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Help! I need quick tips to handle my toddler's tantrums!

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

I’ve been fielding lots of questions recently from clients about managing their child’s anger, from a Positive Parenting perspective. So, I thought I’d try to put my various bits of answers to them on paper, in the hope that you will also find it useful, whatever the age of your child. (Well, hopefully your 16 year olds don’t often roll around on the floor, but you never know)...

Tantrums - the Belief Behind the Behaviour

1) Positive Discipline teaches us to look for the belief behind the behaviour. Understanding whether my child is rolling on the floor because they are feeling powerless, or because they want control, revenge or feel like they’re not capable will help me to put in place different strategies.

To do this, I can take a look at my own feelings –  • guilt/irritation is a clue for ‘Undue attention’ • challenged/angry is a clue for ‘Misguided Power’ • hurt/disappointed is our clue for ‘revenge’ • hopeless/inadequate is our clue for ‘assumed inadequacy’

Girl wearing Red dress

If my three year old is looking for power, then I might choose to offer her limited choices – “would you like to wear your blue dress or your red dress ? Shall we run or hop to the bathroom to brush our teeth?”

If she’s looking for attention, then instead I might choose to spend special time with her “when you’ve eaten your pasta, we can read a book together – which story would you like?”


2) I try to use the tool ‘connect before correct’ - if I can get close enough, I will use touch to help him calm down – a hand on his back, a shoulder massage. Alternatively, I can sit down right next to him and let him know quietly that I am there.

We all need hugs

3) Another tool I love is ‘I need a hug’.. Once I’ve tried to connect, verbally, then I say “I need a hug”. It’s important not to ask for a hug, or tell the child that they look like they need one, but simply to state that you need one. It is magical how this works – give it a go and let me know.

A Feeling Better Space/Wheel

4) Finally, something we use lots in our house is an anger ‘wheel of choice’. Wheels of choice are all about giving our children options when they find themselves in difficult situations. So, in response to my eldest child’s anger, we sat down together in a calm moment, and had a brainstorming session on different things he can do to calm himself down. Then he drew himself a circle and added his ideas into it. Now it looks like this.

OK, learning from my mistakes, I would recommend having a discussion about which ones are acceptable, so yours doesn’t end up with ‘killing’ written on it, but I thought I’d give you the real picture, not just my glossy Instagram life! For younger children, you can use a template, such as this one, and either they or you draw pictures into it..

Next Steps

If you want to learn more tips for handling big emotions, then you can purchase a recording of my Emotions Workshop with Munira, a Sensory Specialist. Send me an email to buy the recording. Alternatively, sign up to my newsletter and get my top 10 parenting tips...


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