Taming Tantrums


Children have the same feelings as adults. They haven’t created new ones. They experience excitement, disappointment, fear, joy, frustration, etc. We know these feelings intimately, so why do we have such a hard time helping our children through them? Why are we afraid of tantrums? Tantrums are important! Every single one is an opportunity to help children take steps toward a better life. If they are never allowed to feel the spectrum of emotions, how will they ever practice managing their thoughts and behavior? 

We THINK we want our children to listen to what we say and be obedient, but maybe what we really want is for our children to know how to listen to their own hearts and CHOOSE to behave in a way that is safe/helpful to themselves and others.

People who are able to regulate their emotions are more likely to feel confident and capable, be healthy in mind and body, become supportive friends, have stable relationships, be good students, and display fewer behavior problems.

Below are things to say to deescalate a tantrum before it becomes full-blown. Once a full-blown tantrum starts, nothing you say will be heard until your child is calm, so say NOTHING. If they get loud, you get quiet. 

Try one of these at the start of upset:

►You were hoping ______ (we could stay longer). Yes! I UNDERSTAND ______(today has been fun). However _______(it’s time to get home for dinner). Let’s ______ (we choose a day to come back).

► Wow! I can see you’re upset. I see tears, your fists are clenched, and I hear your cry. Do you feel like a thunderstorm? Close your eyes. Take a breath. Look inside your mind for a rainbow? Keep breathing, keep looking… Let me know when you see it. OR Tuck into your turtle shell. Squeeze in. Take deep breaths and peek out. Are you feeling better? 

► Sure! You can have a turn - as soon as your sister is done.

►When you do that, does it add to the fun or take away from the fun? C’mon, let’s have fun together!

►When your child is upset, let them have a drink or wash their hands. Run a bath, jump in the pool or play with the hose. Water is magically soothing.