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Parents Panel: What's your best tip for taming toddler meltdowns?

We asked Irish parents to weigh in on the ultimate power struggle: the toddler tantrum.


AS PART OF TheJournal.ie’s weekly Family Magazine, we wanted to create a space for parents to share their views. A place where mums and dads could share their experiences, lessons learned, and even mistakes along the way. 

This week’s topic: terrible twos, threenagers and quieting the fire of a major tantrum: what’s your best tip for taming toddler meltdowns?

Parents Panel All 7

Top L-R: Olly Keegan, Alan Dooley, Denise, Ken Hyland. Middle L-R: Ríona Flood, Ross Boxshall, Marta Lisiecka, Denise Cumiskey. Bottom L-R: Kait Quinn, Susannah O’Brien, Derek McInerney, Suzie Kelly

I let them have at it, even in public
I have given up being embarrassed by onlookers during my kids’ public tantrums. It’s taken me four years, but now I attempt to stay calm, make sure they are not in any physical danger and let them have at it. I think of it now as a healthy release of all their frustration – albeit a stressful release for me.

- Denise Cahill

Keeping them occupied with questions or games
The temptation is to argue with them, but staying calm yourself and distracting them works far better. With my sons, I’ll ask if they’d like a hug, or I’ll get them to count with me and take deep breaths. I might tell them a story and ask them to tell me three things they remember from it.

- Suzie Kelly

I’m open to the occasional white lie
If my two year old is refusing to get into his car seat because he we wants a chocolate egg (speaking from experience here), I’ll tell him we have to drive to another shop to get one. He calms down then, I can get him strapped in – and he’s usually forgotten all about it five minutes down the road.

- Susannah O’Brien

b4f2d55f-24e3-4382-9e54-0f02d8e47f37 'Brendan on the cusp of a post-nap tantrum because he wants to see his Auntie Emily.' Source: Susannah O'Brien

A song or two works a treat
Tymek’s tantrums haven’t started properly as yet, but if he is being challenging, I do have some tactics. I try to remove him from the situation, distract him, offer a cuddle, and talk, talk, talk – if he wants to listen. When all else fails I’ll start singing which usually works a treat.

- Marta Lisiecka

I get down on his level (literally)
When my sons were younger, I would speak clearly to them at eye level during a tantrum, tell them what they were doing was wrong, and ask them if they wanted or needed something. I never assumed that the kids were throwing a tantrum just for the sake of it.

- Ken Hyland

Asking them to explain their feelings
If we see the potential for a tantrum, we try and give our kids the word(s) that they need to help describe how they are feeling. One of the early phrases we taught them, and one that our youngest uses very well is “That’s not fair.” Another is “That makes me frustrated.”

- Ross Boxshall

shutterstock_729251812 Source: Shutterstock/Olga Enger

I’ll happily carry him around a shopping centre – but I won’t shout
If it’s in a public space, I will sit on the floor beside him. There was one day a week or so ago where I had to physically carry him the length of the shopping centre while he was just having a complete meltdown. There were some looks, yes. Our main aim is to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself or someone else, but we try not to interfere.

- Olly Keegan

Right now, I’m just riding it out
My (almost) three-year-old is going through a meltdown phase, and it can happen anywhere. Last week it happened in her nanny’s because I was having a cup of tea and not paying attention to her. She got up on the chair, stuck her hand in the cup of hot tea and pulled it down on top of herself. Luckily she was okay! Right now, I am just trying to ride it out and anticipate her moods and triggers.

- Denise Cumiskey

Fancy winning passes for a fun-filled day of kids’ theatre at Dublin’s Smock Alley? Enter here – and don’t forget to like TheJournal.ie’s Family Magazine on Facebook and Twitter!

More Parents Panel: What’s your best tip for getting some ‘me time’?

More Parents Panel: What’s one item you’re glad you spent money on as a parent?

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