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Christmas tantrums

Sometimes Christmas isn’t all magic and joy – it can be a flashpoint for temper tantrums and challenging behaviour from toddlers. Here are a few ways to ease the situation.

Shopping trips

Dragging a screaming little one around the shops is the quickest way to dampen your festive spirit! If you have to take them, try to give yourself plenty of time – rushing will only make things more stressful. And make sure you factor in some exciting things for them to do – a detour to see some street decorations or a trip to a café for a hot chocolate as a reward. If they do get into a rage while you’re out, distraction is always a good tactic. Try pointing out a pretty Christmas tree, some twinkling lights or exciting shop window or – if you can – try taking them somewhere quiet and waiting for the tantrum to die down.

Sibling rivalry

You’ve spent days trawling the shops to find the perfect presents for your children only to be met with a jealous rage on Christmas morning; your eldest wants the cuddly toys you’ve bought your youngest, while your toddler doesn’t understand why they can’t have the 100-piece puzzle. To avoid the green-eyed monster, try to buy similar gifts for both children – a box of Duplo for your youngest and some Lego for the older one, or crayons versus a set of ‘grown up’ felt tips. And make sure you buy them the same amount of presents – at this age quantity is what matters. If all else fails you could separate the children for a few minutes to defuse the situation – it will help them to enjoy the gifts they have individually received.

Gift etiquette

We’ve all been there – that embarrassing moment when your little one rips open their expensive present from Aunt Norah only to discard it immediately or say they don’t like it. This is a hard one to avoid as toddlers have a tendency to speak their minds which most gift-givers will actually find hilarious. To avoid disappointment all round, try giving relatives hints on what to buy, and if your child is old enough you could tell them that a simple thank you is all that’s needed when receiving a gift.

Routine, routine

At Christmas it can be hard to stick to your usual routine which might cause babies and toddlers to be crankier than normal. If you can, try to make sure they’re still getting the naps they need even if that’s in a buggy.

Be prepared

If you’ve bought toys that need batteries, make sure you’ve got the correct ones to make it work. Likewise, if their new doll’s house needs assembling it might be an idea to fit it together the night before. That way you won’t have to spend hours with your screwdriver on Christmas morning next to a sobbing toddler who doesn’t understand why they can’t play with their new toy straight away.

Time out

Christmas is an exciting time for little ones – even if they don’t fully understand what’s going on. Chances are you’ve been building it up for a while, so by the time the big day arrives they might be ready to explode. On the day, plan in some quiet time – read a book together, let them watch a few episodes of their favourite TV programme or if the weather isn’t too bad, bundle them up and out into the garden for some fresh air.


Children can sometimes play up during a festive meal. They will often be in a different place and go on for longer, the food will be different from what they’re used to and they’ll have a bigger audience to perform to. To avoid food-throwing, wriggling and turkey rejection, keep things simple and lower your expectations. If they have to wait longer than usual for a meal, make sure you keep hunger pangs at bay by offering a few healthy snacks to keep them going. During the meal, don’t overwhelm toddlers by piling their plates full of food they don’t recognise – it’s good for them to try new things but maybe offer it from your plate instead. Finally don’t expect them to sit still for the whole meal – let them get down from the table to have a play so they don’t get bored and misbehave.

And remember…

Christmas is never going to be like it is in the movies. There will be tears, and there are bound to be meltdowns – it’s all part and parcel of family life at this time of year. Toddlers can get irritable sometimes, but they aren’t necessarily being naughty. They may simply be overtired or over stimulated – try to stay calm and if it gets too much, get help from family or friends who may be able to distract your little one and buy you a few minutes break!


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