It’s inevitable: kids are going to have tantrums. Even the best kids and the best parenting are not going to allow you to avoid this normal part of early childhood. Some find tantrums worst during the “terrible twos,” while other kids experience them earlier or later than that stage. Managing a tantrum may have as much to do with your own behavior as that of your child. Today we’re looking at how to stay calm during a child’s tantrum to avoid major parenting landmines, future outbursts and scaring both you and your child.
Here’s the scenario: You feel your child’s tantrum coming on. Maybe he’s not gotten enough sleep; maybe it’s been an emotional day; maybe he’s just in a bad mood. Whatever the reason, you can’t change it at this very moment and you feel your blood start to boil over your child’s escalating outburst. This is the time to start your “I can handle this tantrum” routine by recognizing that you are getting angry.
All too often parents don’t realize how angry they are until they say or do something they regret. This is not the way you want to model anger management to a child who is exploding. Rather, you need to slow yourself and rein back the aggression. It’s not that you shouldn’t feel angry. Anger is a natural reaction. It’s what you do with the anger that matters.
As soon as you recognize your feelings, stop yourself. Even if you have begun to unleash your anger, just freeze. Use this time to re-center yourself. Walk away for a few minutes if you can do so safely. Take deep breaths. Remind yourself that your child is a child and not the enemy. Think about why your child may be acting out and why you may be agitated to the extreme. Sometimes it has nothing to do with the actual problem at hand. When you have collected yourself, return to your child and speak in a calm and soft tone. Use kind words to let your child know that you are there for her and love her no matter what. Your child may not like that you went away, which could be an incentive not to behave this way in the future. Or it may make her even madder. Either way, it is a good decision to ground yourself and not contribute to the storm.
Always be the bigger person in the situation because, well, you are the adult after all. Apologize for your contribution to the tantrum and for getting angry if you did. Your child may be stunned by your offer of an apology, which may be just enough for her to snap out of her explosive state. Never try to reason with your child in the heat of the tantrum. Rather, wait until you have both calmed down and then try to discuss it. Kids are often irrational so you may never fully understand the cause of the outburst, but at least you can explain why it was unacceptable to react that way. Hopefully a lesson sinks in for your child and the entire ordeal can be a learning experience.
It should be a learning experience for you too. Learning how to stay calm during a child’s tantrum is hard work. It will take practice, effort and patience. Some parents are better able to handle tantrums than others based on their own personalities, mindsets and past experiences. Also remember, what works with one child, may not work with another. Parenting requires a unique set of skills for each of your children. Be willing to find what works for your child to ensure less tantrums and happier times.