Tantrums are emotional meltdowns. Your child cannot think during a tantrum, and you cannot reason with her until she calms down.
• Remember your child’s age and stage. Have realistic expectations.
• Do not take your child’s words or behavior personally. Your child’s tantrum is not a reflection on you or on your parenting. Be sure that you do not fall apart with your child. She counts on you to make her feel safe.
• Remain emotionally available, calm, and firm in your voice and actions.
• Keep a sense of humor! It can distract your child from the tantrum, and keep you from having your own.
• Remember to give yourself a break when you need it! If you’re stressed or frustrated, your child will sense it, and maybe even mirror your emotions. Take turns with your partner or a friend. At the very least, take deep, calming breaths.
Parental Behaviors During the Tantrum
• Do not give in to the tantrum.
• Distraction can be surprisingly effective. Try redirecting your child’s behavior. Find a safer toy, sing a song, or move to a different room.
• When your child is physically out of control, get down to her eye level, hold her firmly, and kindly let her know that you are keeping her safe until she calms down. This also teaches her that you won’t abandon her.
• Do not try to negotiate. Acknowledge and validate your child’s feelings, but keep the dialogue short so you can help your child move on. Children can get stuck and escalate.
Parental Behaviors After the Tantrum
• When she cools down from a tantrum, use a calming tone of voice to translate your child’s feelings into words. “You were very upset about not getting ice cream!”
• Offer a few small choices to help your child regain a sense of control.
• Give your child her wishes through fantasy. For example, say, “I wish that I had the magic power to give you what you want. I know you wanted to play with Susie today, but Susie is sick, so we have to stay home and play. Let’s draw a picture of what it would be like to go to Susie’s house.”
• Reconnect: Stick to your limits while keeping the relationship with your child warm and positive.