How not to lose your mind during your child’s tantrum

My second daughter has just started going through tantrum phase. Somehow, both of my children really took the notion “Terrible twos” seriously. I have been blessed with children who have regular, long, and VERY loud outbursts in the most inconvenient places (the supermarket, the underground, the sidewalk, the park). I know very well how stressful they can be and how they might make you feel.

A normal but difficult phase

Tantrums are a normal part of a toddler’s development. I know that because I did a lot of reading up about them when I first witnessed my first daughter throwing a fit for what seemed like no reason to me. (Janet Lansbury‘s work really saved me by the way, I recommend her books wholeheartedly). I thought I was doing something wrong, or that there was something wrong with my child. Throwing oneself on walls and furniture, hitting me, and screaming for 20 minutes seemed alarming. During her first 3 years, we’ve had countless tantrums because…

  • I took off her trousers whereas she wanted to do it herself
  • The eyes of the monster on her socks weren’t shut (seriously!)
  • I peeled the banana
  • I didn’t peel the banana
  • I didn’t peel the banana, but it handed it to her instead of letting her grab it
  • I gave her the wrong book
  • I refused to read the same book for the fifth time in a row

And now, the same scenarios are on repeat with my second.

The parent in all of this

That list probably makes you laugh. I can tell you though, that it doesn’t feel funny at all when you are in the midst of it. It’s loud, it’s scary and it’s stressful, even if you know it’s normal. In the moment, it doesn’t feel normal. Also, if you look at it from an evolutionary perspective, no situation that includes loud screaming and crying would have you be an indifferent observer- and this is your child we are talking about.

As usual, most of the advice on the internet is about how to deal with your child’s tantrum to help them get through it as smoothly as possible.

But what about the parent? Well, like for most things written about parenthood, the focus is once again on the child.

How to survive tantrums – being present with it all

Personally, reminding myself that ‘it’s just a phase’ doesn’t cut it in the moment. Thankfully, over the years – and because my first was a great training partner – I have found a way to not feel like a train just ran over me once the tantrum is over.  My secret? I am intentionally fully present with everything that is happening.  As counter intuitive as it might sound, focusing on our senses in the moment can be incredibly beneficial because it helps us get out of the head and into the body. This automatically translates to less thinking, worrying, and catastrophising, and more being. Here are a few ways I do this:

  • I focus on my feet – feeling all the contact points, feeling the area they are touching, trying to find my toes.
  • I look at something with great curiosity – I have done this with my toddler’s hair or clothes.
  • Taking deep breaths, making sure I exhale fully
  • Speaking very slowly, if at all
  • Singing gently or humming (this stimulates the vagus nerve and brings about a relaxation response)
  • I visualise my heart being full of love for this tiny being having such a hard time.

If I do end up feeling “charged up” at the end, I wash my hands and alternate between cold and hot water, being very present with all the sensations on my hand.


Instead of telling myself that it’s just a phase, I accept that there is nothing I can do to control/change the situation and I surrender to the moment. This blueprint has served me even in the middle of a supermarket ail during rush hour, when my daughter was having a meltdown because one of the hair clips kept falling down. And it’s keeping me sane when my little one doesn’t want to come back inside from our garden, ever.

Motherhood is full of moments like these. Chaos, loud noises, screams. As much as we can stay grounded and within ourselves, especially in moments like this, we are doing our children and ourselves a big favor. In addition, if our children sense our serenity, they are more likely to calm down. (I wish that meant they calm down right away, but it doesn’t.)

So next time you find yourself witnessing a tantrum, try this blueprint and let me know if it helped in the comments below!





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Hi, I'm Annie!

I’m a mum of two and a coach with a mission to help fellow mums prevent burnout, eradicate stress and overwhelm and live their best lives.

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