Losing your temper with your toddler? From tantrums to bedtime battles, discover 5 tips to help you discipline in a calm and patient way.
It was starting to tug at my nerves.
Normally, I could talk myself down or even ignore my kiddos when they threw a fit, but sometimes, I ended up screaming right back at them. I’d lose my patience and yell so loudly that my throat would hurt afterward.
The triggers usually happened when they didn’t listen or made a big deal out of something that shouldn’t take so much energy. Other times, I’d lose my temper when they would yell at the top of their lungs.
Losing your temper with your toddler? Here’s what to do
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.
Parenting toddlers is a continuous learning experience, so much so that your temper can still get tested. Just when you think you’ve been calm for ages, you find yourself getting upset and having your own mini meltdown.
It’s bound to happen—no one is perfect, after all. We’re still learning, and our kids continue to go through changes that will test us. Remove the stigma or the pressure to always be perfect, and instead, learn from the present moment.
What should you do after these meltdowns and power struggles?
Ask yourself: What happened that made me get angry? What can I do differently next time so I’m not snapping at them all the time? Rather than beat yourself up for your mistakes, question what happened.
I certainly learned a ton from the many times I’ve lost my temper with my toddlers, which I’ll share below. Hopefully you’ll discover how to temper these emotional reactions and keep your sanity. As these moms wrote:
“This has really been a huge help and relief to me. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. It was a huge realization that this is their normal and I should not take it personally. Admittedly I am sad to say I did. And this article has made a world of a difference in how I am reacting to my daughter’s actions. Thank you so much.” -Kristin
“I so needed this! Was having a mini meltdown of my own today and just decided to google “I keep losing it with my two year old” and thank God the first listing directed me to your page. Thank you for your insight and guidance :)” -Brandee
Take a look at some new lessons about losing your temper:
1. See your toddler’s resistance a different way
No one likes to be questioned or defied—it feels like a personal attack when our directions, plans, or opinions are outright ignored or disobeyed.
Except this is what toddlers do all the time.
Your toddler might do the exact opposite of what you just said, look at you like he didn’t hear you, or throw a fit over an easy request. It’s enough to drive any parent nuts.
The thing is, not only is this normal for toddlers to do, it’s even desired.
Think about the opposite: would you really want your child to yes to everything? To not question authority, or add his opinion? To not stand up for what he believes is right, or set his own boundaries?
Nope, I wouldn’t either.
This is the time he’ll practice these “skills” the most. It’s when he learns what’s okay and what isn’t, and how to cope when these difficult emotions arise.
When he resists or defies you, remove yourself out of the equation and see it as normal behavior. Don’t take it personally, and instead chalk it up to an opportunity for him to learn how to behave.
Free resource: Exhausted and feeling guilty from losing your temper with your toddler? Even if it seems like you’ve tried just about everything, you can stop getting angry, if you start from the inside out and change from within.
In How to Finally Stop Losing Your Temper, you’ll learn how to reflect on your habits and triggers, and what you can do when you feel compelled to express anger. Grab your PDF below—at no cost to you. You’ll also get my newsletters, which parents say they LOVE:
“My son’s behavior has improved a lot and that’s all to us changing our parenting style thanks to all your great tips! The last few weekends have been stress free. There’s no more yelling because he’s not misbehaving, everything is so much easier. I really never considered how harsh parents’ tones can be. He’s also happier to play in his play room so I can concentrate on our 14 month old a little more.” -Samantha Headdon
2. Brace yourself during bad days
Have you noticed that when you’re in a good mood, you’re a more patient mom with your toddler? Well, the opposite can be said when you’re in a bad one.
For instance, I’d end my work day frustrated, then head straight to pick up the kids and wonder why every little thing they did made me angry.
A “bad day” doesn’t always have to be disastrous. Even little things like dealing with a broken air conditioner or a late package delivery mean your mind is elsewhere instead of on your toddler. The next time you’re having a bad day, brace yourself because you’re vulnerable and prone to losing your temper.
Instead, try these tactics:
- Spend 10-30 minutes “shutting down” before being with your toddler. If you’re at work, do something light before ending your day. If you’re at home, pick a light or relaxing task to transition yourself into being with her.
- Journal your thoughts. I like to spend a few minutes before picking up the kids to write down what I did for the day so it’s out of my mind. I’ll also write frustrations and challenges so I can let them go.
- Take a deep breath and say a mantra. If the day is already going south, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’re going through a rough time right now. This little reminder can be all you need to go easy on him when she whines. That the real reason you’re upset is because the kitchen sink is clogged or that you’re upset about extra bills.
Get more tips about how to get yourself out of a bad parenting day.
3. Your toddler’s behavior isn’t “for no reason”
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links, which means I will earn a commission—at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase.
I can’t remember how many times I complained to my husband, “He just threw a fit for no reason!”
In the heat of the moment, it may seem like your toddler erupts out of nowhere. He might be perfectly fine, but will suddenly hit his brother on the head. Or he’d been in a good mood all day when he’ll throw a fit about getting in the car seat.
Now I’ve learned that there’s no such thing as “for no reason.” There’s always a reason—sometimes it just takes a little digging to discover what it is.
It might be that he had a rough day with other kids at preschool, something you wouldn’t know if he doesn’t say anything. He could be afraid of a television show he watched, his fears surfacing hours or even days later.
