15 March 2013
How to Handle Tantrums
- If you can manage it, ignore the tantrum. This is the quickest way to cure your child of power struggle tantrums. Once she sees that it gets absolutely zero results, no reaction from you and no candy, she will stop trying to use it to get what she wants. She will test you on several occasions, but if you consistently ignore the tantrums, they’ll stop. Ignoring doesn’t mean being emotionally distant, however. You can have an attitude of empathy while still ignoring the behavior. For example, you can say, “I know you’re angry and you wish you could have what you want. It’s okay to be angry. I love you and I’ll still be here when you’re done being mad.” Then stop talking and wait until it’s over. And I can’t stress this enough: stop talking. The longer you talk/engage, the longer the tantrum will last. So deliver a loving message, zip your lips, and wait. This is the perfect way to execute the major theme of Positive Discipline: Firm and Loving.
- If waiting out the tantrum in public isn’t an option for you, take the child and leave. Try offering choices first. Example: “I can carry you out or you can walk by yourself.” If that doesn’t work, pick her up screaming and kicking if you have to and walk out. Abandon your cart, go outside and get into the car. Regroup and utilize your cool down skills, then try again. If nothing is working, just go home. Everything in the cart can be picked up again, and none of it is worth the stress. If going home isn’t an option, stay in the car and wait it out.
- Try not to give in to the tantrum. It’s okay to set limits and say no to your children. When you say no, you give them an opportunity to learn a valuable lesson: how to handle negative emotions. I think we can all agree that everyone needs to know how to do this in order to be successful in life. If you rescue and give in all the time, they won’t learn this skill. Instead they will learn that complaining and manipulation will get them what they want in life. Children who grow up thinking this become adults who don’t know how to manage disappointment and expect the world to cater to them.
- It happens often, perhaps even daily
- It escalates to physical violence, self-harm or property damage
- It’s accompanied by a decline in functioning at home, at school, in social abilities or in other areas such as extra-curricular activities.
- If your child is acting out in a way that isn’t threatening or harming anyone (including himself), then you can use the tools in the power struggle section.
- If your child is escalating and becoming aggressive, then your first priority is to establish safety. Do NOT ignore violent behavior. And do NOT respond with violence. Both of these will only make the situation worse and could lead to serious consequences.
- Deliver a firm but loving message. Example: “I see that you’re upset. It’s okay to be upset, but it’s not okay to be unsafe.”
If you know what triggered your child, then remove the trigger. Example: If loud noises are stressful for your child, then do what you can to stop the noise or distance your child from the noise. If this doesn’t stop the escalation, move on to step 2.
Attempt to divert or distract your child. Example: “How about we get out of here and go visit the pet store?” NOTE: This is not the same as giving in to a demand. Offer a completely unrelated diversion. If this doesn’t stop the escalation, move on to step
Offering limited choices, attempt to remove the child from the situation. Example: “We need to leave the store now. You can walk by yourself or I can carry you or I can hold your hand. Which one do you choose?” Then give him a chance to make a choice. You can also use this at home to have the child move to a different room or outside. If he refuses to leave the situation but is starting to calm down, then deliver a reassuring message and wait it out. Example: “I’ll give you some space to cool off. Let me know when you’re ready to leave.” If he refuses to leave and is in danger of seriously hurting someone, move on to step 4.
Do not attempt to restrain your child unless you have been trained by a professional. Call your local crisis number. If you don’t know the number, call 911 for assistance.
If you’ve reached step 5, you may want to consider seeking professional help such as therapy for your child. There is no shame in this. Like most people in this world, you’re doing the best that you can. Asking for help just means that you don’t have to do it alone.
- Tags: tantrums