Top 10 toddler tantrum triggers

How to spot the signs and nip those meltdowns in the bud before they get out of hand

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1) Tiredness

Spot the signs

“You can only expect toddlers to do so much before getting sleepy,” says children’s life coach Naomi Richards (www.thekidscoach.org.uk). “So, if you’ve been out and had a busy day with lots of activities, your little one can become irritable as energy levels are low.” Look for clingy behaviour or swinging from one extreme to another, such as wanting a cuddle and then asking you to go away. Tiredness can easily turn into distress, so you need to nip it in the bud, as soon as you see the signs.

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Stop the tantrum

“Sit down together on the sofa for a cuddle to keep the atmosphere calm and relaxed,” suggests Naomi. “Listen to your little one if she’s upset, so she feels you’re there to help.” Relaxing music or her favourite TV show are good for helping your toddler relax, and chances are, she’ll fall asleep half way through and wake up in a better mood!

 Try this

Watch your tot’s facial expressions, so you learn when a tiredness tantrum is coming on. “I know one’s on its way when Charlie’s face screws up into a scowl,” says Zoe Ellis-Martin, 27, from Plymouth, mum to Charlie, 3. “It goes from a scowl, to whining then tears if we don’t settle him down.”

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Set a good example. Make sure your child sees you eating fruit, rather than chocolate or biscuits.

2) Hunger

Spot the signs

“Your toddler might be irrational and grumpy when he’s hungry, as his blood sugar levels will have dropped,” explains Naomi. “He’s likely to have difficultly making a decision and won’t be able to see reason, as he can’t focus his attention for very long.” Look for him getting upset over choices or feeling uncomfortable and holding his tummy.

Stop the tantrum

“Think about when he last had food, and offer him something to eat to perk him up,” suggests Naomi. “Bring him one option and make it a small snack, so he doesn’t have to think about the situation.” Give your toddler the food calmly, so he’s encouraged to sit down and eat without a fuss.

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It is possible to have twins by different fathers

3) Sibling rivalry

Spot the signs

Does your younger child having a tantrum because her older sister has a better toy sound familiar? “It’s all down to frustration and confusion,” explains parent coach Judy Reith (www.parentingpeople.co.uk). “Your younger child might think her sister has something better than her, so throws a tantrum to show her anger.”

Stop the tantrum

“Ask your tot to come with you and look at something in another room, so she’s got your attention,” advises Judy. This way you calm the anger and she feels looked after. “If sharing is causing problems, try a stop watch so each child gets equal time, and both can see and understand how fair it is,” suggests Naomi.

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Sometimes you just need to use the ‘n’ word…

4) Long waits

Spot the signs

Toddlers find waiting difficult, as they don’t have a great sense of time, so if you’re standing at the bus stop or sitting in the doctor’s surgery for 10 minutes, it can seem like a lifetime to your tot. “You might start to see your toddler getting fidgety, frustrated and moving around a lot,” says Judy. He could also start to act up, saying ‘No’ to whatever you offer him, as he doesn’t understand why he’s having to wait to go home and play with his toys.

Stop the tantrum

“Whenever you’re leaving the house with your little one, take an army of things to keep him occupied in case you do have to wait around,” says Judy. Keep a bag of toys and pens and paper in your car, so you’re never caught without anything to do. “If a tantrum happens when you’re waiting inside for something, take your toddler outside for fresh air and to calm him down,” suggests Judy. People waiting with you ,for example in a doctor’s surgery, are less likely to comment if they can see you handling the situation.

Try this 

Observe your toddler’s body language to see if a wobbly’s brewing when you’re standing around biding your time. “Waiting is the biggest trigger for Barny’s tantrums,” says Linzi Hanscomb, 27, from Surrey, mum to Barny, 14 months. “I can see it coming on as soon as he starts getting restless and fidgety. Eventually it results in a horrible full-blown shouting episode.”

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Try and talk to your toddler rather than just tell him off

5) Boredom

Spot the signs

“Losing interest in activities and getting bored is common when your tot is stuck inside without much to do,” says Naomi. Your little one is likely to get fidgety with what she’s doing and get upset with her toys or games. It’s more common on rainy days, when she feels she’s in the same location surrounded by activities she’s seen before.

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Stop the tantrum

If you know you’re going to be inside for the day, plan ahead. “Have different toys laid out, so your tot has lots of choice,” says Naomi. “If you can, invite other children around to keep her occupied.” Distraction is an ideal method for tantrums. “Go and ring the doorbell or call the landline, so your toddler stops and listens,” suggests Judy. “It creates a fresh energy in the room and distracts your toddler a treat.”

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