When parents have to start dealing with toddler temper tantrums, the job of being a parent can turn from one of joy to one of hard work and frustration.

World famous toddler taming expert Dr Christopher Green, whose advice has been followed by millions of parents worldwide adopted a more holistic view on the way to deal with temper tantrums after he suffered a stroke.

Previous ideas that it was perfectly normal for children to misbehave and just dealing with the problem have been replaced by the idea that spending more quality time with your child can help to avoid the tantrums in the first place rather than having to deal with them.

Using the positive parenting skills outlined in my previous article along with baby sign can help you provide that bond with your child.

This feedback from Mary D, one of our blog readers outlines just how much baby sign has helped her deal with toddler tantrums:

“I’ve been signing with my 18month old for six months now and it’s really helped us understand what it is he wants.

He loves it when he signs for something and we can understand him so it definitley has helped avoid a few meltdown situations that I see with other parents so often.”

So let’s look at some of the causes of temper tantrums and how to deal with them.

What Causes Toddler Temper Tantrums?

The biggest cause of tantrums is frustration for your toddler.

This can arise from many things. As your toddler is developing very rapidly they want to do more and more and not getting their way or not being able to actually doing something that they think they can do can be really annoying for them sparking off a screaming and crying fit.

It’s also very frustrating for toddlers who want to communicate their needs as they want to share their new discoveries with you and tell you all about that bird they just flew by the window or be able to tell you that they are hungry or in pain.

Depending on where they are in their language development their verbal communication may not be good enough to explain what it is or what the problem is and again causes frustration for your toddler.

Without the verbal language skills to express their emotions children can resort to tantrums as a way to express the emotion and let you know that they are really not happy!

Using baby sign language with toddlers is a great way to help bridge that pre-verbal gap. Even though toddlers have generally started to say a few words or can at least be understood for certain words, their vocabulary skills are still developing and the frustration that arises from not being able to communicate verbally can be the launch pad for an ear piercing screaming fit.

Dealing With Toddler Tantrums:

If they do arise and you child is in a full blown tantrum then there are a few things to do so that you do not make the situation any worse.

  1. Firstly make sure your child is safe.
    If they are screaming and thrashing around on the floor just make sure there are no sharp edges around that they might hurt themselves on.
  2. Don’t argue with your child while they are in the middle of a tantrum.
    Be firm but calm. If you toddler is already upset being upset right back at them will not help the situation at all and will likely make it worse.
  3. Don’t allow your toddler control you with their tantrums.
    It’s certainly hard to have to deal with a child in the middle of a full blown tantrum right in the middle of a shop but your body language can go a long way to influencing the outcome. Keep neutral and remove yourself and your child from the situation in as calm a manner as you can. If they sense your stress it will only add to theirs increasing the intensity of the situation.

If your baby is upset and distressed getting them to sign in this situation to let you know what is wrong may be difficult.

Depending on the level of the tantrum or the situation you may want to sign “Help” to them to see if you can find out what is wrong or if they are being disruptive through their tantrum signing “Stop” can break their tantrum mode.

Make sure that you have previously introduced these signs and that they already know what they mean as introducing signs while your child is upset in any situation is not a good time to try and teach them a new sign.

Avoiding Toddler Tantrums:

While there is no suggestion that baby sign will completely stop toddler tantrums being able to communicate with your toddler and understand their emotion without full verbal language is a great way to help avoid these meltdown moments.

It also offers a great way to bond with your toddler and see inside their world because everything is so new to them they don’t understand that you already know all about the birds in the tree. But communicating with them on their level about what interests them makes your toddler happy that the person they love most understands them and also finds all these new things fascinating and wonderful.

There are a few key areas that you can focus on to help try and avoid tantrums before they even start.

  • Learn To Spot Tantrum Triggers:

Preventing a tantrum from occurring in the first place is a great parenting skill.
Learning to spot the signs that your baby is about to have a tantrum and distracting them into a new activity can help remove their thought process from the current situation and give them a new task to focus on.

If they have a favourite game or toy that they love, teach them the sign for it and get them used to the fact that if you sign that thing that you will provide it for them so you can distract them before the yelling starts.

For example if they love their teddy and you can see that they are about to have a tantrum use the sign for “Teddy” and offer them their teddy to help distract them.
Using Routines & Transitions.

Toddlers get upset when they are in the middle of something that is taking all their concentration, only to get pulled away to do something else that YOU want them to do. If they understand that mealtime is followed by bath time you can start to prepare them for the end of one activity and the beginning of another with some transition signs.

Talk to them and explain what is going to happen and use the sign for the new activity. This works best if they already understand what the sign means (don’t try this with a brand new sign they do not know).

  • Teach Your Toddler About Choices:

Wanting one thing and getting another is a common tantrum initiator. If you can teach your baby some of the common signs for different items you may offer them, then they can learn about choice and consequence.

This is a key part in their stages of development and the path to “growing up”.

  • Bonding With Your Baby:

As outlined by Dr Christopher Green in his Toddler Taming book having a closer bond with your toddler can help them feel more confident so when challenging moments do arise they do not get as stressed and frustrated.

There are lots of ways to bond with your baby through play and early learning games.

One of the best ways is reading with your baby.

Reading helps you to connect on something common that you focus on together as well as the added benefit that reading books encourages speech and vocabulary so you are helping to improve their speech development.

  • Support Them Through Challenging Moments:

There will always be challenges for your toddler as they grow and explore.

Helping to support them through these little challenges in life in the right way can enhance their confidence as well.

Challenge them to grow with age appropriate games and puzzles and work with them to complete them. Ask them questions about pieces of the puzzle and where they think the piece might fit and move it around for them to different places and see if they can pick where it should go.

There are also times when you just need to stand back and watch. Let them go as far as they can themselves.

Sometimes it’s hard when you can see they are struggling to do something and you might have the temptation to do it for them but if they are happy and working at getting that last block on the tower they have been building while staying happy and calm, then the best thing might be to just let them be.

Remember to always give lots of praise and cuddles when your toddler achieves these little goals so they know they have done well.

  • Avoid Junk Food & Sugars:

This is an important one and relates to toddlers and the way that they process food. Too much sugar in their diet can mean that they are hyped up for hours and just have to run around. If they want to run around the house and you don’t want them to, you will probably end up in a confrontational situation with the big NO word being thrown out there.

You can get some great ideas for healthy toddler food here:

If your toddler does have a lot of tantrums, keeping a food diary and tantrum diary can help you to identify patterns and whether or not certain foods are a contributing factor.

Final Words:

Avoiding temper tantrums and using baby sign for pre-verbal communication is a much better alternative to taming your toddler.

The research and studies into baby sign language have shown numerous benefits for using baby sign with toddlers.

Having a calmer more confident child will certainly help them in their development process and if your child is happier and calmer, that is definitely a great thing for you as a parent.