3 Year Old Tantrums, and How to Handle Them Like a Pro with Gentle Parenting (So you don’t feel guilty later!)

With the New Year on the way, I can’t help but think of resolutions, as most people do, however they tend to be a little different now as a parent!

Now, I’m not saying those aren’t awesome resolutions still (they are!) but I feel like when you are in the “trenches” of parenthood, sometimes you just gotta worry about getting through the day…. or to the next nap!

With that being said, my only resolution this year is to be a more patient mom. I absolutley lose my mind when my 3 year old has tantrums – and I’m fully aware that it doesn’t help him (or me!),

Four years ago it probably would have been something along the lines of eating healthier, work out more, give to charity…. the stuff that I would have time to focus on if I didn’t have three kids three and under!

I’ve really struggled with maintaining my cool, and letting him work through his emotions, and am working to change that!

If you're a new parent, you might wonder how in the world to handle those tantrums that seem to happen for no rhyme or reason. It turns out there IS a reason, and you can handle them through gentle parenting!

After doing some research, and testing some things out the past week or two, I’ve found what seems to be working for making tantrums not AS LONG, as well as preventing me from engaging in a screaming match with a small person just learning about his feelings!

Before I start this article, I want to say a lot of my research came from two books that have an emphasis on gentle parenting.

They give clear solutions to every situation, and will totally change your views on how to parent!

In researching better, more gentle parenting methods, Janet’s name kept coming up, and it turns out she has muliple books! These books are the most helpful when it comes to tantrums.

I am still amazed at how simple her solutions are that I somehow didn’t think about or consider!

janet lansbury elevating child care to help with 3 year old tantrums
Janet Lansbury knows her stuff – do your family a favor and bring more peace into your home with her parenting methods!

6 Gentle Parenting Methods to Deal with Tantrums

These are “gentle” methods – meaning no spanking or physical punishments of any kind.

I know what we are all gonna say “Well I got spanked and I’m fine!”

I did too, and it was effective for me. I got spanked once and NEVER really acted out again. My brother though? Different story!

While some kids may respond to being spanked, I have a feeling it’s more of a fear of getting hurt being the reason for avoiding the behavior instead of actually understanding why it’s wrong.

And going through emotions, as embarrasing as it might be (even though it shouldn’t… this is normal!) loudly, and in public places, is not a reason to spank!

Anyways, here we go!

Plan extra time when going places (so you don’t have to rush the tantrum!)

One thing you want to do when a tantrum happens is remain absolutely calm, and be a safe spot for your child.

However, when you’re 5 minutes late for an appointment, no one is buckled in yet, and you don’t even know if you’ll get good parking… it is easy to become frustrated really easy!

So, if you’re appointment or meeting is at 3:00, and it takes 15 minutes to get there… be ready 30 minutes early!

You don’t have to neccessarily get in the car, but have everyone dressed, packed up and the car ready.

If you feel calm, prepared, and have time to spare, it will be alot easier for everyone involved to handle the tantrum, and let it run it’s course!

DO NOT say “Calm down!”

Have you EVER been able to calm down when someone told you to?

I know I haven’t! In fact, it just tended to make me even more angry!

For those reasons, don’t say things like “Calm down” to your child when they’re in the middle of a tantrum.

It’s been said a tantrum is sort of like a tunnel – you have to go through the whole thing to get to the other side

Besides, there’s a whole lot of other scientific reasons that prevent a child in a tantrum from simply calming down.

I found this article by Christopher Willard (A clinical psychologist who focuses on mindfulness and has published multiple books on the subject) really helpful in understanding why kids can’t just come back down in the middle of the craziness!

You yourself must remain calm – do not scream at them, or try to talk over them if they are in full freak out

I know, easier said than done (I have been the one screaming more times than I care to admit…)

In the moment, we somehow think that yelling to be quiet, or blaming them for making you angry will help them to stop.


It makes it way worse!

Kids feed off your energy – ever see your child get hurt, then look at you before crying?

They are trying to see how they should act, and the same goes for tantrums!

On days that I have felt particularly patient and positive, I have been able to speak quietly, remain calm, and discuss in a loving way what’s going on to my son.

And on those days, his tantrums have been way shorter, and he recovers from them much quicker!

However, if you are low on sleep or having an awful day, it can be really helpful to take a minute before responding.

Here are some things I’ve done to regain my composure before engaging with my child

  • Have a quick snack (I eat a super small piece of chocolate candy such as a recees…. I’ll take that hit if it means I can be calm!)
  • Wait at least 10 seconds (make yourself count!) before having any kind of response. DO NOT have a knee jerk reaction!
  • Think about something fun that happened that day with your child, and remember the good times while the rough times are happening
  • Remember that this is a normal part of toddlerhood, and is part of learning boundaries and emotions!
  • Also remember that if your goal is to end this quick, then yelling and making them feel worse will actually have the opposite effect!

