6 Ways to Mellow Toddler Meltdowns and Overcome Mom Overwhelm
“I am not your best fweennnd,” our three-year-old stomped. I could almost see the fumes pour from her flared nostrils as she gave me the angry toddler glare from her post in the Dollar Spot at Target.
I was sure none of the store’s other patrons cared to hear my side of the story as I scooped her up like a football and carried her limp and heavy little body through the red shopping carts, past the cashiers, and outside to our super cool goldfish cracker-covered van.
An exhausted mother is no match for the angry toddler.
But, hear me, fellow mama, “I. Don’t. Care.”
I have hit the parenting wall of total mom exhaustion and I am waving the white flag.
Managing the delicate balance of toddlerhood mood swings with the emotions of a little girl, our three year old is almost always mad and I am left as the shell of an exhausted mother. I have no fight left in me. No more cold coffee reheats will help me navigate through the angry toddler stage.
So here are six strategies to tame your toddler’s tantrums and re-energize the massive mom exhaustion that can accompany them.
Set Clear Boundaries for Your Toddler Before They Become Angry
Trying to reason with an angry toddler is like trying to convince an alcoholic not to drink while they are sitting at the bar. It makes no logical sense.
As parents, we can prevent the blurred vision level of an exhausted mother by setting boundaries and expectations for our children when they are in a good mood and they do not feel threatened. Remember that they are toddlers so pick 2-3 rules and stick to those. Make sure they are reasonable and attainable for your child’s age and follow through on your end.
Establish Emotional Expectations when You’re Not Exhausted, Mom
When we, as moms, are already completely exhausted, we cannot think rationally. So to prevent battling an angry toddler, we need to have emotional expectations set up before an issue arises.
Ask yourself these questions to see where your emotional expectations might lie:
How will I respond when my angry toddler cries?
Will I be able to offer a hug to console my child if I’m already exhausted?
Will I be able to hold back a lecture when my toddler is already angry?
Tame Threats Toward Your Angry Toddler
We’ve all been there. Parenting past exhausted mother status and throwing out threats like parade candy. Clearly we don’t actually plan to throw our angry toddler out the window, but it feels good to say in the moment.
Here’s the thing, friend: Toddlers’ brains are very concrete—black and white. And that idea is even more pressing when they are in angry toddler mode.
We need to be sure whatever we say to our toddler when they are upset is something we can and are willing to follow through with once they’ve calmed down and we are no longer completely spent.
Pile on the Praise, Tired Mama
If I had a dollar for every reward chart I bought with good intentions, I’d have enough for a vacation and still be buried in smiley face stickers I never used! Sister, the truth is that all people love praise. Exhausted mothers, angry toddlers, your self-centered but insecure boss—we all need validation sometimes.
So we need to find small things that our toddler does well or accomplishes in a day to praise them for so that, in the moments of monumental meltdown, we aren’t causing them therapy in their thirties.
“Great job staying dry at nap time, buddy!”
“I love the way you helped mommy hang up your coat when we came inside.”
“Choosing the green M&M was such a creative choice!”
I know, Karen. It sounds insane and redundant but they will squeal with delight so that later, when you are exhausted and they are angry, you might just remember this and make it to bedtime so everybody wins.
Teach Tactile Techniques to Tame Exhaustion for Mom
I have two kids, an angry toddler girl who is 3 going on 13, and an eight year old son with mental health diagnoses so trust me, mama. I feel your exhaustion in my bones.
To head off some of the meltdown moments, it can help the exhausted mama to have practices in place prior to an angry toddler tantrum.
Try grounding yourself in the rule of five (*Hint: This works with your kids, too).
Show your kiddo your hand with all 5 fingers up. Explain to them that, when they feel themselves becoming angry (or you feel the exhausted mama side of you start to rear its head), you:
Thumb: Find ONE thing you can smell. Name it and take a breath.
Pointer: Find TWO things you can hear. Name them and take two breaths.
Middle: Find THREE things you can taste. Name them and take three breaths.
Ring: Find FOUR things you can touch. Name them and take four breaths.
Pinky: Find FIVE things you can see. Name them and take five breaths.
Once you’ve done this process together, it helps to ground you in your surroundings in the present moment. It helps your angry toddler decompress because they are now distracted trying to breath and find these things you’re asking about. And it helps the exhausted mother breathe it out.
Because adulting is hard and momming can feel borderline certifiable some days. We get that, friend.