Deep breaths and mama mantras —5 ways to keep it together during toddler tantrums

The reality of motherhood is that sometimes our toddlers want to do their own thing no matter what we want.

Sometimes they demand to have that banana instead of this (pretty much exact same) banana.

They may decide to pull everything off the shelves in CVS even if you’ve politely asked them not to (you said ‘please’!).

And somehow a well-intentioned trip to the playground can turn into toddler tears and the make-your-body-go-limp stunt, just as you’re trying to pick them up to leave.

Your little one is learning and developing at a rapid pace—their brains are full and busy. Their emotional state is akin to a wild rollercoaster ride—but hang on mama. Toddler tantrums are a normal part of being a child. 

But they also can be so overwhelming for you, mama. We know. We’ve been there, too.

We got to chat with our toddler expert Dr. Tovah Klein, author of How Toddlers Thrive and Director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development about how we adult can keep it together during a tantrum.

So instead of getting sweaty, turning bright red 😡 (been there), and losing all brain power in the midst of your child’s meltdown— Dr. Klein offers some positive steps on how to handle it like a boss the next time your mini me decides to go rogue.

1. Stay centered.

Dr. Klein explains: “The main thing for mom is to stay centered and remind yourself that A) your child is little and having a hard time, and B) they are not out to get you, they are not ‘being bad.’ Truly, this is hard for her.”

2. Have a mantra.

Dr Klein: “I’d suggest having a mantra in your head that can calm you, like—

‘She is just a little girl,’ or ‘this won’t be forever.’ or ‘I can handle this—exhale.’

“This kind of self-talk can bring us back to a more regulated state and help our child.”

Your job: Think of one mantra that works for you and prep yourself to repeat it during the next meltdown.

3. Realize it’s not you.

“Do everything you can not to take it personally,” Dr. Klein reminds us. “Know that her brain is overwhelmed and flooded by emotions without any turn-off capabilities at that moment.”

4. Ignore others.

If your child is freaking out in public, Klein notes, “It is hard to ignore others around you, but if you can, find a place to stop, stand still (near your child, of course) close your eyes for a moment and inhale slowly then exhale. You can even remind yourself to ‘exhale, exhale’ and regain your composure so that the upset of your child does not pull you into her orbit.”

5. Stay calm.

No matter whether you want to break down and cry or yell for help, “more than anything that little screaming person needs you to stay calm and remain the rational adult. She needs you to be steady so she can pull it together.”

You’ve got this.

Diana is Motherly’s Digital Education Editor. She is a midwife, pediatric nurse and founder of Gathered Birth. She loves all things birth, and is passionate about empowering women to trust themselves and embrace their inner rockstar. Diana lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and 3 amazing, goofy kids.

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