Nothing is more trying than a child who is out of sorts and in the midst of a meltdown. Tantrums can be draining and stressful for parents and caretakers. You might feel you need to step in to end a tantrum thinking, “please make it STOP!”. But remember, it can help to take a breather while you decide how to respond.
In an earlier blog post, we explored the triggers to tantrums in children and how to manage them. For this week, we wanted to answer the question from parents, “But what do I do during a tantrum?” Here are ideas for staying calm and keeping things in perspective:
3 TIPS TO REMAIN CALM DURING TANTRUMS:
Make A Plan.
Have a clear plan for how you’ll handle a tantrum in whatever situation you’re in. Concentrate on putting your plan into action when the tantrum happens. Some helpful strategies to try are deep breathing, positive self-talk (I can handle this!), and building self-confidence in your parenting style. Other methods to try are to go in another room, when safe to do so, and take a quick 5-minute “Mommy/Daddy Time Out” to help regain composure.
This is a tough one yet very important. Accept that you can’t control your child’s emotions or behavior directly. You can only keep your child safe and guide their behavior, so tantrums are less likely to happen in the future. Accept that it takes time for change. Your child has a lot of growing up to do before tantrums are gone forever. Developing and practicing self-regulation skills is a life-long task.
Keep your sense of humor. Sometimes having an “internal giggle” can help break the tension for you on the inside. But don’t laugh out loud at the tantrum! Doing so runs the risk of unintentionally rewarding the tantrum behavior with attention. It might also upset your child even more if they think you’re laughing at them. Hurt feelings can amplify an already tough situation.
Once you have mastered the ability to regain patience and calm, here are some additional strategies to cope with your child’s tantrum.
5 TIPS TO COPE WITH TANTRUMS:
…Or at least pretend you are calm. Parenting can be stressful, so remember to a moment for yourself if you need to. Ensure your child is safe from objects and from hurting themselves then step away to take some deep breaths. If you get angry and yell or physically restrain them, it’ll make the situation harder for both you and your child. When you speak, keep your voice cool, calm and collected and act deliberately and slowly.
Acknowledge your child’s “big feelings.” For example, ‘It’s very upsetting when your toy stops working isn’t it?’ (validate what they are experiencing). This can help prevent the behavior from getting more out of control and gives your child a chance to reset emotions.
Wait It Out.
Stay close and be physically present so your child knows you’re there. Sometimes just opening your arms offering a hug can help. They may decline, but this is letting them know they are not alone. But don’t try to reason with them during a tantrum. It’s too late once a tantrum has started, they must de-escalate first. Tantrums are exhausting and they will be more tired and calm once it passes.
Take Charge. (When Needed).
Tantrums that happen because your child wants a toy or piece of candy, DO NOT give your child what they want. This incentivizes the behavior. If it’s because they don’t want to do something, use your judgment. For example, if your child doesn’t want to get out of the bathtub, pulling out the plug and letting the water drain might be safer than lifting out your child. Giving a 10 minute, 5 minute, and 2 minute warning before the bath ends will also help with ending an activity and prevent a tantrum. And remember that screaming, spanking or any type of physical discipline is NEVER an answer to dealing with a child’s tantrum.
This is one of the hardest. As parents, we have days, we are exhausted and just want to give in. But if you sometimes give your child what they want when they have tantrums and sometimes you don’t, the problem could get worse. Sending mixed messages can be confusing for children and make parenting harder down the road. You got this!
If you or a loved one is in need of support, Low Country Counseling offers specialized therapy for Individuals, Moms, Couples, Families, Children, and Teens. Contact us for any questions you need answered or to schedule an appointment. Help is available. You are not alone!
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