Welcome back to the Temper Tantrum series! Last time I talked about why our bundles of joy flip for what appears like no reason. Hopefully it was enlightening, but it’s one thing knowing what’s going on your childs head. It’s another being able to cope with temper tantrums without losing your cool.
With that in mind, I’m going to arm you with some skills & techniques on how to not only cope with temper tantrums when they happen, but help prevent them in the first place! Wouldn’t that be something!
COPE WITH TEMPER TANTRUMS BY PAUSING
1 BE MINDFUL & PAUSE
Taking the time to pause and reflect before we react to the situation is key to learning to cope with temper tantrums.
Have you read my post on mindfulness yet? Being Mindful is incredibly useful in these situations! You can read it here!
When your child is on the brink of a tantrum – or in the full throws – take a breath & ask yourself these questions:
- What led to this point?
- Are they hungry? Thirsty?
- Are they getting Poorly?
- Are they tired? Perhaps they missed a nap, slept badly or are under the whether?
- Do we normally have a solid routine? What would we be doing about now?
- Are they trying to tell me something they can’t verbalise?
Look at the situation from our childs perspective. Something which, to us, may appear completely insignificant, can be hugely upsetting to them. Try not to dismiss their frustrations & upsets; instead sympathise and understand.
2 PATTERNS OF BEHAVIOUR
Regularly working out what’s triggered your childs outburst can also help you identify patterns in behaviour. If you know what to expect, you can prepare for it.
Often, my youngest’s tantrums come when she can’t tell me what she wants, and is getting tired. These two things together cause frustration for her, which builds as I desperately show her everything on the shelf she’s pointing at to try and identify what she wants.
As hard as it may be, always stay calm (at least let them see you being calm) – repeat a mantra such as I have control over how I feel, and I choose to feel at calm.
The Hardest Part Of Motherhood Isn’t While They Are Small.
It Comes When They Grow Up
3 AVOID OR ESCAPE THE TRIPLE-T!
If you know you’re circumstances could trigger a tantrum, try giving your child decisive power over what happens next. No, I’ve not gone mad! Giving them a choice allows them to feel in control, independent & understood.
Here’s an example:
I picked Middle Terror up from Nursery. After a long day without a nap & with lots of stimulation, he’s always tired and cranky – prime Temper Tantrum Territory (a Triple-T situation we’ll call it!). We were in a situation where he couldn’t play or do the things he wanted to do. We picked up Eldest Terror from school and had to run in Aldi (THE JOY). Things were escalating as the boys bickered walking to the shop. He didn’t want to hold my hand etc etc. So I gave him a CONTROLLED CHOICE.
Did he want to carry the Rolls or the Pie?
Then again at the til. Did he want to hold the money or help me pack?
In this way, he felt valued, independent and in control. Phew! We’d escaped Triple-T!
So next time you’re stuck in a situation where you might enter Triple-T, try getting your child involved in whats happening. Giving them power, choices & a voice could help you side step a meltdown.
4 VERBALISE & SYMPATHISE
When you’re at full meltdown stage however, it can be tricky to get your child to open up. Most of the time, they probably don’t understand it themselves (See above!). If we change the way we approach talking to them when they’re under stress can help to defuse the situation, calm them & allow you to continue with your day.
Try not to get angry, yell or scold because they are tantruming.
Instead, to cope with the temper tantrum, name the negative behaviour they’re presenting (& why, if you can identify the trigger); link it to the emotion you think they are feeling. Get down to their level and address them in a calm, controlled, somewhat quiet voice.
You’re kicking, screaming and throwing things (because we had to put the toys away). Are you feeling angry? Are you a bit sad?
In this way, you’re helping them develop their emotional intelligence as well as defusing the situation. Half the battle at the toddler age is their frustration at not being able to explain.
A great way to help kids understand is through imagination. There are hundreds of books out there, but these are a couple of my favourites. Simple enough for young minds to grasp while being engaging and imaginative.
Book Suggestions For Helping Kids Cope
THE COLOUR MONSTER – Anna Llenas
One day, Colour Monster wakes up feeling very confused. His emotions are all over the place; he feels angry, happy, calm, sad and scared all at once! To help him, a little girl shows him what each feeling means through colour. A gentle exploration of feelings for young and old alike.
MY MANY COLOURED DAYS – DR SEUSS
‘You’d be surprised how many ways I change on different coloured days.’Maybe on some days you feel sort of brown, like a bear; you feel slow and low, low down. But then comes a yellow day and wheeeeeeeee! you feel like a busy, buzzy bee. Dr. Seuss takes the reader on a journey through many different moods in this vibrant and highly original book.
