Let’s not sugarcoat it — temper tantrums are the worst! Do I love my kids? Yes. Am I a doting mother? Yes. Do I strive to be a shoulder to cry on (and a sleeve for wiping snot?). Yes! Do I also want to run and hide the second one of them starts having a meltdown? You bet! And it’s even worse now that we’re all stuck at home!
Underneath the stress and frustration of it all, most of us just want to know what’s wrong and how to fix it. Many times, though, it’s something that’s beyond our control. In those moments, when the kids are mid-tantrum and you’re feeling entirely helpless, these tips might help you and your kids get through it.
Tantrums are a normal part of child development. They’re how young children show that they’re upset or frustrated.
Use Your Words
The one great thing about being stuck at in the house? They can, for once, throw a temper tantrum in the privacy of your own home. Why are the worst tantrums always in public? Is it because kids want witnesses? I don’t get it!
But if you find yourself helplessly watching as your child spirals down into the depths of a tantrum, you might be tempted to cover your ears and block them out, but it’s probably better to do the exact opposite. (No, I’m not crazy—okay, maybe a little, but hear me out!)
One thing that helps with my littles is to get down to their level, look them straight in those teary eyes and let them know that I’m listening (even if they’re wailing and you can’t understand a thing!). When your child is worked up, encourage them to “use their words” to describe how they are feeling.
Be forewarned — the thing that’s upsetting them might make you want to dissolve into giggles. Don’t do it, though! You want them to feel like they can come to you about anything, but if they feel ridiculed, they probably won’t. What I’m really thinking: Don’t laugh. Don’t laugh. Don’t laugh. When your child finally reveals the “horror” that led to the meltdown, you may want to laugh. Resist!!!
Tantrums follow a predictable pattern! They may look like pure chaos, but tantrums are actually more like a symphony, with predictable peaks and denouements.
Hit the Ignore Button
In today’s fast-paced digital world, we need to find ways to be actively involved in our children’s lives. There are times, however, when ignoring them can actually be beneficial. When a kid acts out to get our attention, the worst thing we can do is give it to them. Even with a toddler, it can feel like a battle of the wits!
When this type of situation arises, step away for a minute. Don’t respond to the stomping and screaming. Instead, when they do finally make an effort to communicate in a better way (and they will—give it time!), shower them with praise. The next time this kind of thing happens, they’ll remember how receptive you were to their attempts to express themselves in a positive way (and they’ll also remember that the antics didn’t work!).
What I’m really thinking: Walk it off, mama. Walk. It. Off. They are safe, but potentially feral. I’ll just go shadowbox in my room for a minute.
They Yell, You Whisper
In a spin on a popular quote, when in the throes of a meltdown, if they go loud, you go soft. That’s right. Take a deep breath, resist the urge to get hysterical (save that for later!), and make your voice as calm and gentle as your frustrated soul can muster. The struggle is so real, my friends. I know this—but I promise it helps!
Again, get down to their level and be soothing. If they look out of control from the outside, imagine how they are feeling on the inside! Be the voice that brings them back to stillness. Help them regain balance so that you can get through this tough moment and get back to having an amazing day!
What I’m really thinking: Bite your tongue. When they’re yelling, sometimes you want to yell too, but you’re the parent. Be calm. Be soothing.
The louder they yell, the softer you should speak. Your child will end up matching your volume because, ultimately, he/she wants to engage with you.
Create a Diversion
You’ve heard of the old bait and switch, right? This can work miracles for diffusing a temper tantrum—even with older kids. Look, I’m not saying to indulge their every whim and give in to bad behavior but, just like any of us, a kid who’s having a bad day might need a change of scenery to get them out of their funk.
Distract them from whatever is making them miserable with something lighthearted. I’ve been known to pull a funny face when one of my kids is feeling emotional. You gotta pick the right time—be sensitive—but when the opportunity arises, seize it! My kids are not normally expecting me to change gears like that and, quite a few times, it’s worked wonders.
What I’m really thinking: Please let this work. Please let this work. Pleeeeease let this work. I’ll tapdance, I’ll sing a song. Just switch it up.
Hug It Out
When your world feels upside down and all you want to do is stomp and scream about how unfair life can be, don’t you really just want someone there to let you know it’s going to be alright? Don’t you want to be reassured that in your ugliest moments, the people around you still love you? I’m thankful every day that I’ve got Bobby’s broad shoulders to cry on.
This is also true for those little minions when they’ve been spinning out of control. You might want to banish them to their room till they turn 18 to escape the hysteria, but what you should really do is wait for a good moment and wrap your arms around them. Tell them you love them and that everything is going to be just fine.
What I’m really thinking: Is this child really mine? Could there have been a switch at the hospital? Is there some other family out there raising my sweet, baby angel? Oh, nevermind. This IS my precious sweetheart. They just needed a little TLC from mama. It’s gonna be okay!
What about my warrior mamas (and papas!) out there? What’s your go-to maneuver to tame a temper tantrum? Leave me a comment below!
Temper tantrums range from whining and crying to screaming, kicking, hitting, and breath holding. They’re equally common in boys and girls and most common between the ages of 1 to 3.