4 Essential Truths to Remember During Tantrums

Written By

Jess VanderWier
September 13, 2021

This article has been reviewed by Nurtured First’s team of child development experts.

If you have ever had a toddler or preschooler in your home, you have undoubtedly experienced days where nothing you did was right. They wanted the pink cup, not the blue cup. They wanted oatmeal, not fruit. They wanted milk, not water. And the list goes on….

We are experiencing this with our toddler almost daily. She is having the biggest tantrums over what seems like nothing. In these moments, my body and mind instantly react by first wanting to use logic with her, and second, when she doesn’t understand my reasoning, I feel my body wanting to join her world of chaos and yell at her just to be quiet and drink from the dang blue cup. 

The Calm in Their Storm

These are the moments when we want to remember that our children are not accessing the logical part of their brains. Our words are meaningless to them in these moments, and the most powerful thing we can do is be the calm in their storm. 

Instead of using logic or yelling, I can be calm. I can narrate what is happening using a confident and calm tone of voice to say: “It’s tough to drink from the blue cup; you want the pink cup!” I can wait with her as she calms back down, borrowing my calm by taking deep breaths, and I can simply be with her as she moves through her wave of emotion, trusting that over time, she will learn how to calm herself in this same way. 

The ability to regulate emotions comes with time. This is why we rarely see adults getting angry about what colour cups they use, but we come to expect this from our little ones. Our kids are not born with the ability to regulate their emotions. So, in these challenging moments, we can model being calm to help them develop this critical skill that will help them for the rest of their lives. 

Every child will have days when the bubble bath is “too wet,” the milk is “too milky,” their favourite cup is “blue, NOT red,” and their eggs aren’t quite “goopy” enough. We can remember that in these moments, they aren’t trying to be difficult; they are dysregulated.

Related Post: The Art of Staying Calm: How to Keep Your Cool During a Tantrum

4 Essential Truths

If you are in the midst of a tantrum, your child is dysregulated, and you feel like you are ready to join the chaos and start screaming yourself, here are four essential truths to remind yourself of:

1. Your logic and reasoning during moments of tantrums will likely not be understood.

I know the tears and chaos can be triggering. Trying to reason with our children in these moments can be tempting. The first thing we need to remember is that they aren’t going to understand our logic and reasoning no matter what we say. If we can remember this, we can set ourselves up for success instead of adding to the chaos and becoming dysregulated with our children. 

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A happy family of four enjoying time together at an amusement park. The photo captures a close-up of a smiling woman on the left and a beaming man on the right, both facing each other. They are looking lovingly at their two young sons, who are nestled between them. The older boy is grinning broadly and the younger one has a cheeky smile. The background is softly focused, with lights from carnival rides subtly illuminating the scene.

2. Your child’s brain is still developing.

Your little one’s prefrontal cortex is not yet developed. This part of their brain is responsible for regulating emotions, thinking before leaping, empathy, self-reflection, and logical thinking. In moments of dysregulation, their primitive fight-or-flight reactions take over. This is where we see crying, tantrums, yelling, and kicking. They need your calm to find their calm because they can’t think logically when they are dysregulated. 

3. It’s not about the milk being “too milky.”

Instead of connecting with the words they are saying, remember your child is likely just as confused as you are. Instead of joining their chaos or using logic, remember that they need to learn new ways of coping with these big feelings. We can help them learn tools for dealing with these feelings through a process called “co-regulation.”

4. Co-regulation is the key to teaching your child new ways of coping.

Just like when your child was an infant and needed your soothing voice, rocking, back rubbing, and so on to help themselves calm down when they were crying – toddlers and preschoolers need to learn how to manage high states of emotional arousal. They do this by watching how their parents and trusted caregivers respond to them when they feel upset. 

The research backs up that repeated cycles of emotional upset (for example, crying about the milk being “too milky”), followed by a calming intervention by a parent (like talking in a soothing voice or validating feelings), provides the basis not only for trust and safety but helps the child learn how to self soothe (a skill they are not born with). 

In time, the child learns that they can expect a soothing response instead of more chaos following a big emotion or feeling. Through the process of co-regulation, they learn how to give this soothing response to themselves. 

We teach them everything else. Why not how to deal with emotions?

We teach our children how to ride a bike and tie their shoes. We teach them how to use a fork to eat their dinner and how to take their plate to the counter when they are done eating. We give our little ones time and patience when they are learning to walk, and when they are learning to talk, we model and practice with them.

When our children have big emotions that lead to challenging behaviours, shouldn’t we teach them the skills they need to cope with these big feelings? Instead, we are taught to dismiss their emotions and punish their big behaviours. This makes no sense. 


Just because your child is no longer a baby doesn’t mean they know how to regulate their emotions. This is a skill that is learned over time and with practice. 

My child isn’t trying to give me a hard time; they are having a hard time. 

It can feel frustrating at times, and I need to remember to take care of myself as well. 

If you found this blog helpful, you’re going to love our Parenting Little Kids course – it dives even deeper into tantrums and offers MORE practical strategies to nurture the relationship, teach a new skill, and redirect your child when they’re bursting with emotion. 

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    Article By

    Jess VanderWier
    Jess is a seasoned Registered Psychotherapist with a deep commitment to enhancing emotional well-being in children and families. Holding a Master's in Counselling Psychology, Jess has extensive clinical experience in guiding parents through their children's intense emotions, sleep struggles, anxiety, and other challenges with empathy and understanding. In addition to individual sessions, she is known for her work educating parents on social media through @nurturedfirst. Outside of her professional life, Jess enjoys the peace of nature hikes and spending as much time as possible enjoying her family.