Fast fixes to nip a tantrum in the bud
Snap your child out of a full-blown fit with these temper taming tricks.
When your two-year-old pitches a fit, it’s probably due to sheer frustration, most of the time because they don’t have the language skills to tell you what they want. There’s no reasoning with your child while they’re kicking and screaming on the floor, so here are our tips for calming down a child who’s in the middle of a meltdown.
1. Do something silly
Pretend a carrot is a telephone. Pull a funny face. Put a clean diaper on your head. Laughter releases happy chemicals in your child’s brain and curbs the ones that cause stress. Anything unexpected or outside the normal routine would be hilarious to your tot, so this is an easy way to stop a tantrum in its tracks.
2. Speak softly
Instead of trying to out-yell your child, which only makes things worse, whisper soothing things like, “Mummy will help you when you calm down.” When your child realises you’re speaking but that they can’t hear you, they’ll quiet down immediately. Use this one sparingly because it can become less effective when your wily tot realises what you’re up to.
3. Pretend it’s not happening
As long as your child is not doing anything dangerous, don’t pay any attention to the tantrum. This tactic is particularly useful if your toddler is throwing a manipulative tantrum to get their way or if they’re dialling up the drama to get your attention. But don’t ignore your toddler if their outburst is due to frustration, such as not being able to put on their socks by themselves. With frustration tantrums, your child needs empathy, comfort and a helping hand.
4. Be firm and consistent
If your child throws a tantrum when you refuse to allow them to draw on the wall, just keep repeating the rule, “We don’t draw on walls. We draw on paper.” Say it calmly and firmly over and over. Don’t change any of the words, keep your voice even and your expression neutral. What you’re trying to do is bore your child into giving up on the tantrum. If you’re consistent, they’ll realise you mean what you say and that they’re not going to get a reaction from you with their tears.
5. Use fun as a diversion
If you can tell that your child is about to lose it, try to distract them with a fun activity. Play a simple game like ‘I Spy’. Offer to read a book together. Or if you can, turn whatever you’re trying to get them to do, like putting on their shoes, into a game. More often than not, a tantrum isn’t just about frustration, it’s a cry for attention. So the enticement of having fun with mum usually works. Timing is everything with this method though. It works really well to head off a tantrum before it gets out of hand but it won’t work if your tot is already in the middle of a screamfest.
6. Leave the scene
Taking your child away from the place that caused the tantrum is a good way to snap them out of it. When they’re no longer confronted by whatever’s upsetting them, they usually calm down quickly. This trick is very useful in public places like restaurants or supermarkets. Instead of getting embarrassed about your child’s behaviour, remove them from the situation and give them the time to get over their frustrations.
7. Hand out a hug
When your child is in the throes of a full-blown screaming fit, they’re too upset to respond to anything you say. Losing control to that extent can be scary for a little kid so they need comfort and reassurance from you. The best way to do that is with touch, so pick your child up and hold them gently but firmly until they calm down. A big squeeze from mum is sometimes the best way to tame a tantrum.