Tantrums are tough. In the grocery store line up. At bedtime. When it is time to leave the house. Tantrums are tough. When times are tough, it can be difficult to manage our emotions and be calm. Here are some tips to help manage tantrums and try to keep your cool at the same time.
It helps to understand that when a child has a tantrum, they are communicating something to us. Often it is that they are not equipped to deal with the situation. They cannot handle the strong emotions they are experiencing, such as frustration, disappointment, or anger. Here are steps to help you help your child in these moments:
1. Validate the emotion
It is important to accept and validate your child’s feelings, even if you think they should not feel that way. By labeling the emotion, you help your child understand their feelings and then you can work toward how to handle them in a positive way. Empathy reduces levels of arousal.
- “I can see you are very angry. Maybe I can help you with that.”
- “You are frustrated that we have to go when you are playing your favorite game. I understand that it is hard.”
- Try to get below your child’s eye level and use a very soft voice/whisper.
2. Set limits and be consistent
By showing empathy, you are not telling the child that their behaviour is OK. You are telling them that you understand their emotion.
Ask questions to help them problem solve (if they are calm enough to be able to engage with you) – “What is a good thing to do when we feel upset?” “It is OK to be mad, but it is not OK to hurt anyone. What else can we do when we are mad?”
- “It is OK to be mad, but it is not OK to be mean.”
- “Calm first, talk second. Do you need help to calm down or can you do that on your own?”
- “Do you need a break?” “…to try again?” “…help?”
- “I’m curious about what happened here…”
- Try helping the child engage in actions to help calm – an action like jumping, counting backwards, deep breaths – and then prompt them to ask themselves “What do I need?”
3. Calming options
If the child is too upset to engage in any other options or in problem solving, they need time to calm down. Do not leave your child alone to do this unless they want that. Use TIME-IN instead of TIME-OUT.
- It is not a punishment. You are teaching your child the skills they need to be able to self-regulate and calm.
- You may give them a choice of where they want to calm down.
- If they need help to settle, ask “Do you need some help?”
- Set up a calming box containing items that the child finds relaxing – books, silly putty, stress ball, pinwheel (to blow for deep breaths), etc. Teach your child how to use them during calm times, and then support them to use them when they are upset.
To try to prevent tantrums (because who doesn’t want that!), try the following:
- Tell your child the expectations before the situation arises. For example, “We are going grocery shopping and I will not be buying you anything from the store. You can have a treat when we get home.”
- Provide as much structure and routine as possible. Let children know when there will be changes to the schedule.
- Give your child two choices when possible.
- Avoid power struggles – if you need to, tell your child, “I know you don’t like my answer, but I am not going to argue with you about it” and walk away and DO NOT ENGAGE. You can offer them options to engage in instead, but that is it.
- Teach skills – help your child develop skills they may be lacking which can cause tantrums – social skills, frustration tolerance, calming skills, deep breathing, give and take, sharing, clean anger versus dirty anger.
The most important thing to remember when helping your child through a tantrum……TAKE A DEEP BREATH. It will get better.😊
Tina Payne Bryson and Daniel Siegel. No Drama Discipline.
Tina Payne Bryson and Daniel Siegel. The Yes Brain.
Tina Payne Bryson and Daniel Siegel. The Whole Brain Child.
www.triplep-parenting.ca – There are Triple P Parenting Programs offered throughout Canada if you are interested in learning further strategies for parenting.