How to Stay Calm when your Child Throws a Tantrum

Staying calm when your child loses it is probably the most mature and sensible thing to do in such cases. There are many reasons why a child can become angry and unreasonable, but the underlying principles are the same: something disturbs the child, and because he or she doesn’t know better ways to vent, they throw a tantrum.

Trying to handle a child’s tantrum is quite challenging, mostly because children can be unpredictable at times, and they have an inadequately developed sense of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. This is a normal stage in their growth phase, and most children have occasional tantrums between the ages of 2 and 3, though some can start earlier.

Having a calm mind is essential to dealing with temper tantrums properly, just as it is important when dealing with most crises life throws at us. It is important to avoid losing your composure, by remembering that you are the adult in that scenario, and that it is up to you to solve the problem. Doing this will get you in the right state of mind to deal with the situation.

The next step is to understand and be aware that when a child is caught up in a tantrum, he or she is overwhelmed by emotion and is unable to listen to reason. So trying to talk it out will not work when the child’s tantrum is in full swing.

Your initial response to the tantrum is of great importance because it affects the duration and intensity of the episode. If you respond in negative ways like yelling and threatening, the child will often times respond negatively too. The child might get angrier and act wilder as a result, and he or she might see your outburst as a way of condoning tantrums, as if you are saying ‘It is good and acceptable to throw a fit when you are upset’.

Another response one needs to carefully consider as a parent is walking away from the child, leaving him or she to go through the episode alone. By doing this, the parent risks sending the wrong message to the child: that you do not care. This might make the child feel abandoned, and it might even instil a sense of not being loved. It is times like these that offer the best chance for a parent to show their child love; when they need to know that they are loved.

Common causes of temper tantrums in children are disappointment or frustration from a failed venture like tying shoelaces on their own, and being in unfamiliar environments like restaurants or shopping malls; and more common refusal to take no for an answer, as when you refuse to buy something for them in a shop.

In the case of a temper tantrum taking place in public, an irresistible temptation often presents itself: to give in to the child’s unreasonable demands or to try negotiating with the child, all for the sake of saving yourself from the public embarrassment of a full blown tantrum. It is wise not to give in to the temptation because doing so will show your child that throwing a fit is the easiest way to get what he or she wants, and the child will definitely try it again in the future.

Sometimes throwing a tantrum could be the child’s way of letting you know that something is not right, as when he or she is not getting enough attention from you. Physical problems can trigger tantrums too, such as hunger, sleepiness, tiredness, low blood sugar, bodily pain or even digestive problems.

If the cause of the tantrum is not clear, allowing the child to vent his or her emotions is advisable. Once the child is calm, try to discover what triggered the fit, and let him or her know that such behaviour is unacceptable, and then suggest better alternatives to dealing with the emotions.

Learn from the child’s behaviour and take measures to avoid events or situations that could trigger future tantrums.