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Parenting in the toddler zone means you are most assuredly going to deal with tantrums.  This can be one of the most frustrating parenting challenges.  But, tantrums are normal and can be very valuable for your toddler.

Surviving The Toddler Years

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Learning how to cope with disappointment at a young age will help our kids develop skills they can use with the broken heart the first time their boyfriend/girlfriend dumps them, if their first college choice says no, or when their first boss has to reprimand them.

It hurts to see your little one cry and be sad, but it will hurt more when they turn to drugs, cutting, gluttony, premarital sex, alcohol or any other unhealthy vice to cope with disappointment when they are older.


One beautiful late summer evening turned into a toddler-tantrum night around the Dingler house. Our three year old was in rare form, and not in a pleasant “how cute” kind of way. Oh no, you see we have a premium model toddler, complete with all the extra bells and whistles.

It was a really nice evening outside, and my wife wanted to take a few pictures of the kids. As I was helping our daughter with her shoes, my wife carried our son and her camera out the front door. Which apparently, to a three year old, is the bat-signal for “THE WORLD IS ENDING, BEGIN HYSTERIA NOW”.

Our duaghter thought for sure her mommy wasn’t going to take her picture….a diva issue for another post.

When our daughter got outside to my wife, our daughter screamed at her mom for leaving without her. Not, yelled or talked loudly because she was crying.  And not a scream of joy for being reunited with that which she thought she had lost. Oh no. She outright screamed AT her mother.

My wife calmly yet immediately brought her back into the house. I sat inside with our 3 year old as my wife and son stayed outside and took some great pictures.

And WOW, did our daughter cry and cry. She was really upset. She kept repeating over and over, “I want mommy to take my picture!”

While holding her I calmly and simply repeated over and over, “I know you want to get your picture taken, but you don’t scream at people. When you aren’t nice you don’t deserve what you want.” Not a reply she liked hearing.

Sure, we could have bribed or redirected her attention to get her to calm down so she was “happy”. But, like God is with us…her happiness isn’t at the top of my priority list. I’m concerned about her character more than her happiness or comfort. I’m willing to let her wrestle with a consequence now, so she lives in a way to avoid them later.

I didn’t enjoy watching her sob and cry and be upset. In fact, I hated seeing my little girl like that. But, I’d rather see her a wreck at 3 over not getting her picture taken than a drunk at 15 because her friends at school don’t like her. I’d rather see her spitting mad at me at 3 because I won’t let her have the exact sippy-cup at night she wants when I’ve already given her a different one. (That happened a few nights ago) Hey, in life you don’t always get the sippy-cup you want. (Click to Tweet that, it will really mess with your Twitter friends heads,)


It’s Okay To Let Them Be Upset


  1. Let your little one be upset from time to time. A tantrum isn’t just a toddler’s way of trying to get what they want. It’s how they communicate their frustration because they lack the ability and vocabulary to express themselves calmly. An 8 year having a tantrum, that is more likely manipulative behavior to try to get their way. They learned at 3 and 4, tantrums equal getting what I want. If you have to take a toy from your one year because you want them to eat. Guess what, they are going to launch screaming murderous vocal darts at you. DON’T GIVE THE TOY BACK. It’s okay for them to scream a minute. They don’t know that the next minute of their life will indeed arrive. And, for that matter, they don’t realize it will most likely have s spoon full of yummy dinner.
  2. Don’t punish them during the tantrum.  Firmly, yet with compassion and grace, let them know they are okay, “it will be okay”, and that you love them.  Go brain dead and just keep repeating to them; “We can talk about this as soon as you are as calm as I am.”  It’s okay if they are still crying…there ain’t no problem with tears….however, they can learn to be calm, have tears and still use their words.  It just takes lots of practice.  Some kids need to have time alone to calm down.  Others, need you to stay right there with them.  You’ll have to decide which works best with your kid.
  3. Keep your feelings out of it. Did it hurt my feelings last night to see our daughter so upset? Yes. Would I have felt better making her feel better right away and then going outside and taking pictures? Yes. But making my kids happy isn’t my parenting desire. Raising them to make wise decisions based on the understanding of cause and effect so they have happy lives is my desire.


  • Have a conversation with your spouse about how you as a family are going to handle tantrums.
  • Encourage parents of toddlers. Ask to babysit so that mom and dad can have a date night.
  • Get instant access here to six resources to help you survive the Toddler Zone. (Hint: 3 of them are free)  (The resource is called: Proactive Parenting: Surviving The Toddler Zone Resources)



Questions: What has helped you most in parenting through the toddler zone? What’s the best advice you’ve heard for dealing with tantrums? What is your top tip to new parents or parents about to enter “the toddler zone”?

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