Top 5 Ways to Handle Tantrums

Top 5 – Tantrum Survival Guide

Written by Rachel Gorton

You know what my favorite part about parenting is?

When my child throws himself on the floor, tells me he hates me, and throws his toys across the room.

Said no Mom ever. 

I used to think I was the luckiest Mother in the world because we bypassed the terrible twos.

Wrong.

Because parenting is never what you think it is, I realized the beast was just waiting for the perfect time to unleash.

For the last couple years of my child’s life, tantrums have been at an all-time high.  Every year while my kid is opening presents and having fun at his birthday I’m thinking, “This is the year!  The year when he grows out of tantrums”.

Wrong again.

Instead, the tantrums just get more fun because my 6 year old has actually figured out how to get under my skin.

I wish someone would have warned me that you only really get like 1-2 years of a sweet snuggly child.

I remember when my son started scratching and hitting me when he was mad…those were the days.

Now, it’s like a dark force enters my child’s body and completely takes over when he hears the word NO.

And he is mean.

So mean.

Let me tell you something.

The next time your friend Susy is being a total B, show her some compassion because she probably just got yelled at by her Toddler.

You know that I think about this whole tantrum thing?

I think it is totally our fault.

I know just another thing we are doing wrong, but hear me out…

Most of us are totally surprised when our child lashes out at us, despite the hundreds of times they’ve done it before.  And why?  Well because we desperately are clinging to the idea that this tantrum phase will just stop.  Instead of having a solid offensive plan, we are mostly playing a crappy defensive game.

But there is a way we can take back our dignity.

Here are the

Top 5 Ways to Prepare for and handle the tantrum without totally losing your sh**

5. Have a plan. We all know by now that tantrums can happen over any little thing.

“You can’t wear shorts when its 30 degrees” – Tantrum

“Yes you have to brush your teeth” – Tantrum.

And heaven forbid you give them the wrong kind of cereal for breakfast… – Colossal meltdown.

So while tantrums are inevitable, you can have a plan to make it less of an overwhelming process for everyone.  Plan for your response to certain situations.  If you know that your kiddo is prone to respond negatively when told “No”, or gets upset over brushing teeth every night, try and practice methods that your child seems to respond to.

Write down words that seem to get through to have for reference.  And you know what they say, prepare for the worst and hope for the best!

4. Keep your cool. There is nothing more triggering than tantrums for a lot of parents.  They take you on an emotional roller coaster that you feel like you’re never going to get off.  But let me tell you, the moment I learned to keep my composure, is when I not only felt more empowered and in control personally, but also when I saw a shift in my child’s behavior.

Once I was able to show that his behavior doesn’t necessarily affect mine, he started to understand that the reaction he was looking for was no longer going to happen.

I know it’s easier than it sounds so here are a few of the ways that I keep calm in the midst of the storm…

  • I step back from the situation, and remove my emotions. I take inventory of my body, notice the increasing blood pressure and heart rate, and I don’t respond until I have control of those things
  • I respond in a loving and respectful way, showing him that even when someone “wrongs” you, that doesn’t mean you fight back
  • I take 5 mindful cool down breaths and sometimes he joins me. This is the best way to control your nervous system

3. Remember it’s not about you. You can be the most put together, attentive and loving Mom on the block and your child can still freak the f*** out at times.  It’s just how it goes.

If you are anything like me you might have some internal dialogue that goes like this…

“WHY?”  “Where did I go wrong?” “How did I fail this badly?”

Stop it.

There is no such thing as perfect parenting.  And let’s be honest, if your child is amongst the .5% that rarely throws tantrums, then that’s just the luck of the draw, sorry to crush your ego.

 2. The punishment must fit the crime. My husband and I have failed miserably on this.  Around Halloween, every punishment was taking away candy.  Christmas?  Well you might as well just count on coal.   Eventually they caught on and started to anticipate the punishment, and not care.

First, you must set realistic expectations.  If your child doesn’t want to go to bed, taking some random toy away is only going to teach them to hate bedtime.  Instead by taking an approach of linking the discipline directly around the situation at hand, they will learn that one behavior leads to another.

Here’s an example: Your 4 year old refuses to get ready for bed.  An appropriate action could be letting him know that because the bedtime process is taking too long, you won’t be able to read a book before bed, or in the morning instead of having the time to watch a cartoon before school, everyone will be sleeping in since bedtime was too late.

1. Stop spanking your kid. Yes I said it.  If you spank your kid I will judge you (not really but still don’t do it).  When your child is throwing a tantrum, he is literally out of his mind.  He doesn’t know at 3 years old how to process and show emotion and in his world, not getting the cereal he wants is the biggest problem he will face today.  There are a zillion studies that show the psychological affect of spanking your child which I’ll save for another person to write about.  But I can tell you that when you spank your child, the message that is being sent is that anger is met with anger.  And for some children (mine in particular) they flat out don’t care.   There is adrenaline running through their body and their pain threshold is higher than normal.

Plus, I know the one or two times I ever spanked my kid not only did it not stop the bad behavior, it just made me feel bad.  But hey, that’s just me.

The method I have found to be most effective is to ignore and deflect.  Reasoning with a child throwing a tantrum is like asking a drunk person to stop being drunk.  He needs time to collect himself and let the adrenaline wear off.  So give him that space.

Someday your child will become a normal person who expresses emotion appropriately (or so you hope).  Until then don’t expect to have a tantrum free zone for awhile and at least now you can manage them with a bit more ease.