How to stop temper tantrums (in children!)
I am sure you have all been there as parents (I've certainly been there many times as a teacher). Your young child feels upset, annoyed or even just tired. They have decided they've had enough!! So they decide it would be a great idea to maybe....scream the house down......kick and flail on the floor....or both!
As we all know, this is a classic temper tantrum. In this article we will explore ideas for how to stop temper tantrums in children. Detailing Strategies for how to deal with temper tantrums.
For the short answer to this question, temper tantrums are things that go away when we don't give the child attention. The whole reason a child throws a tantrum is to get attention and, if you give it, they will learn to do it again. Stay calm, explain to your child that you will not help them until they calm down, and ignore them until the tantrum is over (keeping an eye on them to make sure they are safe).
For those of you looking for a more in depth look at this topic, please continue reading! This is going to be a long one! Dealing with temper tantrums is one of the biggest topics of concern I see for many parents, therefore it will need some explanation!
Before we start, I would recommend that you also read our article on positive parenting. This will give you a general overview of great parenting techniques, not just those related to how to handle tantrums!
Why do tantrums happen?
The first thing to ask ourselves, is what a tantrum is. If we want to solve the problem of tantrums, we first need to understand more about them.
In my experience tantrums are simply a way for a child to get the attention of the adults around them. They have a problem! Maybe they are frustrated! These feelings lead to the child feeling overwhelmed and having a meltdown. Thus a tantrum is born.
Children have not yet developed a good way to deal with these negative feelings of frustration and annoyance, so opt to go down the route of throwing a tantrum.
You can relate it to babies and very young children hitting. They have not yet learned how to resolve a situation by talking, so they use a basic human response of hitting. This doesn't mean we allow our child to continue hitting until they are preschool age! This doesn't mean we give them everything they want when they hit! We teach how to resolve a problem without hitting. Therefore, I don't get why so many parents don't act this way with tantrums!
Tantrums are exactly the same, they are a natural response of a young child who has not learned to deal with problems by other (more appropriate) means. It is our job as parents to train these children out of the habit of throwing tantrums, and teach them a better way.
What can we do when this happens?
Well, what to do? Actually, it is quite a simple thing to solve in my humble opinion. We must first think why our child is doing this? Why do you think a young child would decide this is such a great idea? Well, simply put, they want attention. They want someone to see they have been wronged in the most extreme way!
So....er....what can WE do then? What our perfect response as parents? Well, if you go over to your child and start trying to talk them out of this, or in fact engage with them in any way, then you are giving them exactly what they want....attention! They did this whole thing for attention and they got attention. So, what do you think they will do the next time they want attention? You guessed it......
It's all about giving attention to positive behaviour and not so much to undesirable behaviour. So, this is what you do. Tell your child that you will not talk to them and sort out their problem until they stop the tantrum. And then that's it.....wait!
Don't talk to the child, don't give them eye contact. Just leave them be, and this behaviour should stop. Just keep half an eye on them to make sure they don't hurt themselves! You need to learn how to do this in a covert way! If they realise you are looking at them, this will likely fuel the tantrum further, as they will see this as attention. With practise, you will be able to monitor your child with them still thinking you are ignoring them!
If your child starts directing their tantrum towards you (something a child might do to almost force you to give them attention), continue to ignore this and calmly remind them again that you will not help them until they calm down and stop having a tantrum.
There you have it. These are the main steps when thinking how to stop temper tantrums. Sounds simple, right?
I've had parents tell me before.....oh, we've tried this and it doesn't work. Usually, this is because a child is so far down the road of being trained to have tantrums for attention, that it is harder to get them to stop. But even in extreme cases, if you are patient, this method WILL work. If you give in, your child will see that and always expect you to give in.
It may take a while at first for the tantrum to stop, but stay strong and it will. As time goes on, if you are consistent in the way you deal with tantrums, this time will get less and less. Eventually, there will be no more tantrums!
See where I am going with this? Well, of course it is easier for a teacher. We don't have the emotional attachment in the same way a parent does to their child. We think the world of our students, don't get me wrong! But, it clearly isn't the same as the feeling of actually being someone's parent. Of being the person that brought this other small person into the world!
But, trust me, stick with this way of treating your child during tantrum time and you will see results.
Any other ways to stop tantrums?
Distraction can be a powerful tool when it comes to how to handle tantrums.
I wouldn't try to engage your child in something else by trying to ask them, I would simply start doing another activity nearby and hopefully they will snap out of their tantrum and join you in this new activity.
By doing this, it also gives you a good way to naturally ignore the undesirable tantrum behaviour.
However, don't do this new activity in a way that may annoy your child. In that kind of "I know your having a tantrum, but I don't care" kind of way. You don't want to goad your child, you want to do an inviting activity that may distract them away from the tantrum.
How can we stop future tantrums?
When thinking about how to deal with temper tantrums, we also have to think about this from the perspective of prevention. This is the bigger picture when dealing with tantrums in children.
As I said above, a child who uses tantrums often has not learned to deal with their emotions well. We need to give our children the tools they need to do this.
Firstly, we must remember that often parents are their children's number one role model. They look up to the parent's and will follow what they see from them. This means it is vital that you (as a parent) are always modeling the correct and positive way to deal with problems. If they see you shouting and screaming when problems arise, they will likely want to do the same. So, the first thing to do is look inward and make sure you are being an excellent role model to your child.
Going back to what to do at the cutting edge of child tantrums, you can't do much in the heat of the tantrum, but you can certainly do things after they have calmed down. A child is usually irrational and unreasonable when having a temper tantrum, so best not to try and talk with them at then. And, as mentioned above, we don't want to be seen to give them attention anyway.
