Managing Tantrums

Managing Tantrums

A Cry for Help or Attempting to Control?   

How we read tantrums and react to them is important to the child’s emotional development / resilience and could help prevent repeat performances in the future.

alien, green, smiley

Most children will at some time or other have a paddy / tantrum /outburst, sometimes because their age, or lack of emotional vocabulary hampers their ability to communicate their need, or they have yet to develop the emotional resilience to manage a situation. Sometimes to try and control or manipulate situations (and us).

photo of bear plush toy on pavement

Try to work out what triggered the outburst?

Did they:

  • break a toy
  • get hurt
  • get left out
  • want to do something/have something that they couldn’t….etc?

Are they:

  • hungry/thirsty
  • tired
  • bored…etc     
detective, searching, man

Notice how the child is behaving?

  • Are there real or crocodile (pretend) tears?
  • Is the emotion uncontrollable?
  • Is the child making a lot of noise; shouting, screaming, etc ?
  • Is the child kicking, punching, grabbing, or spitting ?
  • Are they getting hot and sweaty?
topless boy in blue and white floral shorts sitting on white and blue inflatable pool during

You see ……

  • uncontrollable, real tears
  • a body getting hot and sweaty
  • real distress
  • snivels and runny nose
panda, confused, questions

The child …..

…. isn’t yet able to manage the powerful emotions they are feeling by themselves.

hands, holding, embracing

They need you to help them to calm and regulate their emotions.

They need you to help them to calm and regulate their emotions.

  • Be there for them.
  • Hold them if you can.
  • Reassure them – that having that emotion is ok!
  • Tell them in a controlled way that reflects their emotion, that it’s ok they are / were upset or scared by …x…..y….. ‘That was scary wasn’t it?’ ‘I bet that gave you a fright’, ‘I expect that really hurt’, It isn’t nice when ….’ etc.
  • Breathe slowly and steadily near them to help them regulate their breathing and in doing so to begin to calm.
  • Gradually reducing the level of your voice will help to show them that you (and they) can manage the situationIt’s ok!
smilies, bank, sit

When they have calmed and are settled, talk through what happened and how they can manage a similar situation again – through slow breathing, thinking about a favourite toy/place/person, walking away, etc.

Naming emotions, modelling with them different ways to calm and regulate their emotions helps the child to build emotional resilience and strategies that in time they can use themselves.

danbo, figure, danboard

You see ……

  • crocodile tears
  • hitting
  • shouting
  • screaming
  • kicking etc
game controller, joystick, controller

The child ….

… is trying to control a situation, to get what they want to happen / have.  

hands, holding, embracing
  • Be there for them.
  • Show them that you love and care for them by being near them / holding them.
  • Tell them (again matching their emotion in a controlled manner) –
    • that you can see they are upset, angry, that x/ y made them cross, annoyed etc.
    • but that their behaviour is not acceptable.
    • that they need to stop… kicking, shouting ….. now.
    • that it will not get them what they want.
    • that you will stay with them until they have calmed.
  • Stay strong and focused on calming the child.
  • Don’t give in – this can give them the control they want and will encourage repeat performances.
smilies, bank, sit

As before when calm and settled discuss the situation with them and what would be a more appropriate way to behave. 

Over time they will realise that a tantrum doesn’t work and will learn to manage the situation more appropriately through your guidance.

Good Luck!

It takes time but is worth the effort for the future – yours and theirs.