THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THEPARENTOLOGIST.COM
As a licensed child therapist with over a decade of experience, I work with many children who have tantrums. While it can be argued that this is a developmental milestone and is typical of most children, there are still ways parents and caregivers can help minimize the severity of the tantrum. I usually ask the parents I work with to determine if the tantrum is light, moderate, or severe and keep track of things like what happened before the tantrum started. I ask them if the child has been denied access to anything (tantrums are quite common after a toddler hears the big NO). I also let them keep track of the time of day, how long it was to be regulated again, and other details so we can find patterns of behavior.
- Keep calm and know it will pass. The more you try to stop it, the worse it gets. If your child has already escalated, it is often too late to intervene. Their levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, are so high that their brains are foggy and they cannot process and rationalize logic. If you can, wait to talk about their feelings when they are calm. As long as your child is safe, practice active ignoring and deep breathing if necessary! And remember, they’re paying attention to a reaction, so show them how to be calm and controlled.
- Know your child’s triggers and plan for them in advance. Maybe it’s sharing. Maybe it eats vegetables. Maybe it’s transitions. Let your child know in advance what to expect before it happens and give them the plan for the day. Give reminders 10, 5, and 2 minutes before a changeover. Let them know in advance what food to expect for dinner and what your expectations are for them. Teach them and remind them what sharing is before they have a game date.
- Allow children to express themselves without harming you or them. I often suggest creating a pre-defined cool down area for your child with a 5-10 minute timer and items that they can use to regulate themselves. You can also try giving them a punching bag or pillow that they can scream into as loud as they want or hit them as hard as possible.
- Support them and let them know that it is healthy to express emotions in a safe, respectful, and responsible way. Teach them what different emotions are and how to use words or hand signals to convey their feelings. Use your own example to show how you should act.
- Try not to focus on the tantrum and negative behaviors as much as you focus on the positive behaviors and when your child is not having a tantrum. Observe and give praise to your child when he or she behaves appropriately!
- Try to find out the motivation for your child’s behavior before the tantrum starts. Are you tired? Hungry? Are you having a tantrum because you want power or attention, or are you trying to avoid some task?
- Distract or redirect your child when a tantrum breaks out. Give them space and / or fresh air. Show them something to divert their attention. Play a game or some music and see how quickly your child reacts and joins in.
Hope you found these tips helpful! Remember, 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, go ahead. If it doesn’t work, move on to the next parenting tool in your back pocket!
About the author
Learn more from Dr. Kim through her website, Instagram or Facebook!
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