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Temper Tantrums

What to do:

Self-Talk. Say to yourself, "I don't like it when my child has a temper tantrum, but I can stand it. I know that it's normal for toddlers and preschoolers to have tantrums, starting about 2 years old. It doesn't mean that I'm a bad parent when it happens."

Empathy. Tell yourself, "I understand that my child gets mad and frustrated when he can't get his own way. He hasn't learned patience or how to cope. I know what that feels like-I'm still learning!

Teach. Tell yourself, "This is my opportunity to help teach my child how to tolerate frustration, and cope with being angry without crying, screaming, or throwing or breaking things.

Praise Self-Control. When your child is able to handle not getting what he wants, compliment his behavior. Say, for example, "I'm so happy that you calmly picked up the blocks when they fell. It was so good that you were able to just build a new tower!"

Keep Your Rule. It's hard not to give in when your child has a tantrum. So make it your rule to let him finish his tantrum, and then problem-solve by talking with him when he's calm to find a more helpful way to tell you that he's angry than pounding the floor and screaming.

Ignore Tantrums. Do nothing for, with, or to your child during his tantrum. Walk away from him during his tantrum, turn your back on him, but be close enough to keep him safe. If he's being destructive or dangerous to himself, hold him facing away from you.

Stand Firm. Despite the power of your child's screaming and pounding, tell yourself that it's important for him to learn that he can't have everything he wants when he wants it. He will survive the tantrum, and you will, too!

Remain as Calm as You Can. "This is not a big deal. If I can stay in control of myself, I can better teach my child to control himself. Keeping calm while ignoring his tantrum is the best model for him when he's upset.

Praise Calm After the Tantrum. After the tantrum is over, immediately show your child you're glad he got himself back in control. Now is the time for a comforting hug and to get both of you involved in a favorite activity that isn't frustrating for him or you.

Use Empathy. After a tantrum, hold your child and tell him that you understand his frustration. Saying, "I know how you feel when things get tough, and I'm here to help you solve a problem when you need me."

Use Protective Hugs If He's Hurting Himself. If your child is banging his head, biting himself, or in any way hurting himself when he has a tantrum, sit on the floor with him and hold him in a hug so he can no longer harm himself. It's best if you hold him in your lap facing away from you. That position gives you more control and prevents him from trying to harm you, too, in his anger. He doesn't want to hurt you, he just is lashing out at anything nearby...and that might be you!

What not to do:

Don't Reason or Explain During the Tantrum. Trying to reason your child out of his tantrum during the tantrum is wasted breath. He doesn't care. His brain is flooded with emotion, and he cannot reason or think.

Don't Give-in to the Tantrum. When your child throws a tantrum and you give in and get him what he wants just to calm him down, you are teaching him to throw a tantrum to get what he wants. When you say "No!", mean it! Giving-in only tells him you are not to be believed when you tell him, "No!".

Don't Throw a Tantrum Yourself. Say to yourself, "Why do I need to act crazy, too? I know that when I said "No!", I said it for a reason." Losing your cool only encourages your child to keep the heat on, and it shows him that he doesn't need to learn self-control.

Don't Belittle or Shame Your Child. Just because your child has a temper tantrum doesn't mean he's a bad person. Don't say, "Bad boy! You are such a baby! Aren't you ashamed of yourself?" Your child will lose respect for himself and feel that he didn't deserve what he wanted anyway. Belittling is just another form of bullying.

Don't Make Your Child Pay for the Tantrum. Ignoring him after it's over will only cause him to have more tantrums to try to get your attention back. Don't send him the message that he's unloved and unwanted just because his behavior was.

The authors and Raised with Love and Limits Foundation disclaim responsibility for any harmful consequences, loss, injury or damage associated with the use and application of information or advice contained in these prescriptions and on this website. These protocols are clinical guidelines that must be used in conjunction with critical thinking and critical judgment.