaving a store and going outside was sometimes calming, and we could return.
– When the worst of the meltdown is over, be reassuring, because to get that angry is scary for the child.
– Cushion the blow in some way, but stick to the rules. I.e., if the tantrum was over leaving the birthday party, you still must leave, yes, but tell her you know how sad/angry she is to have to leave, “So let’s watch ‘Favorite Video’ when we get home.”

You may feel like you’re “giving up” or “giving in” when you avoid situations that stress your toddler, but that’s an emotionally intelligent thing to do.


We’re humans, we want things, we have emotions. When you’re on a diet, do you go to Baskin-Robbins and sit at a table and watch other people eat ice cream? If you’re married, would you subject yourself to a private outing with an attractive member of the opposite sex? If you’re broke, would you go window-shopping at the most expensive clothes-store in town? No, no, and no. It would be torture. We don’t subject ourselves to temptations that frustrate us when we can help it. You can anticipate what will frustrate your toddler, and act accordingly. There’s nothing wrong with getting a sitter and going to the toy store by yourself. In fact it’s emotionally intelligent!

Wise parents and grandparents “toddler-proof” the house to keep down frustrations. You’ll still have to manage not playing in the toilet, not eating the dog food, not pulling the cat’s tail, and not punching little sister … so why not remove the crystal dish on the coffee table, and the glass floral arrangement in the bedroom for a couple of months and give yourself a break.

P.S. The Terrible Twos really don’t last forever.

Recommended reading: “First Feelings: Milestones in the Emotional Development of Your Baby and Child,” by I. Stanley Greenspan, M.D. and Nancy Greenspan:

Author's Bio: 

©Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach™, licensed Accountability Coach™. Emotional intelligence coaching, Internet courses, EQ assessments, business EQ culture programs, products available for licensing, training for EQ coaches. Improve every area of your life. Results-oriented coaching. www.susandunn.cc, mailto:sdunn@susandunn.cc for FREE ezine. Affiliates in UK, Australia, Malaysia. Ofrece coaching personal y cursos de Internet sobre inteligencia emotional (EQ). Se habla espanol.