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Great Ideas! 4 Simple Ways to Handle a Temper Tantrum

09/26/2013 at 02:00 PM ET

Lawrence Rosen, MD: How to Handle a Toddler Temper TantrumGetty

Big pout! Crossed arms! Sad face! We all know the hallmarks of an impending toddler fit. Really, the question isn’t if, but when will you experience this always fun (not!) childhood stage.

According to Lawrence Rosen, MD, all children start having them around one year. It represents a struggle with authority and it’s their way of trying to make sense of the universe, which is a normal stage of development he says.

The tricky part is mastering how you handle it so that everyone — even the screaming tot on the floor — ends up happy in the long run.

So how can you maintain your sanity while coping with your kid’s meltdowns? The pediatrician and author (Treatment Alternatives for Children), who founded the Whole Child Center, shares some helpful tips that will help you create a healthy and balanced child. Check them out below:

Pick your battles. If you let it, every minute of your day with your little one can become a power struggle. Think ahead and decide what things are worth going to the mat. Spend more time creating safe places for exploration so you don’t have to say “NO!” all day long.

Be consistent. When you do draw the line, you have to mean it and you (and all caregivers) have to be on the same page. Saying no and then changing your mind half-way through a tantrum is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. Once you’ve decided when enough is going to be enough, you have to follow through and stand firm. Kids are master manipulators and they will know the difference.

Don’t pay it attention. What is the best way to ensure your child does something over and over? Give it attention. It’s like oxygen to a fire. This goes for the good… and the bad. Make sure you spend your energy praising and rewarding when they do something positive and avoid power struggles over their not-so-desirable acts. If your child is in a safe place and having a tantrum, let her be and check back in when she calms down. And then move on.

Be calm. This, I think, is the most important point and the hardest to master. Above all, you must be mindful and do your best to remove your emotion from the struggle. You must find the means to stay engaged without getting riled up. Cultivate whatever tools you need — meditation or yoga for example — to stay calm but firmly present. Remember, this too shall pass.

Lawrence Rosen, MD: How to Handle a Toddler Temper TantrumGetty

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Showing 3 comments

Dorothy Lewis on

I have to agree that consistency and following through on the consequence is a must. My son, who is now 18, learned early on, when he was 3, that pitching a tantrum would get him nowhere. He was told that he could get a treat when we went to buy groceries. We made a stop at the drug store before going to the grocery store and he saw a treat he wanted. I explained to him that he would get his treat at the grocery store. Needless to say, he pitched the biggest screaming tantrum. I completely ignored him, along with the others in line that gave me the dirtiest looks. By the time we got to the grocery store he had calmed down and when he asked for his treat – the very calm answer was “NO”. And I explained to him right then and there why. There was no discussion. Maybe I’m lucky, but that was the first, and last, tantrum that he ever had. I may have gotten “looks” and “rolled eyes”, but never again did he pitch an all-out tantrum. Parenting is not an easy job!!

Guest on

Agree with the ignore them, I’ve seen friends of mine ignore their children when they have a tantrum. Especially the one’s who fall on the floor and refuse to get up, what works is stepping over them and keep walking, after they get over the shock, they get up and follow you. What works also is letting the child know what the consequences will be for bad behavior prior to a trip out. Then follow thru with the punishment.

otdina on

I think that if you are consistent with the no means no, then I am not sure ignoring a tantrum is the way to go. My kids KNOW that I am not going to change my mind. I can go down the candy aisle with them and they won’t even bother to ask. Most of the time. I find, though, that we are the point where if they do have a tantrum there is a reason. Figuring out the reason and dealing with it (and it is usually completely unrelated to whatever they are screaming about), is usually much more effective than ignoring it.

If we are at the grocery store and my daughter is exhausted and at the end of her rope, she will have a meltdown about something stupid like me not buying her cookies. This is not her usual thing. Of course, no money on her is going to get her those cookies, but sometimes taking a minute out, giving her a hug, holding her a little bit and talking calmly to her will help her regroup. I haven’t been inconsistent, I haven’t given in to the tantrum, but I have looked past it, and helped her learn some additional coping skills.

I think that often parents forget that you can help a child through a tantrum without giving in to it. Figure out the reason why they are at the end of their rope. Are they tired, hungry? I find those are most often the culprits. Sometimes a hug, a snack, or a joke can do wonders on diffusing a tantrum, without even giving in it them. It is our job as parents to set limits, and I understand that, it is also our job to support our kids through their disappointments, and love them.

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