When it comes to handling a child’s tantrum, there are a multitude of approaches, none of which seems totally effective or confidence-inspiring in the moment. But some really do work if you trust the process. Still, it’s important to know up front that the tantrum prevention is a hell of a lot easier than tantrum treatment. All that said, avoiding tantrums entirely is not a reasonable goal. The more reasonable goal is to mitigate and minimize unexpected meltdowns. Toddlers can be total jerks and that’s okay so long as they are being managed effectively and learning to manage their own emotions.
Here’s what researchers, scientists, and experts recommend doing to handle a kid’s tantrum.
Tantrum Club Rule #1: Prepare Before You Go Out
- Go over your schedule with the child before heading out. Giving them a game plan will prepare them for the day.
- Make sure your child is both well fed and rested before running errands.
- Reward your child with some one-on-one time after they complete task.
- Stay cool when your child has a public tantrum. They’re not breaking down on purpose. Your child has no concept of public versus private nor do they understand humiliation.
Tantrum Club Rule #2: Don’t Fight Fire With Fire
- Don’t combat the tantrum with anger. Instead, deflect with humor, stay empathetic, and negotiate when necessary to downplay the meltdown.
- Don’t yell, at least as much as possible. Research finds that constant yelling at an early age can lead to prolonged shouting matches when your kid becomes a teenager.
- Focus on engaging in a calm dialogue. Yelling shuts down all forms of communication between you and the child, and often prevents lessons from being be learned through discipline.
- Be cool, calm, and consistent. Showing composure will teach your child how to properly manage their emotions from angry to a calm state, as will hugs and kisses after the discipline has been given out.
Tantrum Club Rule #3: Be Nice
- Think of discipline like a parking ticket — there’s discomfort, inconvenience, and guilt, but not suffering.
- Teach your lesson, then kiss, hug, and make up after punishment has been dished out to keep the relationship strong.
- Don’t use snark out of frustration over a child’s behavior. Instead, have a discipline plan in place, and use it consistently and dispassionately.