How to Handle Tantrums Gracefully

When your child has a tantrum, it can feel very overwhelming for you as well. How do you handle your child’s tantrum without melting down yourself? Here are six tips on how to deal with your child’s tantrums as gracefully as possible.

  1. Understand what’s behind a tantrum. Tantrums are a symptom of frustration. When a young child lacks the necessary words to explain what she wants or how she’s feeling, she gets upset and breaks down. For an older toddler, tantrums can happen when they want to assert themselves, but are unable to get the result they expect.
  2. Try to catch a tantrum before it begins. Many parents quickly learn to recognize the signs of an impending meltdown in their child. One way to stop a tantrum before it erupts is to distract your child while he still has a handle on his emotions. For example, if he is growing frustrated at not being able to play with a certain toy, you might begin to read to him from his favorite book. He might forget all about the toy and continue playing happily.
  3. Get to the root of the problem. There are different kinds of tantrums, caused by anything from frustration to tiredness to your child not getting what she wants. Often, the type of tantrum will inform how you can best handle the situation. If your child is frustrated because she doesn’t have the vocabulary to tell you what toy she wants to play with, you can ask her to point to it. This teaches her how to cope with her frustration. On the other hand, if she is having a tantrum because she’s not getting the candy that she wants in the grocery store, the best option may be to remove her from the situation entirely.
  4. Don’t try to negotiate in the middle of a meltdown. When a child is in the middle of a tantrum, trying to reason with him is often futile. His emotions have taken over, and he likely won’t respond to you telling him that his sister didn’t mean to drink his water and she’s very sorry. Instead, the best thing might be to wait until he’s worked out his frustration, and try to talk to him about what happened when he’s calmer.
  5. Model calm behavior. When your toddler or preschooler is in the middle of a tantrum, it can also be very draining on you as a parent. However, if you do your best to remain calm and rational during your child’s tantrum, you’ll reinforce that yelling and screaming isn’t always the best coping strategy. Keeping your composure in the middle of a toddler meltdown isn’t easy, but take some deep breaths and remember that it’s okay to give yourself a time-out sometimes, too.
  6. Take advantage of the quiet times. When your child is happily helping you pick the best apples in the grocery store, it’s the perfect time to reinforce and praise her good behavior. You can also talk about ways to behave in public when she is calm enough to understand, such as before you arrive at the store. Set your child up for success by teaching her clearly what behaviors work. Of course, she won’t always remember, but she will have a strong foundation to start from.

Temper tantrums in toddlers and preschoolers are frustrating for every parent, but they are a normal part of your young child’s development, and something that he will grow out of. With our six tips for handling tantrums gracefully, you and your child can get through the meltdowns while teaching him important coping and reasoning skills.