Friday 22 July 2011

10 Tips to Performing the Perfect Toddler Tantrum

Today’s post is provided by Joseph, aged 2 and 2 months. He has provided a very thoughtful insight into the explosive art of tantrum throwing. Here are his top tips.

Thanks mum. I wanted to write this because I feel that the art of tantrum throwing is greatly misunderstood, and very few people appreciate the thought and care that goes into these great pieces of performance art. Just a note in the following I refer to Mummy, however please do not limit your tantrums to mummy, any caregiver will do.  Here are my top tips. 

Practice – A true performance artist understands the importance of rehearsal. Regular practice at home is essential. You can start small, just in front of mum is a good plan, and to start with don’t allow anyone else to see these practice runs. This will enable you to retain an air of mystery. Everyone else sees a cute wide eyed toddler, and only one person is truly aware of your performance capabilities.

Surprise – I cannot overestimate this enough. It’s no good whinging all day and then performing  a massive tantrum and expecting to get anywhere. No the best tantrums are undertaken when you have been a delight all day, and then suddenly, like a Michael Jackson breakdance, there you go, performing a masterpiece to the delight and surprise of all around you.

Words – Words are not essential, however if you do know a word, repeat it, regularly, at volume. You know, it doesn’t even have to be a real word, and in fact, a word that sounds like a regular word (or even better could resemble 3 or 4 normal words) is even better, as not only do you have pester and annoyance power, people might actually think you have something valid to say, and fuss over you. My favourites are groups of old ladies “oh he might be hungry. Have you tried a chocolate? What about a cuddle? Oh he’s tired.”  Mummy’s favourite of mine is when I screamed “apple” all around the supermarket and an old lady said “why don’t you give him a biscuit?” Priceless.  I didn’t even mind mummy’s attention going to the old lady for a death stare and away from me, but only for a second!

Location and Timing – you have some options with location. You can pick a crowded one, or, equally effective is an intimate one, the bus stop, a short queue, on a train carriage. Timing is also crucial. If you think you have got your timing off, pull back, and wait a little longer. A “warm up” often increases the effect of the “real one” later.

Just a note for you fellow ex premature baby superstars, such as myself, conducting your performance in front of people aware of your "miracle birth" is priceless. Firstly, they think everything you do is marvellous, hence allowing you to perform to your  fullest potential. Also, they are usually so busy trying to engage your mummy in conversation, you can just let yourself get lost in the awesomeness of your performance. You'll even get praise "oh he's so normal isn't he? Aren't his lungs strong? Oh its so wonderful to see him doing normal things". So you completely get away with it, and you make mummy look really really bad if she tries to stop you. Genius.

Body Positioning – arguably, the public tantrum is more effective if you are mobile, walking holding hands. Suddenly going stiff and throwing yourself on the ground is a time worn classic for a good reason. It’s loud and it’s embarrassing. However being in a pram can be just as effective, however as well as volume it is essential you work on your positioning, otherwise your mummy can just wheel you out of danger. No you must make your body stiff, then flop forward, rocking is a great way of maintaining the rage. Not only does it make you difficult to manage, you are in danger of tipping the chair over, so, crucially, your mummy must either go behind you, thus losing eye contact, or go in front of you, risking injury.

Volume – Yes, there are times when maximum decibels are important, especially in the crowded tantrum performance. However, varying your volume and tone can be wonderful. If you suddenly go quiet your mummy will listen, bending close, then you can let rip again. 

Props – Use your tools. Pram toys, that banana given to you to placate you, your water cup, your pram, your clothes, all become fair game to the tantrum performance artist. It is up to you to use these in the most effective manner possible.

Behaviour modification – The modern toddler is up against it. These mummies talk to one another, sometimes on the black box thing, sometimes over coffee. They also read books. This Supernanny woman thinks she gets it. It is up to you, my toddler friend, to undermine all attempts at “behaviour modification”.

Ending the performance – There is no right way to end a tantrum, and you have several options. The gentle petering out is one of them, and then you have the option of continuing the performance if required. Responding to your mummy’s attempts an ending one is a good idea. You can accept a bribe, you can suddenly stop and go all smiles, or you can go to sleep. If your tantrum has been one to get something you want, you could go all out and start another for something else. What is vital is that you choose different endings. If the outcome is always the same, then mummy might start to cotton on to it. Do not make that error.

About the mummy - Tantrums are all about you, your performance techniques, your skill as an artiste. Don’t feel bad about the mummy. She was a toddler once too, and is well-versed in the art of tantrum throwing, she’s just forgotten how. Hopefully.


  1. rofl rofl rofl
    that is briliant - hope you don't go teaching Tabitha those tips when she is older Joseph!

  2. My sides are splitting! What a fab post and so very true. I'd just love to know when lil miss attended Joseph's class as she has recently perfected every single one of these things to a fine art. Not only has she got the loudest scream I have EVER heard but she also has amazing stamina and endurance - things I'm sure will be great qualities in years to come!! Brilliant :0)

  3. Ha ha, this is priceless. Great post. :)

  4. Had to wait to get home to post, mobile phones just aren't good enough! Loved this post - very funny, especially "Mummy’s favourite of mine is when I screamed “apple” all around the supermarket and an old lady said “why don’t you give him a biscuit?” !
    Some people eh!

  5. Love it, really made me smile after my day today! Thank you for the link, good to remember that it's not just me!

  6. What a fabulous post, has brought a huge smile to my face!!

  7. No absolutely not just you. It's nothing to do with the way you parent, it's just a phase!