And it could be as simple as not having his basic needs met. He might be hungry for a snack, sleepy for a nap, or needs your attention.
We all have bad days, and even we can’t always pinpoint the exact reason we feel down. The same is true for our kids.
On that note, check out No Fits, Nelson! by Zachariah OHora all about helping your child calm down when things go wrong:
4. Don’t worry about what other people think
Disciplining in public is not my favorite. Whether with a family member, friend, or stranger, I never liked the idea that other people could witness my kids throwing a fit—and watch how I’ll respond.
Except here’s what I learned. First, no one really cares what you’re doing. It might seem like everyone’s watching your every move, but more likely, they don’t even notice.
Second, it doesn’t matter what they think. Take strangers, for instance. There’s no way they can judge one incident—whether positive or negative—and decide what type of parent you are.
Let me give you an example of when I let other people dictate my actions.
I was picking up the kids from school when one of them complained. I wanted to let it go, but with other parents and teachers around, I felt compelled to put on my “discipline hat” and started talking down to him.
Deep down, I wanted others to think that I had this under control, that I knew what I was doing.
Well, turns out that my first intuition was right. Disciplining him, especially in front of others, only set him off further. Had I let it go like I wanted to, we could’ve headed to the van with only mild complaints instead of a full-on fit.
5. A good track record doesn’t mean your toddler is perfect
One of my biggest temper triggers is, surprisingly, after my kids have been behaving so well.
You see, when your toddler has been doing what he’s supposed to, it’s easy to get upset when he hits a toddler sleep regression or makes mistakes.
Except, you guessed it—it’s normal to regress and make mistakes. You and I do, all the time. It’s unfair to get mad at him for the one time he spilled the plate of food on the way to the dining table when he’d been doing so well up to that point.
Ask yourself: Do you give him grief for throwing a tantrum at bedtime, forgetting that he hasn’t thrown one in months? Do you lose your patience when he has a potty accident, never mind that he’d been using the potty so well all this time?
You can see where I’m going here. He’s bound to behave in ways you’d rather he not—even when he’s been behaving so well. In fact, harping on that one misstep can send negative messages about how to respond to mistakes.
Instead, correct the behavior and move on. He should see mistakes as learning opportunities instead of feeling penalized for the few times he didn’t put the toys back in the toy box.
It’s never easy staying calm when you’re already exhausted, juggling everything else, and dealing with a toddler. Especially when she whines and cries over everything or throws a fit out of nowhere. Now you know what to do when you feel yourself short-tempered.
Brace yourself when you’re already having a bad day so it doesn’t affect how you spend time with your family. Don’t let her resistance trigger you into losing your temper. Instead, remember that this is normal and even desired in the bigger picture.
Remind yourself that her behavior is never “for no reason,” and don’t allow other people’s opinions to sway the way you discipline. And finally, go easy on her few mishaps, the kind that are bound to happen, even when all this time she’s had a great track record.
That way, when she tugs—or more like yanks—that last nerve, you’ll feel better equipped to handle it.
Get more tips:
- How to Respond to Toddler Testing
- 7 Things You Should NOT Do with a Defiant 2 Year Old
- How to Get Kids to Listen Without Yelling and Losing Your Cool
- What to Do When You’re Seeing 1 Year Old Tantrums Already
- How to Discipline a Toddler Who Doesn’t Listen
Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and grab your copy of How to Finally Stop Losing Your Temper below—at no cost to you:
Thank you for the tips! I am just finishing up first trimester with baby #2 and my emotions ran deep with our now 13-month old. It doesn’t happen often that I yell but when I do it sticks with both of us for a while. I think knowing what’s actually triggering you (Clogged sinks! Unfinished house projects!) and educating yourself on why toddlers act the way they do is very helpful. Onwards and upwards!
Nina Garcia says
Exactly, Alex! Being pregnant can definitely push your limits. I remember being pretty patient with my eldest, but once that third trimester hit when I was pregnant with his twin brothers, my patience went out the door. Definitely knowing your triggers and remembering that this is normal behavior for toddlers has for sure helped!
First time mom says
Thank you. Your website is a great help to me and lifted my spirits! It has a lot of relevant advice!
Nina Garcia says
Thanks so much for your kind words! I’m glad the website is resonating with you, both with motivation and useful advice.
Brandee DG says
I Sooooooo needed this!! Was having a mini meltdown of my own today and just decided to freakin’ google “I keep losing it with my two year old” and thank God the first listing directed me to your page. Thank you for your insight and guidance:)
Nina Garcia says
I’m so glad you found the article, Brandee! Hopefully the blog and newsletters will give you even more insights, especially on those “meltdown” days 🙂 xo, Nina
Same her!!! Exact same events in my day.
This has really been a huge help and relief to me. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. There are so many mom pages and google searches on what to do when your toddler misbehaves or acts in a way you wished they wouldn’t and it was a huge realization that this is their normal and I should not take it personally. Admittedly I am sad to say I did. And this article along with two other books I purchased have made a world of a difference in how I am reacting to my daughter’s actions. Thank you so much.
Nina Garcia says
I’m so glad to hear that, Kristin! Yes, there can definitely be too much information, but not many to help you see parenting in a new light. That’s why here on this blog and the resources I offer, my focus has always been to start from the inside out, and change from within starting with us, so that it trickles down to their behavior. So happy to hear the difference it can make with you and your daughter!
I needed this- thank you!