THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THEPARENTOLOGIST.COM
As a licensed child therapist with over a decade of experience, I work with a lot of children that engage in temper tantrums. Although it can be argued that this is a developmental milestone and is typical for most children, there are still ways parents and caregivers can help minimize the severity of the temper tantrum. I usually ask parents I work with to determine if the temper tantrum is mild, moderate or severe and track things like what took place before the tantrum began. I ask them if the child was denied access to something (a temper tantrum is pretty common after a toddler hears the big NO). I also have them track the time of day, how long it lasted before they were regulated again, and other details so we can find behavior patterns.
- Stay calm and know it will pass. The more you try and stop it, the worse it will get. When your child is already escalated, it is often too late to intervene. Their cortisol levels, the stress hormone, are so high that their brains are foggy and they are unable to process logic and are unable to rationalize. If you can, wait to discuss their emotions when they are calm. As long as your child is safe, if you need to, practice active ignoring and deep breathing! And remember, they are watching you for a reaction, so show them how to be calm and controlled.
- Know your child’s triggers and pre plan for them. Maybe it’s sharing. Maybe its eating vegetables. Maybe it is transitions. Make sure to let your child know in advance what to expect before it happens and make sure to give them the plan for the day. Give reminders 10, 5, and 2 minutes before a transition. Let them know ahead of time what food to expect at dinner-time and what your expectations are of them to eat. Teach them and remind them what sharing is before they have a playdate.
- Give children a means to express themselves without injuring them or you. I often suggest creating a pre-designated cool down area for your child with a 5-10 minute timer and items for them to self-regulate themselves with. You can also try giving them a punch bag or a pillow that they can yell into as loud as they want or hit as hard as they can.
- Support them and let them know emotions are healthy to express in a safe, respectful, and responsible way. Teach them what different emotions are and how to use words or hand signals to share how they feel. Show by your own example how to behave.
- Try to not focus on the tantrum and negative behaviors as much as the positive behaviors and when your child is not having a tantrum. Notice and praise your child when they behave appropriately!
- Try to figure out the motivation of your child’s behavior before the tantrum begins. Are they tired? Hungry? Are they having a tantrum because they want power or attention or are they trying to avoid a task of some kind?
- Distract and or redirect your child when a tantrum is starting to erupt. Give them space and or fresh air. Show them something to deflect their attention. Start playing a game or music and see how quickly your child responds and joins in.
I hope you found these tips to be helpful! Remember that parenting is a lot of trial and error, so try one tip at a time and see what works for your child. If it works, keep doing it. If it doesn’t work, move on to the next parenting tool in your back pocket!
About the Author
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