5 SHOW THEM LOVE
There’s a lot of advice out there, one piece of which related to tantrums, is to ignore your child when they are acting negatively and HUGELY praise positive behaviour.
FOR ME, THIS DOESN’T WORK
Firstly, by ignoring your child they feel unheard. You’re not resolving the issue or helping them learn how to cope with these big emotions.
Would you do the same to an adult? If you saw your best friend, throwing things & crying, would you ignore it or would you try to understand and comfort?
Secondly, it’s completely impractical to tell a parent to praise all the positive behaviour; they’re complex and situations don’t always allow you to.
It’s a case of can we be mindful 100% of the time of every single action our child is doing and remember to praise them, all while continuing with day to day life?
Basically, the long and short of it is, give them a hug. Hugs are amazing things! They instantly help to comfort & relax; this is due to the release of endorphins. You’d hug a friend if they were upset, so ask your child if they’d like a hug too?
It’s fine it they so no, but letting them know that you’re their should they want that comfort is key.
6 SPACE, NOT TIME OUT
I love time outs. I think for behaviours which are dangerous, mean or bad (with a valuable teaching lesson) they are incredibly effective. Your child has done something wrong. Removing them from the situation, explaining why they’ve been removed and asking them to think about why the behaviour was wrong – amazing.
TEMPER TANTRUMS DON’T NEED PUNISHMENT
That being said, we’re better able to cope with temper tantrumsby understanding that they are expressions of emotion. Yes throwing toys etc. may be a bad thing to do, but time out is not going to have the result you want. It will simply cause the child to feel that their emotion is bad or wrong instead.
So rather than time out, let them have some breathing space. You can expand on the verbalisation you made to them above.
Explain that they can’t throw things at people, hit or scream at you. But if they want to ‘vent’ in that way, they can have space.
Allow them time in their room, in a positive way, with you near by. When they are calmed, you’re their to support them.
Let them know that you are happy for them to come back to you when they are calm, if they want to talk or if they want comfort.
Helping them to understand that we all get overwhelmed sometimes is a healthy and constructive move. As an adult, do you find swearing or having a bit of a scream helps you calm down? For me its VICIOUSLY cleaning the house. Ha! Hey, it works! So let your child vent alone if they want to, but be ready to cuddle and talk it out with them after!
7 POST TEMPER TANTRUMS TALK
Talking is the best therapy. It’s true for kids as much as it is for adults. After your little one has regained their halo, calming and comfortingly talk through what happened. It doesn’t have to be a long conversation.
Explain that its ok to feel those emotions. Maybe suggest some things they could do instead of getting angry and tantruming; screaming into a pillow, controlled breathing with you, a dance party – whatever lets them express how their feeling!
And remember, never hold grudges over temper tantrums.
Try not to use negative language about the child ‘You’re being horrible!’ etc.
Always talk in terms of the behaviour. That its the way they express how they’re feeling that needs to change, not your childs emotions.
I wanted to leave you with a few final pointers to make sure you feel fully prepared to deal with the next temper tantrums you encounter. Bare in mind, not everything works for everyone; you have to find your own path. I’m just providing you with a bit of signage in the right direction.
Try These Top Tips To Calm Temper Tantrums
- ALWAYS STAY CALM YOURSELF
- GET DOWN TO THEIR LEVEL
- IF TALKING DOESN’T WORK, CARRY ON WITH WHAT YOUR DOING – BUT INVOLVE THEM (essentially pretend the tantrum isn’t happening. chat to them as you normally would)
- GET SOME SPACE YOURSELF IF YOU NEED IT (leave the room, breath, have a cigarette, glass of wine, sneak a biscuit – whatever you need!)
- DISTRACTION TECHNIQUES TO SWAY THEIR ATTENTION AWAY FROM HOW THEY ARE FEELING
- TAKE THEM BY SURPRISE (react differently to how they are expecting; sing, dance, jump up and down etc etc)
- SPEAK CALMLY INSTEAD OF SHOUTING
- DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, NEGOTIATE. Negotiating with a tantruming child is a road to manipulative tantrums in the future.
- DON’T PUNISH EMOTIONS. ONLY PUNISH BAD/DANGEROUS/MEAN BEHAVIOURS.
And that, about covers it! Do you feel more prepared and in control for the next temper tantrum you face? I know I do!
I love hearing from you so make sure to let me know in the comments what has worked for you! You could also share your temper tantrums experiences, you know, for solidarity purposes!
Until next time!