If your child is like mine, when things don’t go their way, they may haul off and throw a king-size “temper tantrum.” When this happens there are a few things that you should remember that will help de-escalate the situation quicker when your child is throwing a tantrum.
When your child is throwing a tantrum:
1. Remain calm and listen
When you remain calm and listen to your child, you are more likely to find out the “real” reason for the temper tantrum. Often the trigger that set off the temper tantrum is not the real reason for the emotions your child is feeling. Maybe they are hungry, tired, or just frustrated from something that happened to them at school or daycare. Listen to what they are saying, not the way they are saying it. Learn how to ask questions to learn more about what’s going on.
2. Remove any onlookers if you can
Sometimes even well-meaning people can make things worse when your child is throwing a tantrum. Siblings, relatives, or even friends can often say things that will escalate the child’s temper tantrum and cause the tantrum to last longer and possibly become more violent. Try to remove everyone but you and the child from the room. If that is not possible, try to remove the child having the temper tantrum from their audience. Ask them if they want to go outside, maybe go for a walk, or go get a snack. It us important that you find a way to be alone with your child in order to remove all distractions and focus on them.
3. Don’t make threats or give ultimatums
When a child is in the middle of throwing a tantrum, the part of their brain that responds to reasoning is completely shut off. In other words, they can’t hear anything you say. Making threats or telling the child that some punishment will happen if they don’t stop will do no good. Wait for the tantrum to run its course, then discuss consequences later when the child is calm and can listen.
4. Validate your child’s feelings
Telling your child that you know how they feel and letting them know you understand why they are upset will go a long way in helping to de-escalate the temper tantrum. After your child is calm, you can then talk to them about more appropriate ways to handle their emotions. (A great way is to role-play) But they do need to hear, that it is “normal” to get mad.
Read more in this series on parenting techniques.