Being Dad Childcare How To

How to cope with your child’s temper tantrums

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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

We’re not always perfect at handling our kids’ temper tantrums. So how can we cope better?

The story goes like this: you’re walking peacefully with your child on the high street. They sees a corner store and wants to run in to buy some sweets. It’s right before dinner time, so you can’t give them what they want. You start off by smilingly saying no and giving them a cuddle, and, wait for it, you’re met in return with the loudest and shrillest scream of all times. What do you do?

Diversion tactics

Firstly, stay cool. If you react and raise your pitch as well, it will make them scream even louder. Secondly, distract them. Children have very short attention spans, so distracting them is not particularly difficult. Try giving them a trinket/toy from your bag (occasionally they might get thrown back at you), or carry small snacks with you, like raisins or fruit loops or a pack of biscuits. In severe situations I tend to give my daughter my phone and show her pictures or videos on it. That usually mellows her out.

Expressive tactics

Possibly the last thing you feel like doing when your child is screaming is hug them. But it can really help settle them down. A big long firm hug can make them feel secure and let them know that you care about them. Research shows that sometimes, children just need a safe place to let their emotions out.

Imitation tactics

When my daughter throws a temper tantrum and winds herself up into a heaving mess, this copycatting tactic comes in handy. What you do is exactly what your child is doing. Imitate the sounds they are making, in the exact rhythm. It ends up confusing them long enough to forget what the tantrum was about. It also triggers some empathy from them to you. Only imitate the crying – not the screaming. Having two people screaming will help no one.

Ignoring tactics

This bullet proof tactic is subject to where you are when your child throws a temper tantrum. It’s easier to ignore the tantrum when at home. By taking away your attention completely, you won’t reinforce their undesirable behaviour. Walk out of the room and set a timer for a few minutes to check on them. If your child starts hitting, kicking, biting, or throwing things during a meltdown, stop them immediately and remove them from the situation.

Some things are certain in life, one of which is your child will learn the art of throwing an award-winning temper tantrum. The speed at how quickly their pitch rises will shock you every single time. Sadly, there is no magical formula that stops them instantly (we wish, don’t we?). Fortunately, these few tried and tested methods can help. Try and stick to them and don’t let your child bully you. Remember: we do not negotiate with little screamers!