Like any good battle commander, you must have a plan.
Dealing with a tantrum is stressful, especially when its in public. But if you have a plan and you focus on your strategy rather than the tantrum you will be able to keep your cool and deal with it much more easily.
When your child has a tantrum, they are actually out of their mind. The part of the brain which deals with decision making and judgement is overridden by emotions. Reasoning with a child who is having a tantrum wont work because the reasoning part of their brain is switched off. Once the child chills out you can talk to them, until then, there is not a lot you can do in the moment that will make things better. In saying that, there are a few things you may like to try.
1. Remind Your Little One of Consequences
If your child is old enough to understand, try and remind them of what happened the last time they misbehaved. This strategy can be used at the start of a tantrum, but once it is full blown it will not work as effectively, if at all.
2. Get Out of There
If you get your child away from the scene of the tantrum it can potentially snap them out of it. If your child is having a meltdown over candy you can try picking her up and moving to a different section of the store until she calms down. While not fool proof, a change of location can work wonders.
3. Keep A Sense Of Humor
We’ve all seen public tantrums, and all parents dread them. You may worry that if your child throws a tantrum that other people will think that you’re a bad parent – that your child is a little monster. Be careful that this thinking doesn’t lead you to make bad choices. Kids are smart. If they scream and you give in because you’re in public and they get what they want – they will do it again.
4. Stay calm, plaster a smile on your face and don’t give in.
People don’t judge your child, many people have experienced the same thing, they judge your reaction to the tantrum. If you stay strong and deal with the outburst calmly they will walk by and think, “now that’s a good Mom”.
5. Keep Speaking Calmly
Easier said than done. If you also get angry, you turn the issue into a power struggle. This will escalate the tantrum. One of the goals of a tantrum is to gain attention. To a child, it won’t matter if its positive or negative attention, as long as they are getting yours. If stay calm and relaxed, you aren’t going to feed your child’s tantrum with your tension, and your little one will know that their behavior isn’t getting to you.
6. Teach your child how to deal with their emotions
We all get frustrated, but parents can teach their children other ways to deal with their anger. Once your child can speak, you can remind them to use their words instead of screaming. Once your child is speaking with words it is important to deal with their problem.
7. Find Out What’s Really Frustrating Them
If you have ever traveled to a foreign shore and struggled to find out where the washroom is you will be able to empathize with your little one’s frustration in just not having the words. If your little one has limited communication they may throw a tantrum when they just can’t get you to understand. Try teaching them some sign language, a few key words such as hungry, milk and tired can make a huge difference to your life and theirs.
Another strategy is to ask them to point to what they want, this one can help you to decipher their needs and wants and take it from there. While you may not always get it right, and it does take a little practice, if you at least have a starting point, for example a toddler pointing to her older brother playing oh so innocently with a ball, you can play detective and decipher that he actually snatched her toy when you weren’t looking and you can ask him to return it.
Many kids have triggers – being tired and hungry are two of the most common. When your child is on the brink because they are tired and hungry, it’s not going to take much to push them over the edge. Think about how you feel when you are short of sleep. Keep a diary of when your child is having meltdowns. Chances are its around nap time or dinner time. Feed them and let them rest and see if it makes a difference.
8. Give your little one a hug
When everyone is at their wits end because of a tantrum hugging your child may not be your highest priority but it can actually help them to settle down. Don’t negotiate or communicate with them, definitely don’t engage in a battle of wills. Just give your child a firm, loving hug and make them feel secure. Sometimes kids are simply getting their emotions out and a firm hug lets them know you care about them and that they are safe, even if you don’t necessarily agree with their behavior.
9. Distract Them
Pull a mental switcheroo on your kids. If you engage them in something else they can sometimes forget about the original tantrum. When you’re out, make sure that you have distractions in your purse. This can be as simple as a toy they haven’t seen in a while or a snack to take the edge off. Capture their attention with something else and you may be able to ward off a major meltdown. A little over the top enthusiasm never hurts either, “ooohhhh look at that twirly fan over there!” or “we need ice cream at home, want to help choose the flavor?” can also distract your child – they have pretty short attention spans and this makes them easier to divert. It can be as easy as pulling a funny face, telling them a joke or suggesting an activity like going for a walk. If you see that tell tale screwed up face or reddening cheeks and scowl then preempt the issue and divert their attention.
10. Ignore the tantrum
If you ignore what is going on and don’t engage with your child, you will find that they stop screaming before too long. Make sure that you are in sight of your child -if they start to get so out of control that they hurt themselves (such as beating their head on the floor) you will need to intervene, but if its only attention they seek then ignoring them can help them to calm down more quickly. Stay within their sight, but don’t acknowledge the tantrum.
Once they start getting it right
When your child starts to ease back on the tantrums and use other methods to control their temper make sure that you praise them. If you want to know how to prevent a tantrum in the first place, check out our article on prevention measures.