Search icon


12th Jun 2021

Here’s the one simple question that can diffuse a toddler tantrum in 10 seconds flat

Trine Jensen-Burke

how to diffuse toddler tantrum

If you have a toddler, you have most likely also had to live through a temper tantrum or two (or three or four or seven thousand…)

The important thing to remember is that while tantrums are both stressful and sweat-inducing (at least to us parents), they are also totally, completely normal. Toddlers are meant to push boundries, test us, see what they can get away with (or not get away with) – and sometimes, it all gets a little overhwelming for them, and tantrums happen.

And while often the best thing to do is to just let thing blow over by themselves, that is often easier said than done when you are in the middle of the cleaning aisle at Tesco and everyone is staring at you and your screaming-from-the-top-of-his-lungs toddler.

Which is why this nifty parenting hack I came across is so good it might just be a bit of game changer when it comes to tantrums.

According to a child psychologist this mum had spoken to, what children need most when they are getting all worked up over something, is to feel respected in the sense of acknowledging what they are feeling. As in, don’t tell them to snap out of it, instead help them figure out why they are so angry.

The idea here is that when we acknowledge what they are going through, and at the same time make them participate in solving the problem, we can disarm the tantrum.

So here is what the psychologist suggests you do: Kneel down so you are at their level, look them in the eye and ask (in a calm voice): “Is this a big problem, a medium problem, or a small problem?”

When you ask this, certainly for children from the ages of three and up, it will make them stop and think, and then hopefully make them start looking for a solution with you. Keep in mind a problem your child might categorise as ‘big’ might seem rather silly and insignificant to you, but always make them feel like you are taking this seriously, or else it won’t work.

I have recently road-tested this method with my children and must admit it absolutely seemed to work in disarming a full-blown tantrum in the making. Which, I think we can all agree, is quite the tool to have in your parenting tool box!

How do YOU deal with tantrums? Any great tips to share with us?