5 ways to help junior handle big emotions

If junior is having a hard time managing his ups and downs, here are ways you can help him.


Toddler temper tantrums ― the bane of every parent’s existence. No parent can evade it and in fact, many try to run for the hills when it happens, usually at the most inappropriate of times!

Others, like Hollywood celeb Drew Barrymore, deal with it by taking goofy pictures next to her 4-year-old daughter Olive, who recently lost it in the middle of Disneyland.

You can expect your child’s formative years to be filled with tantrums ― some minor, others major ― nor is it because he or she is destined to become a tyrant (at least we hope not). Rather, it’s because, at this tender age, your toddler is physically, emotionally and mentally incapable of controlling his feelings.

“The brain architecture to handle social, emotional and survival problems is crafted by experience and shaped by the environment or social input,” explains family coach and parenting expert Cornelia Dahinten. “This, coupled with the brain’s system of impulse control, a developing nervous system and not being mature yet, makes children unable to control their emotions.”

As boys are emotionally more fragile and speak later compared to girls, they tend to have stronger tantrums, Dahinten notes.

In general, tantrums are sparked by many factors. “If a child is already feeling bad, the tiniest thing can make the bucket overflow,” says Dahinten. “Feeling tired, stressed out, worried, fearful or hungry children will always have a quicker and stronger tantrum then a child who has slept enough, has had regular nutritious meals and has nothing else to worry about.” 

Watching your child feeling sad and frustrated is no fun, plus, it also takes an emotional toil on you, the parent. However, do keep in mind that tantrums are an essential part of growing up. So, don’t be too quick to do everything in your power to prevent your child from having one.

“How the child responds to a tantrum basically teaches him and his physical system to calm down and overcome painful thought and emotion,” Dahinten explains. “It paves the way for emotional well-being and effectiveness as an adult.”

As the only way for your child to understand the world is to test boundaries, they’ll find it hard to make sense of the world if you “help” them avoid conflict. You are essentially depriving them of a learning experience.

Do keep in mind that tantrums are an essential part of growing up. So, don’t be too quick to do everything in your power to prevent your child from having one.

So, the next time your tot gets out of control, use these five tips to help her get through it ― it’ll also put her on the path towards a lifetime of emotional learning. 

1. Label your toddler’s feelings for her

WHY YOU SHOULD DO IT An ability to identify and connect to feelings, as well as communicate them provides a good foundation for all types of communication and relationship later on. 

HOW TO DO IT “Acknowledge what’s going on by using their own words, mimicking their feelings and tuning in with your voice and facial expression,” Dahinten advises. If your child really wanted some sweets but you are against it, say something like, “Oh Alice, you really wanted this lollipop, but mummy said no. Now you are all sad, because the lollipop looks so delicious. It is so hard to not get what you want.” 

2. Help your toddler tell her side of the story

WHY YOU SHOULD DO IT When you get the lowdown from your little fella on what really happened, you can teach him how to behave differently if it happens again. You can also point out gently where he went wrong. Junior won’t feel defensive when he realises that no one is against him. “Learning the ability to explain what happened and knowing that people are prepared to listen to your side of the story builds trust,” Dahinten notes. If you acknowledge that your child retaliated because he was initially wronged, he is then more likely to see that the way he reacted to the situation might not be right.

HOW TO DO IT Say, junior was at the playground and a child snatches his toy. He pushes the kid in an attempt to retrieve his toy. The snatcher’s mum comes along, takes the toy away from your child and gives it to her son. A tantrum ensues.

Go over to your kiddo and say something like, “I see you are very upset because this boy took your toy without asking nicely and you were still playing with it. Then you went to get your toy back and you pushed the boy. Then he cried and his mum came and took your toy away again. I can see how upset you are.”

Acknowledge that the boy shouldn’t have snatched the toy, but at the same time it wasn’t right to push him either. Stress to your child that it’s never okay to hurt others, even if they are in the wrong. End by giving him options on what he could have done. Say, “Next time this happens, you can come to me and I’ll help you or you can tell the person you are still playing with that it’s your toy and you want it back. If the child doesn’t give it back, get help from an adult. Now shall we go and get the toy back? And when we do, can you please say sorry to the boy you pushed?”

Read on for three more ways to manage those meltdowns…