Decoding Tantrums: how to tame them

Understanding tantrums, is possibly the only way of coming to terms with their occurrence. The fact is, that however much distressing they may be for you and your child, they are an unavoidable part of childhood. So, rather than labelling your child as naughty when he enters tantrum-land, try to tolerate them and understand where they’re coming from. Simply put, their brains are not mature enough since their prefrontal cortex, the part of our brains which controls social behaviour and regulates emotion is not yet fully developed.

Here are 6 effective tantrum-taming techniques:

1. Ignore and keep your cool

During a tantrum, the brain area responsible for decision making is overruled by emotions. It’s for this reason, that parents who try to reason with their child in such moments fail miserably.  Doing nothing, is a better solution, since the reasoning part of your child’s brain is not working either, in that moment. If you do decide to talk in that moment, maintain your calm and refuse to give it unnecessary attention by shouting back or negotiating.

2. Let him/her take it out

So long as the child is not physically harming itself during the tantrum, allowing it to freely experience and express his anger and distress without joining in, in a screaming match, might do the trick.

3. Distract

Try diverting your child and attracting its attention towards something else, before the tantrum begins. As children tend to have relatively short attention spans, some mental switcheroo with toys or snacks may be enough. Keep in mind though that to do this effectively you have to pick up the very first signals on time.

4. Hug it out

Admittedly, during your child’s tantrum this technique will likely feel counterintuitive to say the least!  However, a tight and firm, non-vocal hug, can help get across a very simple, yet powerful message. That you are secure, safe and I care for you even if I disagree with your behaviour. Through this technique your child is able to freely express his emotions while you are the one who is in control of the situation. It should be noted that this is more likely to work when your child is upset as opposed to angry. However, when it does work, it does seem to be the best way of preparing your child for a discussion and for it to listen calmly afterwards.

5. Don’t give in

A definite recipe for more tantrums is giving in to the demand that initiated it in the first place. However tempting it may be to escape the embarrassing moment, especially when you are in public place, you mustn’t give in. Doing so will only act as a reinforcer for your child’s behavior.

6. Figuring out what’s really annoying your child

This is especially true for children under the age of two, whose tantrums often stem from their frustration in their lack of ability to communicate what they want.  A solution to this could be to ask them to show you, as opposed to tell you, what they want.

Let us know which technique has helped you the most!

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