Temper tantrums are an unfavorable behavior in any circumstance. Whether you’re at the supermarket or at home trying to get some peace and quiet – tantrums are simply the worst. What you may not know is that tantrums that involve prolonged crying, whining and screaming can have lasting negative physiological effects on both you and your child.
Studies show that little ones who experience persistent crying are ten times more likely to develop ADHD, display poor academic performance and show antisocial behavior in the future. The researchers believe these findings are due to a lack of a responsive attitude of the parents toward their child.
Moreover, other research showed that crying and whining are two of the most horrible sounds on the planet – literally. Sound actually has a dramatic effect on the body and can actually impede productivity and learning, and increase anxiety and depression. If your child is in a rage or crying fit the first step is always to get them to calm down and stop the tantrum before engaging in any kind of conversation or consequence for their behavior.
Child rearing expert and the creator of Evolved Parenting, Jordan Schachter, says that, “Every tantrum is a result of an unmet need, or a desire to express discomfort. Your child’s needs are arising within a brain that is still developing. Though it might feel otherwise, a tantrum is not the child wanting to annoy us.”
So instead of taking it as a direct attack and reacting with the same behavior you are trying to prevent – simply get your kid to calm down first. There’s no getting through to someone that is overly emotional. Get them into a space where they will be able to hear and retain the information you are trying to relay to them. Here are some ways to stop a temper tantrum, within a matter of seconds:
1. Start throwing a temper tantrum with them
This doesn’t mean that you are actually losing control. You are consciously mirroring their actions and acting out their rage for them. To make this more effective multiply their expressions exponentially. Bang your fists on the floor and yell, “You’re so mad, mad, MAD!” Make exaggerated facial expressions and big movements. They will be so shocked that the crying will cease. This is also a way to show that you empathize with what they are feeling.
2. Distract them
Point across the room and say, “Oh my goodness! Let’s go see what’s over there! I think I saw some of your favorite (fill in the blank).” You can address the behavior later, but right now use the power of distraction to change their emotional state.
3. Give them a bite of something
Ah, food! It can get anyone to be quiet and enjoy, including kids. Keep a tasty snack in your bag as a secret weapon for when you’re child is out-of-control. The yummier the treat, the more effective it will be.
4. Throw them up in the air
There is something about being tossed up in the air where children cannot help but to laugh and feel joy. This is not aggressive in any way. It is to get their mind off what they are crying about so you can turn sobbing into laughing. When they’re in a better mood you can talk about why their behavior was unacceptable.
5. Hug them
Hugs heal. Often, tantrums are a sign of a child not getting the attention and affection they are searching for. Many parents make the mistake of ignoring a temper tantrum, which in turn, ends up exacerbating the behavior. Sometimes a simple embrace can diffuse the situation and bring calm and peace. Give them exactly what they are asking for – empathy from you and a real connection.
6. Keep an interesting toy on hand
This is another useful distraction tool. Make sure you are not carrying around the same old uninteresting toy or it will be thrown clean across the floor. Rotate the toys you keep so it will keep them intrigued. There’s no harm in buying a new toy every now and then either. There are also some great learning apps for tots (just make sure your device has a cover and screen protector).
7. Tell them they get to choose one place they want to go
Whether it’s going to the playground for awhile or maybe even a movie, it can be an instant mood changer. Think about it this way – they’ve been dragged around all day with no say to everywhere they didn’t want to go. I think it’s safe to say they deserve 30 minutes at the park.
8. Pull them in close and whisper in their ear
Whisper to them that you totally understand why they are crying and that you’re here to help them. Ask them to tell you their needs. Kids want to know if you’re connecting with them and what you’re going to say. They won’t be able to hear your words if they’re crying, so chances are they’ll quiet down to hear your quiet message.
After you get your child to quit the tantrum, wait until you are away from public to discuss why their behavior was inappropriate and that there will be consequences for their actions. Let them know that everyone gets frustrated sometimes, but there are better ways to express their needs. Make sure you address the fact that screaming and acting out is unacceptable. Typically they will be very apologetic and feel sorry for their actions. Let them know that you love them no matter what, but it’s your job to make sure they are able to express their feelings appropriately and constructively. Tell them to learn from the experience, yet to forgive themselves – because you forgive them too.
In short, you want to deeply connect with them, express why the behavior was unnecessary, yet to guide them to forgiving themselves. We want to uplift them to do better and not make them feel like a failure (which can lead to more inner turmoil and tantrums in the future). Let them know that every experience is a chance to learn something and it’s okay to make mistakes… as long as you learn the lesson.