My youngest child, Rubenstein, is a strong willed who believes that a screaming fit will get her what she wants. When she sees I am not giving in to her temper tantrums, her meltdown becomes volcanic. Yes, it makes my own brain melt to deal with it, but I survive. If you have children you will undoubtedly deal with a temper tantrum at some point. Being able to handle it and help your child through it while not having a tantrum of your own can be a challenge. Here are a few tips to help you out.
Yes, your child’s tantrum will make you feel your own temperature rise, but you need to stay calm and in control of yourself. When Rubenstein dissolves into a tantrum, I feel my jaw clench, my ears start to ring, and my own temper starts to bubble. It’s not easy to do, but count to 10, take a few deep breaths and remember that you are the adult in this situation. While your child is losing control you need to keep your cool.
When your child’s meltdown starts, don’t engage them or try to talk sense to them. Most likely they are shut off and are in the throes of their tantrum. Don’t try to argue with them or reason with them because it won’t work and you’ll be wasting your breath.
Remove yourself or your child from the situation
If you must do so to keep your cool, walk away or send your child into another room. I will send Rubenstein to her bedroom or I will go into my bedroom or outside to calm myself down if I feel my temper threatening to boil over.
If you are in a store or a public place, take your child out of the room or the building. If you have to leave a cart of groceries sitting in the store, then so be it. I have done this before with my older children – leading them out of a store while they shriek and scream in protest makes an impression on them, and of course those around you. Making sure your child understands that a tantrum is unacceptable, especially in public, is more important. You can come back later to finish your shopping when the kids are calm.
Don’t take it personally and don’t argue
When a child is having a temper tantrum, they are overwhelmed emotionally. They will say things they don’t really mean like “You don’t love me!” or “You’re the worst mommy in the world!” Don’t take it personally. Their words hurt but they are simply expressing some of the emotions they are dealing with. The immaturity of a child means that they will lash out, but they probably don’t really mean what they say. Let it go and don’t argue.
Do not reward their behavior
Offering to take your child for ice cream or to do something they really like (watch a favorite movie, play their favorite game, go see a friend) after they calm down only reinforces bad behavior. Make sure there are definite consequences for their meltdown.
Follow through on consequences
When your child has a tantrum, you should choose consequences for their behavior. It could be not allowing them to do an activity that has already been planned or taking away a privilege or a favorite item. The important thing is for them to learn that a tantrum brings about an undesirable result.
Show them love and affection
After the storm has passed, it is imperative that your child knows that even during their worst behavior, you still love them. When the tantrum has calmed down, take the opportunity to cuddle with your child, hug them and tell them that while you don’t like their behavior, you love them. When I do this with Rubenstein, it usually results in me finally getting to the bottom of what spurred the tantrum and being able to talk with her about how she could have handled things better. We always end a tantrum with a snuggle, hugs and kisses and a plan on how to try to keep from melting down and having a tantrum next time.