When your child has calmed down and the tantrum is over. I would then calmly ask them why they behaved in that way. What the problem was?
Talk them through a solution to the problem and remind the child that having a tantrum is not a good way to get a solution to a problem. Explain to them that we need to "use our words" to do this. Talk through what your child could have said or how they could have acted instead.
You could mention "have you ever seen Mom or Dad having a tantrum?" "No, because big boys and girls don't have tantrums, they use their words." Again, not in a way to goad your child. In a calm and friendly way!
Tell your child how much you love them and want to help them, but that you cannot help them if they throw a tantrum.
On top of this, you should praise situations where your child does deal with a problem well. I talked earlier about the need to reinforce the positive behaviours and discourage the negative behaviours. As well as this, you don't want to be seen as always being negative!
So, when your child does talk through a problem or react well when they are told they can't have a toy in a toy shop, give them praise. Tell them you are proud of the way they dealt with the situation. Believe it or not, this will often mean a lot to your child and will encourage them to act like this again in the future.
Remain calm and consistent
Throughout all of this, try to stay calm and consistent. Don't show any emotion to your child. Don't laugh at them, don't get angry at them... all those things will just add fuel to the tantrum fire.
How about public tantrums?
It can be particularly hard when your child has a tantrum in public. You feel that everyone is staring at your unruly child, and you feel under pressure to resolve the situation quickly. You might even start thinking that these onlookers consider you a bad parent. This is why so many parents struggle in these public situations.
However, my message to you is to stick to your guns and don't give in. Many parents opt to give in to their children's demands simply to stop this public display from your child, that you think is annoying other people. Yes, it may feel you are an exhibit in a local zoo at this point, but stick to your guns. By giving in, you are teaching your child that tantrums are a way to get what they want! That is more important than worrying what other people think!
The best thing to do when this happens is to try and take your child to a quieter area away from the crowds. Calmly explain to them what the situation is and why. If the tantrum continues, use the techniques already explained. Ignore the tantrum and DO NOT give in to any demands they have.
I know this is a challenging and embarrassing situation, but if you stay consistent with these techniques, you should see improvement over time.
When your child sees that tantrums don't benefit them in any way, over time they will naturally stop.
I recently experienced this exact same situation recently outside a local science museum gift shop. A child had broken down into a tantrum when their (I assume) Mom refused to buy them a toy from this gift shop.
At first, I saw the Mom trying to use similar techniques to what I recommend, ignoring the child after sternly telling them why they can't have the toy. However, this was a pretty busy area, and the Mom fairly quickly decided to give up on this and started to try and talk the child out of the tantrum. This engagement and attention was exactly what the child had been looking for in the first place, so she had won at that point. Of course, the child continued having the tantrum and the whole situation became even longer. Continuing to flail her legs and roll around on the floor!
I believe this parent changed her angle of attack simply because of the peer pressure she felt from other people staring at her family's public display!
So, I will repeat until I am blue in the face, STAY STRONG and STICK TO THE PLAN!!!
The younger you start these techniques, the easier it will be to get results. When a child is older and already has bad habits ingrained in them, the path to improvement will take considerably longer. The techniques will still work, but it will be more of a struggle at the beginning.
When a child is young, they will mostly be inside the home. This gives you a great opportunity to train tantrums out of them before they are even regularly outside of your family home!
You may be wondering why I should have any idea about dealing with children's tantrums or why I should be considered an expert on this topic?
Over the years, as a teacher, I have seen quite a number of children enter my classroom that have gotten into the habit of throwing tantrums.
Usually, these children are around 4-5 years old. You would be amazed how fast these children change this behaviour when they find out that these tantrums don't get them any benefit.
And I have been a preschool age teacher for over a decade and have dealt with many hundreds of children. These children have been varied and come from different backgrounds. But the approach I use always works. Granted, some take longer than others to train out of having tantrums. But it always works in the end.
I have had many parents over the years ask me such things as "haven't you ever seen my child have a tantrum? They do it all the time at home!" or I have seen children that never have tantrums in my classroom have a meltdown with a parent at a school event!
Even children whose parents clearly spoil them rotten and (literally) give them everything they ask for, respond to these techniques in my class!
So start young and stick with my advice! Don't give up, and you will have a tantrum free child at some point!
To wrap up....
I sincerely hope this article on tantrums can be a help to any parents struggling with their child having tantrums. Or hopefully parents of newborn children can read this and implement the ideas within this article before tantrums really have a chance to develop.
I started out with the intention of making this resource a helpful starting point for any parents. I have seen parents in tears because they can't control their child's tantrums at home. So, if I can help even one of these parents, this article would have been well worth my time!
I do realise that when you are a parent, you have a strong and natural bond with your child. It may be hard to be tough with them when they throw tantrums. But, trust me, if you push through you will be thankful in the long run!
Don't get stuck in the cycle of tantrums! It is a cycle that will go on for a long time, and will only bring you discomfort and unhappiness in your family life!
If you have any further questions or queries about how to deal with temper tantrums, please leave a comment in the section below and we will try to get back to you!
If you have experience regarding how to stop temper tantrums or how to handle tantrums in general, we would love to hear from you below! My ideas and suggestions have worked for me over many years! But everyone is different, and maybe an alternative approach has worked for you.
I want to recommend my favourite parenting course. Anyone that has read my website for any length of time, will probably know how passionate I am about this awesome resource for parents. Not only about dealing with tantrums. This is the ultimate resource (and best parenting related resource I have genuinely ever seen) for parents. You will learn so much about all kinds of aspects of parenting. And it gives far more than I can offer by simply writing articles on a website!
This resource is called Positive Parenting Solutions, and you can check it out by clicking HERE!