What To Do About Tantrums!

[sws_blockquote align=”” alignment=”alignleft” cite=”” quotestyles=”style01″] Your child isn’t giving you a hard time. Your child is having a hard time. [/sws_blockquote]

What causes tantrums?

Most often temper tantrums are caused by a child’s inability to express and control his emotions. Something may have set him off – a sandwich cut in the wrong shape, a broken crayon – yet that is not the reason for his extreme meltdown, it’s just the catalyst. Most often there is a root cause hiding below the surface. He is tired, hungry, angry or frustrated, and this causes the short fuse that ignites the tantrum.

The good news is that you can frequently avoid or modify the cause, and thereby avoid the tantrum or reduce its duration or intensity. Not always, of course! But when your child begins a meltdown, try to determine if you can tell what underlying issue is causing the problem. Solve that problem and you’ll have a better chance of helping your child calm down and move forward.

Handling and ending tantrums

No matter how diligent you are in recognizing trigger causes, your child will still have meltdown moments… or even meltdown days! There are things you can do to handle those inevitable bumps in the road. Here are a few ideas:

These tips are from The No-Cry Discipline Solution.

These tips are from The No-Cry Discipline Solution.

Offer your child choices

You may be able to avoid some tantrums by giving your child more choices in his life. Instead of saying, “Time to leave the park – right now,” which may provoke a tantrum, offer a choice, “Before we go, do you want one last slide, or one last swing?” Children who are busy deciding things can often be moved towards your goal with a happy attitude.

Get close and be clear

When your child doesn’t hear you or doesn’t understand you, it often makes it seem he is misbehaving, which leads to tantrums – from both of you! Instead, get down to your child’s level, look him in the eye, and make a brief, clear request. This enables him to understand you fully, and increases the odds that he’ll comply.

Tell him what you DO want

Avoid focusing on misbehavior and what you don’t want him to do. That’s a common knee-jerk response, but one that often makes tantrums worse. Instead, explain exactly what you would like your child to do or say instead. Give him simple step-by-step instructions. So, for example, instead of saying, “No! Don’t jump on the sofa!” you could say, “The sofa is for sitting on. If you want to jump you can go outside.”

Tell her you understand her feelings

If you help your child identify and understand her emotions, she may be able to reign in her extreme response. Give words to her feelings, such as, “You’re sad. You want to stay here and play at the park. I know.” This doesn’t mean you must give in to her request, of course, but letting her know that you understand her problem may be enough to help her calm down.

Create a distraction

Children can easily be distracted when a new activity is suggested. If your child is having a tantrum, try switching her attention to something new. Since children aren’t very good multi-taskers, you might be able to end the unpleasant activity with the recommendation of something different to do. Bring out a game, toy, or snack and change the subject.

Play an imagination game

If your child is upset about something, it can help to create a fantasy of what she wishes would happen. If you’re in the store and she’s upset because you won’t buy a toy for her, you can say: “I bet you wish we could buy every single toy in this store! If we could do that, what would you put into the cart?” This can become a fun game.

Use the preventive approach

Prior to leaving the house, when entering a public building, or before you begin a playdate, have a chat with your child about what behavior you expect and outline a few simple rules. This might prevent the tantrum from even beginning. Put your comments in the positive (remember – tell what you want, not what you don’t want.)

Don’t hold a grudge

After a tantrum is over, let it go and move on. Don’t feel you must teach a lesson by withholding your approval, love or company. Children bounce right back, and it is okay for you to bounce right back too. Childhood is all about learning, and many lessons must be taught many times. So be patient, and help your young child learn to understand and control his or her emotions. 


Elizabeth Pantley
About Elizabeth Pantley

Elizabeth Pantley is the mother of four. She is author of The No-Cry Discipline Solution as well as six other books in the “No-Cry Solution” series, on topics such as sleep, picky eating and potty training. She is known worldwide as the practical voice of respectful parenting.

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