The most important thing to keep in mind when you're faced with a child in the throes of a tantrum, no matter what the cause, is very simple and very crucial: keep cool. Don't complicate the problem with your own frustration. A child will sense a parent's rising emotional tone. That will raise the child's emotional tone, and you'll get into a more exaggerated tantrum. Take deep breaths. Think clearly. Your child relies on you to be the example. Hitting and spanking don't help; physical tactics send the message that "might equals right." Instead, have enough self-control for both of you.
First, try to understand what is going on. Tantrums should be handled differently depending on the cause. Assess the situation. Try to understand where the child is coming from. If the child has just suffered a great disappointment, you might need to provide comfort.
It's a different situation when the tantrum stems from a child is being refused something. Toddlers have fairly rudimentary reasoning skills, so you're not likely to get very far with explanations. Ignoring the outburst is one way to handle it, if the tantrum poses no threat to the child or others. Continue your activities, paying no attention to the child but remaining within sight. Don't leave her alone, or she may feel abandoned on top of all of the other uncontrollable emotions she is feeling.
If the child is in danger of hurting herself or others during a tantrum, take her to a quiet, secluded place to calm down. This also applies to tantrums in public places.
Older kids are more likely to use tantrums to get their way if they have learned that this behavior works. Once a child reaches school age, it is appropriate to send her to her room to cool off. Tell her that she must stay in her room until she has regained control rather than setting a specific time limit. The former option is empowering; she can affect the outcome by her own actions, thereby gaining a sense of control that was lost during the tantrum.
After the Storm
Occasionally a child will have a hard time stopping a tantrum. Some kids, because of their temperaments, have a really hard time bringing themselves down after a tantrum. You might say to them, "I'll help you settle down now."
Do not reward the child after a tantrum by giving in. This will only prove to her that the tantrum was effective. Instead, verbally praise her for regaining control.
A child may be especially vulnerable after a tantrum when she knows she has been less than adorable. Now is the time for a hug and reassurance that she is loved, no matter what.
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