We have all been there… your toddler is tired, cranky, and inconsolable. They are acting up and you’re making excuses for their lack of sleep and deep in your soul you’re feeling depleted, empty, and helpless. Yep. I am there all the time. My toddler hates to sleep for the most part meaning 9 times out of 10 she’s tired and exhausted. Unfortunately it means meltdowns happen and blood curdling screams happen at 10pm in hotel corridors.
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Tips to help calm Toddler Tantrums
Assess Your Surroundings.
Especially when you have a tired toddler, tantrums are always on the verge of happening. And many times it is the environment in which you are in that is triggering the reaction. For instance, our tired tot had way too much visual stimulation at a family arcade and was losing it one night. The sensory overload probably would have done her in without the added sleepiness.
Even at home… are there lots of lights on or is there a significant amount of daylight coming in from outside? Bring the lights down, turn off the screens, and calm down. If you and your home are face-paced, your little one needs to be able to keep up. This means mentally, emotionally, and of course physically. Remember that they are constantly growing, changing, and developing and sleep is required for all of them. Be sensitive to those times.
Institute the Warm Afternoon Bath.
If available, work on scheduling a warm bath in the afternoon. Make it a no toys and no soap bath where they can splash and play, but it’s a time to also just unwind. I found this to be really helpful. Even if she didn’t take a nap, it was time where she didn’t have much to focus on AND she was contained. And sometimes a contained toddler is all you need to finish the day. Because sometimes containing is taming the tired toddler.
If you’re really looking for them to fall asleep, add lavender oil to some epsom salts and put them in the warm bath or just use in a diffuser in the bathroom. (Lavender is the one oil that does not required pre-dilution to use. However, we typically prefer to. Therefore, find a dilution chart here to understand how to easily dilute to 1%)
Have Story time.
Especially if tiredness is a chronic issue in your family, make a special place for story time. Preferably one that is tired and dimly lit. You can create a tent or fort if you would like and keep a stash of books there. You can rotate books every week or so, keeping the very favorite one in rotation at all times. Maybe even have a small stash in the car for when they meltdown from over-tiredness in public.
Sometimes the dedicated reading time is good for their minds. Especially when reading books, the repetition of a story they already know can bring comfort, confidence, and sometimes sleep.
Have them wear a leather bracelet or anklet.
I know this sounds really odd, but it’s actually worth a try. While I used essential oils for cleaning for years, I was always skeptical of their aromatherapy properties in health and mood related situations. However, I diffused 3 drops lavender and 2 drops Peace and Calming in our diffuser one day and my toddler than never sleeps was OUT in 5 minutes of being in the room. The next day, I started diffusing about 30 minutes before I needed her to go down (both as a test and because I had a phone call to make) and she actually went into the room by herself and put herself down. And that had never, ever happened before!
SO, back to the bracelet. Leather is a great diffuser. You can easily put calming and soothing oils on a leather bracelet (or necklace of you’re comfortable with that). They can wear it all the time during the day, or maybe keep the bracelet and oils on hand for the overly tired toddler moments. Just keep the oils on the non-skin side and still to dilute as necessary.
Oils I have found to have a calming effect**:
Peace & Calming
Or a combination of them.
Try the “chill parent” whisper game.
When my daughter starts screaming, I start whispering. When she starts throwing a tantrum, I start mellowing out. When she gets really tense, I start loosening my body.
I have made it a game where I try to not match her energy, but reverse it. So when she is screaming, she can’t hear me whisper unless she gets quieter. She doesn’t fight away a oft touch like she does when I try to hold her tight. So on and so forth. And usually in 5 minutes or less, I have brought her energy level down to a manageable state.
More on Parenting Toddlers
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!