How to Defuse Tantrums

There are no perfect, “right” ways to deal with a toddler’s tantrums, but most experts agree that hitting and shouting are the most ineffective strategies. Short-term solutions such as begging and bribing are also not ideal. Giving in can also lead to more tantrums.

When kids know that “no” means “no,” they are less likely to act out, which can help parents and kids feel more in control. It’s important to focus on the behavior of the child instead of the emotional attack. This might sound challenging, but in perspective, it’s not unrealistic to refrain from shouting at your coworkers. We have to treat our kids the same way we treat our colleagues but at a developmentally appropriate level.

If your child has been having tantrums, here are some helpful strategies to help calm them down.

1. Don’t Respond

If your child is throwing a tantrum, try not to respond to them unless they’re physically threatening themselves or others. Instead, walk away from the room and set a timer to check on them.

2. Address Dangerous Behavior

If your child is having a serious meltdown including biting, kicking, or other dangerous behaviors, immediately stop them and make it clear that they are not allowed to hurt others. However, if they are still hurting others, take away their privileges and put them in a time-out.

3. Remain Calm

Remember that you are their role model when it comes to handling anger. If you are tempted to respond in anger, try to remember that they are feeling sad or frustrated and find a calm but firm way to help them work through it.

4. Redirect

Children have short attention spans, which makes them easy to divert. For instance, if your child is about to lose it at the grocery store because you won’t buy their favorite cereal, try saying something positive instead of negative and direct their attention elsewhere. Ask them to help you pick out crackers, or make plans together to stop somewhere fun on the way home!

5. Set Expectations

Getting ready for potential tantrums is also important, as it can help defuse the situation early on and give the child a sense of control. For instance, if you’re getting ready to leave the park, tell them that they can ride their scooters two more times before they have to go home instead of expecting them to stop playing immediately. They might still be upset about having to leave, but having a few minutes of warning can help them respond more positively.

6. Don’t Give In

Follow through with the original request. If your child gets angry because you told them to clean up their toys, then they should still pick them up once they are calm. If the tantrum was triggered because you turned down a request for a sweet treat, don’t reward them for calming down with a sweet treat. Kids thrive on predictability, so even when it’s tough, try to stick to your word and set expectations.

7. Don’t Take It Personally

You don’t want to feel guilty or out of control when your child has a breakdown. Kids can say hurtful things in the midst of a tantrum, and it can make parents question their parenting abilities. However, it’s important to remember that their actions are not directed at you, they are still learning to respond to frustration and disappointment. 

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