Keeping Your Cool When Your Child Throws a Tantrum

Children are pretty great. They are funny and cute — the most entertaining and lovable things on the planet. But all of that adorable sweetness comes at a price…for most kids, the terrible twos mark the beginning of tantrums and seemingly irrational behavior.

The Science of a Tantrums

Tantrums are your child’s way of expressing themselves since they don’t have a concept of proper reactions or developed social skills such as communication, negotiating, or understanding the rewards of delayed gratification. They can’t define the emotion other than the fact that they don’t like it, so their feelings can be overwhelming. With no problem-solving abilities, the only thing they can do is to react. If tantrums are severe and your child is consistently inconsolable, you may want to think about talking to your pediatrician. Sometimes, there are more significant factors at play such ADHD or Autism.

How to Respond

As they test your boundaries, it can quickly seem like they are in charge instead of you. Getting angry at them and lashing out seldom helps — quite the contrary, it teaches them that anger is the solution. We are advocates of gentle, supportive parenting that models thoughtful behavior and helps keep children calm. Deeps breaths, counting to 10, and hugging can work wonders. Many parents have success being silly or simply ignoring the tantrum. To be honest, nothing works 100% of the time and different kids respond to different incentives. While we all agree that you shouldn’t give in, there are times and situations where choosing the path of least resistance has its own reward. Go ahead and give in, you can always hold firm another day. There is no perfect strategy that works for every kid or parent, sometimes we deserve a break.

Tips for Keeping Your Cool

Remind yourself that eventually the screaming and the random flailing will end, tomorrow you’ll wake up and love them just as much as you did today. When it’s more than you can bear, make sure they are safe and then walk away. Tell them that “Mommy needs a time out” then move to the next room or ask a neighbor to stop by and give you a 30-minute break. Create a wall of favorite photographs and remember the times when they make you laugh harder than you ever thought possible. All too soon, they will move on to being irrational teenagers and test your patience all over again. Then, you’ll be wishing they were little once again!

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