My 20-month-old wakes up from her nap like a cranky bear coming out of hibernation. More often than not, she ends up throwing a full-fledged temper tantrum before dinner. What should we do?
You may have struck on the answer when you mentioned dinner. If, when your toddler wakes, it’s been hours since she last ate, her blood sugar levels may have dropped, which would make anyone cranky. In addition, some people (kids and adults alike) need more time than others to fully wake up after a nap, which can result in disorientation and grumpiness.
To help your toddler transition from peaceful slumber to a cheery awake state, try offering her a snack before she naps. Complex carbohydrates (such as crackers or bread) or a simple sugar (like juice) are good choices for keeping blood sugar levels steady. Also, be sure to give her some quiet time to fully wake up after her nap rather than rushing her into an activity as soon as her eyes open.
If you end up with a toddler temper tantrum anyway, try the following:
1. Offer a distraction. Suggest a favorite book, toy, video, or game. Or take your child to a different room or step outside with her for a change of scenery.
2. Ignore the tantrum (but not the child). Try holding your toddler while disregarding the crying, screaming, kicking, and punching. If that’s not possible or isn’t helpful, station yourself nearby and keep a quiet eye on her until she calms down.
3. Give your child some space. Sometimes it’s helpful to remove your child from the situation and give her some time alone to calm down.
4. Keep your cool. Two temper tantrums (yours and your child’s) will only escalate the situation. If you find yourself getting angry, take a few deep breaths and leave the room for a minute or two if you have to. And remember, temper tantrums won’t last forever.