Temper tantrums can be brutal. They evoke a variety of feelings including anger, sadness, rage, and sometimes hopelessness. These emotions can be experienced by the tantruming child, his/her caregivers, and even those observing the situation. Some caregivers experience their children’s tantrums on a regular basis. For others, tantrums are fewer and further between. These differences can be accounted for by children’s individual temperament, development of their coping skills, and patterns of caregivers’ responses. It is expected that as children develop their social-emotional skills through preschool and early elementary school years, temper tantrums occur less and less often and with decreased intensity. If you have concerns that your child’s tantrums are getting in the way of healthy development, contacting a pediatric mental health professional is certainly recommended. Read on for 10 tips to help tame your child’s tantrums.
10 Tips to Tame Tantrums:
- Understand tantrums. When dealing with children, it is often helpful to view their behavior as a means of communication. Think to yourself, what is my child “telling” me. A tantrum indicates that a child feels unable to manage his current situation. Perhaps he’s unable to express to you how he’s feeling. Perhaps he is so upset about X that he doesn’t know what to do with himself! Or maybe he thinks that if he screams enough you’ll eventually give in. Remember that a tantruming child is NOT enjoying himself. He is in more distress than he can currently tolerate.
- Keep your cool. Demonstrate to your child that YOU are able to remain calm in the face of adversity. Be a model for her. Use a calm voice, rather than allowing yourself to sound as frustrated as you’re feeling. Consider how you position yourself. Standing directly above your child can feel intimidating for her. Using a more open stance to the side of the child can help her feel less threatened.
- Pretend to ignore your child’s behavior. Show him you aren’t impressed by his yelling, etc. Over time, he will understand that he cannot control you by exhibiting this behavior.
- Utilize your child’s need for power and control in a positive way. Provide opportunities for your child to feel they have some control while ultimately not giving in to his behavior.
- Adjust immediate expectations. When your child is in the middle of a tantrum, he is not functioning at his full potential. His system is temporarily down. Therefore, tasks that you would expected him to complete independently may require your assistance in the throes of a tantrum.
- Use consequences for unacceptable behavior, but use them sparingly. I say to use them sparingly because if negative consequences are your go-to strategy they can lose their effect.
- Be consistent. Talk with your partner, as well as your child’s teachers, babysitters, etc. about how you respond to tantrums. If your child can expect a similar response from his caregivers, it will help decrease tantrums from occurring in the first place.
- Keep yourself in check. Remember, YOU are the adult. Sure, our children may lose control from time to time but it’s up to you to maintain composure! We often talk about time-outs for children, but sometimes adults need to take a time out too. Recognize when your emotions are getting too overwhelming to handle and take a “break” when necessary. As long as your child is safe, it’s okay to tell him, “Daddy needs to take a break right now”.
- Remember it isn’t about you. So don’t take it personally. Your child’s tantrum is about her own ability to manage emotions and get her needs met.
- Consult with others and use your resources. Talk to your doctor, child’s teacher and friends about your child’s behavior. Don’t face the challenges of parenting alone!
Do you have other tips or suggestions about managing tantrums? Your feedback is invited below!
Click here to read about dealing with tantrums in public.
NSPT offers Social Services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood (coming soon), Glenview and the Neuropsychology Diagnostic and Testing Center in Des Plaines. If you have questions, or concerns, about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!