Tame those toddler tantrums

If mortifying supermarket visits, car journeys and bedtimes that drag on for hours sound familiar, help is at hand for both you and your toddler


From supermarket strops to bedtime banter, it’s rare that a day goes by without your child trying to get the upper hand. So how do you cope? It’s all about setting boundaries before trouble begins – and knowing where their limits lie, says Charlie Taylor, behavioural expert and author of Divas & Dictators.


“As parents we inevitably hit sticky patches,” he says. “But we can get stuck in a cycle that begins to feed the bad behaviour and make it more likely to be repeated.” If it feels like you’re stuck in that cycle, here’s how to cope – whatever the location or time of your diva or dictator meltdown moment.

Morning madness

Remember the days when you decided when to get up? Now you’re ruled by your little one’s waking hour. “Most of the time, parents can predict which times of day and under which circumstances there’s going to be trouble,” says Charlie. So if your little one is an early riser, here’s what to do:

Deal with it…

  • CUT NAPS. “Losing peaceful time in the middle of the day is sometimes the price you have to pay for a night’s sleep,” says Charlie.
  • DON’T GIVE ATTENTION. If your toddler does troop into your room too early, avoid eye contact and keep words to a minimum while calmly marching him back to his room.
  • GET A SPECIAL CLOCK. Find one that shows clearly whether it’s time to get up – a display with a picture of a sun works well.

Car journey chaos

Whether it’s a five-minute trip to town or a two-hour drive, a diva or dictator in the car spells trouble. “Being in a car, for your child, is a desperately boring and unnatural experience,” says Charlie. “It’s inevitable they’ll whinge, fight, cry, shout and bicker.”

Deal with it…

  • PLAN AHEAD. “Think of preparing for the children on a car journey alongside essentials like checking the tyres and filling up with petrol,” says Charlie.
  • PACK A BAG BEFORE LEAVING. Fill it with a range of entertainment and food – for longer journeys, pack lots of variety.
  • PUT SAFETY FIRST. “When it comes to safety there is no time to mess about,” warns Charlie. “There is no scope for any argument or negotiation for a toddler who refuses to sit in his seat; simply pick him up and plonk him in. If he screams, he screams. Once he realises that you aren’t going to back down he’ll give in.”

Supermarket shenanigans

It’s a nightmare scenario for many a mum – a very long list, a very busy store and a brewing tantrum. “Making a plan and sticking to it, even if you’re going to have the embarrassment of a screaming child on your hands, is the key to a smooth supermarket shop,” says Charlie.

Deal with it…

  • TELL HIM WHAT’S EXPECTED. Do you want him to stay by the trolley, or help to choose items? Decide what you expect and repeat the plan to make sure he’s got it
  • PRAISE. He needs heaps of this for sticking to the plan as it lets him know that his efforts have been noticed.
  • OFFER A REWARD. If he’s done as you’ve asked, reward him with a small prize – but don’t be tempted to over-reward.

Bedtime ballistics

Having trouble getting your little one tucked up? “Children resist bedtime as they lack the self-awareness to realise they’re tired,” says Charlie. “It can also give them an opportunity for lots of attention.”

Deal with it…

  • KEEP A ROUTINE. “Stick to the same time every night and do things in order so that he knows what’s coming next,” says Charlie.
  • DON’T RUSH. It takes away the fun and there’s no time for him to wind down.
  • HAVE A CUT-OFF POINT. Once you’ve turned the light out, don’t let him hook you into giving him more attention.

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