As any parent knows, toddler tantrums can happen anytime, anywhere. One moment your little one is perfectly content, and the next they dissolve into a fit of crying, screaming, and flailing on the floor. Our natural reaction is often to get flustered and angry, yell at them to stop, or give into their demands. However, research shows humour and laughter can be an effective way to defuse tantrums and redirect your child’s behaviour.
The Power of Laughter
Laughter releases endorphins which counteract negative feelings and relax both the laugher and the person being laughed with. It also reduces stress hormones that exacerbate tantrums. Rather than feeding your toddler’s outburst with anger or tension, injecting light-hearted laughter brings positive energy into the situation. Laughing together fosters connection and complicity between parent and child which makes discipline easier.
How to Bring Humour into a Tantrum
It seems counterintuitive to find anything funny when your toddler rages over a lost toy or an enforced naptime. But looking for humour in the absurdity of a disproportionate meltdown can help diffuse things. Point out silly things about their appearance like wild hair or fun positions they contort into whilst flailing. Speaking in a playful tone and exaggerating the ridiculousness of the situation gives them perspective without condemnation. If you have inside jokes, remind them of the humour you share as well.
You can also interject ridiculous alternatives like, “Let’s skip off to the elf factory and paint rainbows instead of napping!” The surprise and visual of something that’s clearly not going to happen pulls them out of one mindset and into another. Using exaggerated expressions, gestures, and voice tones make light of the severity of the issue prompting them to calm down. Toddlers often find it funny when a parent or carer makes silly faces or puts on daft voices.
Establish Your Authority Playfully
Toddlers need to understand parents and carers have final authority without feeling disempowered or shamed. Maintaining a confident, relaxed demeanour whilst bringing in gentle humour establishes you’re in control without conflict.
Rather than angry commands such as “go to your room right now mister!” issue preposterous punishments like, “It’s off to the spinach coal mines for you!” or “No more ice cream for dinosaurs today!” Say it with twinkling eyes and barely suppressed laughter so they recognise while disapproving, you know it’s not truly dire. This allows them to save face whilst letting them know you won’t give in.
Adding Fun into Frustration
Few things are as frustrating as dealing with inconsolable toddler meltdowns, especially when they happen in public, such as at the supermarket checkout. But centring yourself and pulling in humour rather than yelling creates warmth and chances for connection.
Of course, there are times when tantrums are rooted in deeper-seated issues, which may be the case with foster children who have come from chaotic or abusive homes. In this instance, it is important to seek advice from your social worker and foster agency, such as Foster Care Associates Scotland.
Guiding your child’s behaviour with a spirit of gentle laughter gets everyone through stressful moments with happiness and grace. Is it easy? No. But does it beat angry showdowns? Absolutely. A little playfulness gives everyone room to breathe, diffuse, and move forward.