The first year of your child’s life was infant bliss, all cuddles and sweetness and joy. Then came the wonderful ones, full of excitement and milestones as your little one started to display their unique personality. But next comes the terrible twos. When those strike, many parents are ready to run for cover. Luckily it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some tips that can help you tame toddler tantrums without losing your cool.

A Loss For Words

One of the main reasons that toddlers throw temper tantrums is that they don’t have the language necessary to express what they want or need. Much like an infant crying to signal discomfort or hunger, toddlers throw tantrums when what they want and what they can express are incommensurate with each other. This is a helpful thing to remember when you have a screaming two year old and no idea what they want – you didn’t know what your infant wanted or needed either but you figured it out. When it comes to managing toddler tantrums, staying calm is half the battle.

Provide Choices

We all like to have some control over our lives, and toddlers are in a place where they are realizing that mom and dad call the shots. And just like an adult being bossed around, your toddler isn’t very happy about this. One way to defuse a toddler tantrum before it starts is to offer your child choices. This gives them the opportunity to exercise that developing will and helps to keep the peace.

Don’t overdo the choices, however. Give your child the option between two things in low stakes scenarios, such as between two different weather appropriate shirts or two different breakfast cereals. Offer too many choices and you risk overwhelming them and triggering a tantrum. Similarly, don’t offer options about high stakes issues – this is about offering your child control, not responsibility.

Set Them Up For Success

A frustrated child is an unhappy child, and while it’s important to teach your child to handle frustration and disappointment, this is a task better handled in small doses, and when your child is well rested and in a good mood. Most of the time, the better strategy is to set your toddler up for success. Give your child opportunities to do things they are good at and introduce tasks that are developmentally appropriate and that they can complete independently.

Keep A Routine

Since there are only limited things that your toddler can make choices about, it’s important that you create plenty of structure when it comes to the big activities in your day. Your toddler won’t remember what your plan of action is if you debrief them the night before or at the start of the day. Rather, it helps to have a regular schedule with only minor variations. This may feel like it’s squashing your flexibility, but that’s one of the compromises of the toddler years. Sometimes you’re just going to need to cut a trip short to get home for naptime, and that’s okay. You’ll both feel better if naps, meals, and other major parts of the day don’t vary much.