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How to Get Through a Toddler Tantrum With Grace

Photograph by Twenty20

Like most moms, I start the day with good intentions. No one plans for their kids throwing lovingly made breakfasts on the floor, melting down at the grocery store or screaming before bedtime.

Tantrums happen.

You may not plan for them, but you have to have a game plan for when they happen.

RELATED: Why Tantrums Are Good For Kids (and Parents)

The hardest part is sticking to your plan, because tantrums bring out the worst in everyone—your kid, bystanders and mom herself. I used to react to my toddler's tantrums with frustration. Once she started that snarly yell toddlers are so good at, I knew we were moments from her falling on the ground in tears. That meant I, too, was moments away from losing my cool—perhaps even yelling, which I find only makes a stressful situation worse.

I don't want to be the yelling mom.

How can I justifiably tell her it's wrong to yell in the house, if I yell at her in the house?

I always feel bad the instant after I yell. How can I justifiably tell her it's wrong to yell in the house, if I yell at her in the house? As I sit contemplatively at my desk, post-bedtime, I know that her tantrums are always about something. Kids don't have a meltdown because they're trying to push your buttons. As kids take in the world, they encounter boundaries, and those can be tough to understand. For instance, my child is still learning that she can't always have my undivided attention. Sometimes mom is answering an email or having a conversation with another adult.

When a tantrum strikes, I have stop what I'm doing. I get down on my kid's level and speak in a normal way. I'll say something like, "I know you want to keep splashing water, but we need to brush your teeth because it keeps them healthy and it's bedtime. Let's take a few deep breaths together so we can feel calm again." Then I take three big exaggerated breaths. The exaggerated part is important, because it usually makes my daughter giggle.

Tantrum quashed. Bonus: the breathing usually defuses mama too.

Part of my job as a mom is teaching my kid to know better, ideally raising a self-disciplined person. I can't do that if I lose my cool.

It works almost every time—when I can muster the strength to not act on my frustration, that is.

It's our job to guide kids through difficult lessons. No, you can't have chocolate for dinner. Yes, I have to help you brush your teeth before bed. We all know people who want the world to conform to their every whim. Many of those people are toddlers.

RELATED: How Parents Are Ruining Childhood

Part of my job as a mom is teaching my kid to know better, ideally raising a self-disciplined person. I can't do that if I lose my cool. Patience is a lesson parents have to learn for themselves, if they hope to impart it on their kids. Our reactions to toddler tantrums are just that—learning grace under fire. Grace is one of my favorite character traits in people, and perhaps one of the most challenging to master. Toddlers certainly give us many opportunities to practice.

We all stand to gain from the simple lesson of pausing and breathing. And breathing. And breathing.

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