You know the days when your toddler seems to cry or throw tantrums constantly? Or when they get so happy or excited that they end up having a meltdown? (What is that even about??) Those are the days when “big emotions” are overcoming your toddler.
We recently hit this stage with my 1.5 year old.
Now we have days where every little thing seems to be a struggle. And then we have days where he’s so happy and cheerful, only to burst into tears over the slightest thing that doesn’t go his way.
So what’s a mom (or dad) to do when their toddler’s wild emotions get out of hand?
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Understanding “Big Emotions”
“Big emotions” are just what they sound like—emotions so extreme that your little one just doesn’t know how to handle them.
But big emotions can also include extreme happiness or excitement. Even these positive emotions can lead to meltdowns when things don’t go according the your toddler’s plan.
When it comes down to it, your toddler simply feels so much, and strongly, but hasn’t yet learned how to handle those emotions. This is typically what leads to the meltdowns and tantrums.
So what can you do to help your little one handle their emotions in the moment, and learn to manage them better in the future?
Tips Help Your Toddler Handle “Big Emotions”
Don’t fight fire with fire
First off, don’t fight fire with fire.
If your little one is angry and yelling or throwing a tantrum, getting angry at him doesn’t help to diffuse the situation.
Likewise, being excessively excited won’t help him to calm down when he is being “hyper.”
Rather then letting the big emotions get under your skin, do your best to remain calm.
Try to be the calm in the storm of your little one’s emotions.
Get on their level
If your child’s emotions have gotten out of control, try getting down on his level before attempting to correct him.
Making eye contact can help them to focus on what you’re saying, and help to calm them down.
Plus, toddlers tend to be more receptive if you are on their level, rather than having to look up at you.
Offer a hug
I think in a lot of cases, meltdowns and tantrums stem far more from out of control emotions than from a deliberate attempt to make you miserable.
With that in mind, offering a hug can help to calm down your toddler.
This is not rewarding their behavior, but rather offering them your love and support as you both work through the problem.
When Elijah starts throwing a tantrum or meltdown with me, I frequently just stop and hold me arms out for a hug.
And you know what? 95% of the time he comes over and crumbles into my arms.
Yes, there are times he hesitates. And yes, there are times he refuses. And that’s okay. Don’t force it.
But, offering a hug can help your toddler to calm down and regain control of their emotions.
Use empathetic language
When your little one’s emotions are out of control, don’t forget to use empathetic language with them.
This is not the same as sympathy, or excusing their behavior.
Rather, it shows them that you understand where they are coming from, even if you don’t agree with their actions or attitudes.
For example, you might say something like, “I see that you’re sad/upset that you can’t go outside in the rain. I feel sad that it’s raining too.”
Take the time to acknowledge and validate their feelings. Then, when they are calmer, guide them towards a more appropriate reaction to their emotion.
Teach alternative behavior
Once your child is calmer and able to better listen, help him to think of more constructive ways to express his emotions.
Rather than having a meltdown when their are sad, you might go read with them until they start to feel better.
Teaching a constructive activity as a response to an extreme emotion can help to tame the tantrums and outbursts.
Remember to have patience
Above all, remember to be patient with your toddler.
Managing emotions, particularly strong ones, is a skill that is learned over time, not overnight.
Help your child to put words to their emotions, and then guide them toward managing them well.
And don’t be afraid to offer comfort and support when needed!
How Does Your Toddler Handle Big Emotions?
What do you do to help your toddler handle their strong emotions? Share with me in the comments below—I’d love to hear from you!