7 Ways to Handle Temper Tantrums

7 Ways to Handle Temper Tantrums

Several simple steps to stopping -- and preventing -- your child’s next temper tantrum.

By: Judy Koutsky

If you’re a mom, you’ve dealt with temper tantrums. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Small changes -- like managing expectations and acknowledging your child’s anger -- go a long way in calming down your child and preventing future tantrums. Here are some helpful tips from the experts.

1. Stop a tantrum before it gains speed. “The best way to change behavior is to catch negative or inappropriate behavior when it is small,” says Carrie Krawiec, executive director of the Michigan Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Give your child direction for what to do instead. If he follows, give lots of praise. If he doesn’t, give a consequence like a time-out.

2. Redirect, whenever possible. “You may see your child start to clench fists, stomp, or growl. Give a redirection like, ‘use an indoor voice now, please,’ and if they shift gears give them lots of props,” says Krawiec. If she doesn’t, put her in safe environment -- like her room -- and give her time and space to calm and self-soothe.

3. Ignore the behavior, not the child. “Planned ignoring is a powerful tool to help decrease temper tantrums. Ignore the behavior, not the child,” says counseling psychologist Stacy Haynes, EdD, LPC, and author of Powerful Peaceful Parenting. If your child is having a temper tantrum at home, simply walk out of the room. If you don’t acknowledge the behavior, it will often fizzle out.

4. Be firm. “Don't give in. If you abandon a behavior management system as your child escalates, then you have taught them that the louder or more aggressive they get, the more likely they are to get their way,” says Krawiec. Instead, firmness and steadiness in the face of this escalation will be the best preventer of future acting out, even though it will be painful in the moment.


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5. Prevent tantrum triggers. “Plan for down times. Many tempers flare when children are bored, tired, and hungry. Make sure to be preventive in situations that cause temper tantrums,” says Haynes. Bring along snacks to prevent outbursts prompted by hunger, and maybe it’s not the smartest idea to go shopping after a child did not take his afternoon nap.

6. Encourage good behavior. “Identify small positive target behaviors. Practice and show your child what you expect. Encourage good behavior with a reinforcement system,” says Krawiec. When you tell your child to stop yelling and he does, smile and tell him how proud you are of him. Then sit with him and play with building blocks or another activity he likes.

7. Validate their feelings. “We will all be angry at times, and we need to allow children to express their anger. We need to recognize that it is an issue of how they are expressing their anger,” says Haynes. Tell them that you know they are upset, but instead of yelling and screaming, ask them to write down their frustration or tell you in an inside voice. Let them know it’s OK to be angry, but it’s how they’re handling their anger that’s the problem.

Do you have any great tips for handling temper tantrums?

Judy Koutsky is the former Editorial Director of KIWI magazine, a green parenting publication. She was also Executive Editor of Parenting.com, AOL Parent and BabyTalk.com. Follow her on twitter @JudyKoutsky.

Image ©iStock.com/onebluelight

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