For more information on remaining calm during the storm, Janet Lansbury is sort of famous for her techniques in dealing with tantrums in all ages, and this guide is full of helpful things to keep in mind during the rough times!

If in public, don’t be embarrased to leave the area – and explain it in a way that does not seem like a punishment

Mamas, again, I have been there, and I know how hard this can be to follow!

I have said plenty of times things along the lines of “You are being awful, not listening, and we are going to leave now because of that!”

I feel so guilty… but hey, we are all learning right?

Anyways, as a first time parent you probably remember seeing other moms with screaming kids and thinking “That won’t be me, I’ll have my kid under control!”

And when that time comes, you’re embarrassed you don’t either (even though it’s not an issue of “controlling your kid”) and want to remove them!

It turns out the best way to handle this situation is still to leave, but to do it so that your child can process everything without tons of people around as well as pressure from you to stop!

You can say something like “Let’s go step outside for some fresh air and to get some space!”

I know it’s not always an option to leave, especially if you have a cart full of stuff – in which case, stroll around proudly because tantrums are part of growing up.

Every mom has been there, and as they say “This too shall pass!”

And the most important tip – acknowledge their feelings and emotions with respect!

Believe it or not, babies and toddlers don’t cry “just because”.

Their feelings aren’t less important because they are younger!

I really struggled with this because, as an adult, it’s hard to understand the breakdown over simple things like plate colors or shoe selection.

However, there is a reason for everything if you just observe, listen, and ask!

Lately when my son has a tantrum, I’ve been acknowledging his feelings with sayings like:

“I see that getting toast instead of fruit made you angry. I’ll be here when you need me so that we can talk about it!”

Instead of

“What’s the big deal? You ate JUNK all day and you NEED to eat this NOW! Stop FREAKING OUT about it!”

Obviously, he is more responsive to the first one.

P.S. Mama! Here are some other articles that might help ya out!

Bonus: Check out “RIE” parenting if you want more guidance on gentle, intentional parenting!

So in my research on how to calm tantrums and remain calm, I happened upon alot of talk about RIE parenting.

I had NEVER heard of this before, but it stands for “Resources for Infant Educators” and is a philosophy of parenting created by Magda Gerber.

It changes everything you’ve heard about parenting – I’m talking no timeouts, less toys and entertainment from the parent, and more respect and treating your child as an adult in alot of capacities (namely, having reasonable consequences for things and not talkin to them like a baby!)

It completely changed my way of thinking!

Here are some main points of RIE Parenting (Check out this book on RIE methods for the full scoop – it will completely rewrite what you thought you knew!)

  • You don’t focus on doing EVERYTHING for your child – Instead of bombarding them with toys and laying on the ground and playing with them, you let the child choose what they want to play with and figure it out!
  • The child is more involved in helping – This means helping with diaper changes, chores around the house and such! Obviously, they need to be age appropriate, but the idea is to treat them as a respected, valuable individual! (BONUS: You get some extra motivation to do chores once your kid starts doing it!)
  • More “figuring it out” time for the child – That means not dropping your food and running full speed every single time your child needs help or starts crying. This is where observation can come in handy, and you can start to learn the frustrations they have and why the crying actually started. RIE parenting encourages crying as a healthy response from kids who don’t have the capability to put into words what they are feeling yet (This doesn’t include cry it out!”
  • No time outs or traditional punishment – This is a hard one to adjust to, but once you do, it can be magical! It’s easy to just send your kid to their room when they are having a hard time, or when they did something awful… out of sight out of mind! Anyways, RIE parenting encourages strict boundaries that you have to stick to every time. When kids know the boundaries, and know that you will not change your mind, they know what to expect!

If you start this method of parenting young, it will be way easier to do!

However, if you start a little older, expect some time! I know I did EVERYTHING for my son because… aren’t you supposed to as a parent?

Then I had twins and realized how much he relied upon me for everything – from simple things I know he can do, to even playing with toys!

Anyways, the REI parenting thing was a little segway from how to deal with tantrums.. but I think if you are trying to become more patient, adapting this style of parenting is the next best step!

If you’re at your wits end with the tantrums and want a new way to handle them that’s healthier for everyone, pin this to refresh later!

Guys, I almost want to cry thinking about the amount of times I just stuck my son in his room, or yanked his arm and dragged him out of the store…

But we can all change, and I know we can’t do it right every time, but it’s good to start somewhere!

Gentle methods to deal with toddler tantrums are way more effective than yelling, and actually can shorten the length and lessen the intensity of the tantrum!

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