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Do You Have a Challenging Toddler? 8 Simple, Proven Solutions

shutterstock_151353104Ah, toddler-hood: the years when a child’s mind is growing faster than their speech, where they have big feelings but little control. Parenting a toddler is challenging to say the least.

My daughter is seven now, but I clearly remember those days of leaving the grocery cart full and walking out of the store with a flailing, screaming 2 year old. Nearly anything can set a toddler off: a cat in her special seat, running out of Cheerios, or even the one-cent pony ride being out of service.

This is not to say that parenting a toddler is all pain and no joy. There were lots of wonderful moments as I watched my daughter learn language, when I saw the world through her new eyes and experienced her wonder.

But the crazy times? Yes. There were plenty of those.

Part of parenting is finding simple ways of making it through tantrums and screaming matches.

As a therapist, a mom, and a blogger, here are some tried and true suggestions for when your little one is out of control, and you feel like you’re going crazy.

  1. Give your kiddo a time-in, instead of a timeout. A time-in is where you invite your child to sit down next to you or near you or on your lap. You invite her to talk about her feelings and connect until the behavior storm passes. There’s a great article that explains the difference between time in and time out here. 
  2. Be silly together. Toddlers can get so into their cranky moods that they cannot pull themselves out of it. As a mom or dad, being silly or goofy can break that mood. I used to perform very poorly done magic tricks. Toddlers aren’t picky.
  3. Give yourself some space, if possible. With a toddler, it can be hard to find a moment of peace, but sometimes when you notice yourself getting angry or about to yell or hit, placing the child in a safe place (playpen, crib, having another adult watch him) and moving yourself to another room can be life-giving. The other night I told my 7 year old about how difficult she was to put down for a nap sometimes. One afternoon after trying unsuccessfully to get her to sleep for over an hour, I walked out of her room and screamed into a pillow. I then came in and could comfort and parent her without loosing my cool. I was taking care of myself, but also taking care of her.
  4. Breathe deeply. There are tons of good websites that tell you how to do this. One is found here. 
  5. Eat something. You know how it is when a 2 year old is hungry and cranky? It happens to parents too. Grab a cheese stick or an apple and peanut butter, or something else with protein.
  6. Put on music. It can be classic rock, top 40, heavy metal, whatever. It will give both of you something to focus on. If you can muster up the energy, dance. You might look silly, but that kills two birds with one stone (see suggestion #2).
  7. Take your toddler outside. Going outside provides a change in temperature, things to look at, things to feel. Walk barefoot on the grass. Touch the bark on a tree. Splash in a puddle, swing on a swing together.
  8. Call someone – a friend, your mom, your partner. One person I know posted a plea on a parenting board for someone to call her because she felt as if she were loosing her mind. Someone reached out over the phone and was able to help her through. Everyone needs assistance sometimes, and other parents who have been there and done that can be great resources, even if it’s just to tell you that you’re not crazy, it’s okay to cry, and it will get better.

The biggest mistake a parent can make is not reaching out when things get tough. You are not in this alone.

Find others to help you out. Connecting with other parents who are struggling or who have been where you are is crucial, even if it’s through the internet or on the phone. 

The toddler years will soon be over, and the next challenge will come. 

Write down your toddler stories, because someday the two of you will laugh about the time your child pulled the fire alarm at Target or peed in the neighbor’s flower bed.


Photo from Shutterstock

Do You Have a Challenging Toddler? 8 Simple, Proven Solutions

Jenise Harmon, MSW, LISW-S

Jenise Harmon, LISW-S, is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Columbus, Ohio. She works with individuals and couples, and specializes in relationship counseling. She's now offering online counseling for residents of Ohio. Stay Connected . Follow her on twitter; and connect with her on Facebook.

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APA Reference
Harmon, J. (2014). Do You Have a Challenging Toddler? 8 Simple, Proven Solutions. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 6, 2020, from


Last updated: 10 Aug 2014
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