“The thing to remember is that when your child starts huffing and puffing, he’s not trying to blow your house down; he’s seeking power and attention.”
– Amy McCready,
Founder – Positive Parenting Solutions
How should a parent react to a tantrum?
When young children lose control, they need an adult to help them regain control of their behaviour. But do
remember that each child is different. What works for one child may have no effect on another. Here, as in all
aspects of child rearing, there is no magic formula!
Do nothing - The best way to respond to a tantrum is to stay calm and ignore the behaviour. You could also try to distract your child. A different book or a change of location might help. If you cannot stay calm and you are at home, leave the room for a minute. If you can’t remove yourself physically from the situation or think it wouldn’t be safe or
appropriate to do so, tell your child “I will stay right here with you until you feel better.” Although it may be difficult to be consistently casual when your child is screaming, it is probably the most effective method of reducing the recurrence of tantrums.
Offer comfort – Parents need to ignore a tantrum as it is occurring, but should be quick to comfort their children after the tantrum subsides. Tantrums are an expression of legitimate feelings and angry children need help to calm down. Remember that tantrums can be traumatic experiences for young children, and that they need reassurance from caring adults.
Don’t give in - Some children make a habit out of tantrums because of the response they receive. When a parent gives in and buys something that a child is insisting on, the parent is (unknowingly) rewarding the child for throwing a tantrum! In such a case, the tantrums are likely to continue.
Remove your child from the situation – If your child is hitting or kicking someone, hold him or her until he or she calms down. With an older child, you can suggest that the child go to her room and stay there until she feels better. With no audience, there will be less incentive to cry, kick, and scream.
Don’t give way to your anger – Some parents are punitive in their reactions to tantrums. They are convinced that
tantrums are a sign of a difficult child and want to nip this behaviour in the bud. However, shaking, spanking, or screaming only brings parents down to the child’s level. Getting angry will only exacerbate the situation and increase the intensity of the tantrum.
Don’t try to reason with your child until he or she has calmed down – Reasoning during a tantrum is typically not effective; it will only frustrate you. Wait until your child calms down before talking to her. This will prevent your child from using tantrums as a negotiating tactic.