What can I do?
18m+ Adapt your approach.
Ignore them when you can.
- Giving attention to tantrums can encourage more tantrums.
- Think - is this a situation that needs 'planned ignoring' or ‘speedy action’? Are they in any immediate danger of damaging themselves, others or things? No? - ignore until they’re calmer. Yes? – act – scoop them up and take them to a safer place – if you have to leave a shopping trolley, or even the shop – do it.
Prevent them if you can.
- Look out for tantrum triggers and head them off before they happen.
- Are they tired? Hungry? Bored?
- Is it certain kids? places? situations that are more likely to bring them on?
- If you can avoid them, if not be alert.
- Try to suss out what they’re trying to say with the behaviour.
Understand how your child's brain works.
The brain of a child in full tantrum mode is not able to think or reason. Don’t worry about giving instructions or trying to distract them if they’ve already lost it. You need to help them calm down first.
Try not to give in to avoid a tantrum.
- If you give in to your child’s demands to avoid a tantrum, you teach them that tantrums work to get your own way.
- This means the next time you say no, they’re more likely to throw a tantrum to get what they want.
- Your kids have been exploring ‘cause and effect’ since they were babies, they’re very good at knowing what works when
Adapt your approach.
How you respond to the tantrum may depend on what is causing it in the first place. If your child regularly uses tantrums to try and get their own way, rather than out of genuine frustration, you may want to use the ‘ignore and wait it out approach’. If something specific has triggered the meltdown, using the three-step calming down process can be more effective and help them learn for next time.
Try three steps to helping them calm down faster.
When a tantrum is in full swing, try these three steps:
- Use a soothing technique to calm their brain – eg speaking gently, singing, patting, breathing together, offer them your open arms.
- When they’re calmer, help them name their feelings. “I know you’re angry/sad because…”
- For under twos - use distraction “what’s that I see out the window?” OR... For over twos, once they’re fully calm, start ‘thinking brain training’ by asking them “what can you do next time when you’re waiting for your turn/wanting another lolly?”
Stay quiet and wait out the tantrum.
Sometimes just staying with them and making sure they’re safe until they’ve calmed down is all you can do.
Praise them for calming down.
- When they’ve calmed down, give them lots of positive attention to reinforce that behaviour you want to see.
- Praise them for calming down, and offer a hug and maybe a glass of water.
- Hugs help you reconnect and reassures them that you still love them.
- Drinking a glass of water can help them calm down further as swallowing the water helps regulate their breathing.
- It also brings oxygen into their blood stream which helps to calm their brain
Stay outwardly calm yourself – even if you have to fake it!
Staying calm yourself is a winning strategy – so even if you’re feeling angry, try not to show it.
By staying in control you’re showing your kids how you’d like them to behave.
- Count to ten
- Sing if you need to
Check out more tips on our Staying calm with kids section.
And what about you?
Over it? Use your phone timer to set a time limit for a play activity – your full attention for five minutes is better than half pai for longer.
Had enough? You may feel like you need alcohol or drugs to relax – but they often make the situation worse, especially when you have to deal with kids. Who could help you cut down or cut it out?