How to Deal with Tantrums

Without a good plan, tantrums from your child can be a source of anxiety. On one hand, you don't want to see your child upset. On the other hand, you don't want to raise a spoiled brat.

If you're in public, you also have the added pressure of all eyes on you, watching to see how you will react. What do you do?

Whether it's at home, at grandma's, or in the grocery store, the first thing to remember is to stay calm. If your child knows that a tantrum will get them attention or get you all riled up, it becomes a weapon. You have the power to keep it from becoming a power struggle.

Think About It

Before you begin to deal with your child's behavior, think it through. What do they want? Is it something you can distract them from? Are there any alternatives that might satisfy them? Are they hungry or thirsty?

Ask yourself lots of questions, and then make up your mind. You can make up your mind to compromise or stand your ground, it's your decision, but you need to know the end goal before you go any further.

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Talk About It

Speak with your child calmly and clearly, the way you would want to be treated.

If you're not willing to compromise, affirm your child's feelings, tell them your decision, and explain to them why you came to that decision. For instance, “I'm sorry you feel that way. I know you are hungry. That candy bar is not in our budget and we have a snack waiting for us when we get home.”

If you're willing to discuss it, try to give your child one or two simple alternatives. You might say, “I'm not going to buy you candy today, but since you were good in the store, you can pick cracker or juice.”

Don't Cave

Now that you've stated your position, don't budge. If your child still insists on throwing a fit, it's okay. Your child is allowed to have feelings, and it's going to take a few times before your child realizes that you are not afraid of a temper tantrum.

If you are in public, and you can't leave yet, go to a quiet area to calm down. If possible, finish up and head home.

Babies and Toddlers

Remember that small children can only be expected to withstand so much, including shopping or time without food, water, and sleep. A “tantrum” may be a signal to you that they have a need, or simply have had enough. You certainly wouldn't want anyone to punish you for being hungry, thirsty, or tired, so please don't punish a small child for these things.

Vanessa Pruitt, PLMHP, MS

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