The holidays can be the most magical time of year—but let us be honest, with a toddler, the tantrums could outnumber the presents under the tree. If you have a willful, impulsive toddler (in other words, if you have a normal toddler) it can also be very trying. Here are 5 meltdown triggers…plus 5 tried-and-true tips for how to deal with toddler tantrums to reduce Hanukkah Horrors or Christmas Crises!

Tantrum Trigger No. 1: The Giant Chocolate Santa

They point at a giant chocolate Santa and start screaming, "I waaant it!"

Tantrum Solution: Speak in Toddler-ese + Use the Fast Food Rule

When your 2-year-old melts down in aisle three at the shop, reasoning with them using a calming voice and explanation is often a bust. Their frustration turns off the brain's language center making it very difficult to listen.

Try switching to short phrases and lots of repetition. First, acknowledge feelings (with a sincere look on your face): Point to the Santa and say, ‘Candy! Candy! Now….now! You want it NOW!’ Repeat this three to four times, so he sees you really get it. At least 50% of the time he will calm down and then immediately offer a distraction, solution, or compromise. ‘I know, I know you want it, sweetie! But, at home we have cookies…do you want one or two when we get home? I think they have sprinkles on them, too! Right?’

Tantrum Trigger No. 2: The Fancy Dress

Your child refuses to wear the fancy holiday dress Grandmum gave them.

Tantrum Solution: Play the Boob

We all like to feel smart and children especially love when adults act a little dumb: Not only does it get a giggle, it also makes them feel clever and strong…compared to their inept parents. Say, ‘This dress is so pretty! I am gonna wear it. It goes on my head, right?’ Then put it on like a hat. Then, when they try to correct you, say, ‘No, I know how, I am super smart!’ Then, hang it on your ear—you get the picture. Within seconds, they will be laughing and showing you the right way to wear it.

Tantrum Trigger No. 3: The Presents

It is time to open gifts, and your toddler gets very grabby…with other kids' toys.

Tantrum Solution: Gossip

We all like to overhear people saying nice things about us…and that is what ‘gossip’ is all about!

Before the struggles and temper tantrums start, plant a seed of good behaviour in your child's mind. Let them overhear you loudly whispering praise (to Daddy, the cat, even her favourite stuffed animal) about some of the good things they did earlier. You can even whisper a few things you hope they will do later.

The trick is to make it seem like a secret! Cup your hand and whisper just loud enough for them to hear: ‘Blue Bunny, did you know that Molly is really good, good, good at sharing? She takes turns playing when cousin Fiona visits.’ If Molly says, ‘I heard that!’ You can just say, ‘Oh, it is nothing, Bunny and I are just having a chat.’ A little gossip before the event—and then afterward as a reward—boosts the good behaviour you want to see.

Tantrum Trigger No. 4: The Big Dinner

Your child saves up their worst behaviour…for the moment the family dinner is served!

Tantrum Solution: Time-Ins

If you know you are going to be rushing around the kitchen, greeting guests and listening to your great-aunt's story about her gall bladder all night, give your child some special alone time earlier in the afternoon. Read a story, cuddle for a while or colour a picture to use as a centerpiece (and make sure to brag to everyone that he drew it…all by himself! (that is another little ‘gossip’ opportunity!)

Also, have your 10-year-old niece (or babysitter) give a few 5-minute bits of play—peppered throughout the dinner—to help your child feel cared about. Time-out is when you deprive a child of your attention. These little ‘time-ins’—tiny bits of extra attention—help boost cooperation and confidence...and even reduce the need for time-outs!

Tantrum Trigger No. 5: The Holiday Party

All the sugary sweets and rambunctious children can whip them into a frenzy!

Tantrum Solution: Role Playing

Around 2, toddlers love to pretend to be someone else during play. Take advantage of this to act out how you would like your little buddy to behave. The story does not have to be Oscar-worthy, but it should have a beginning and end, and a clear message: ‘Batman is going to a party at T-Rex's house. “Hello T-Rex, my name is Batman!” Do you think Batman will be mean or nice to T-Rex? Will he share his toys? What should Batman say to T-Rex?’ Your child can act out one of the characters or simply enjoy the show.

By the time January rolls around, the cookies will all be eaten, and the stockings and menorahs stowed away. But learning to help your toddler stay balanced and happy…that is a gift that keeps on giving throughout the year.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.