9 Tips for Tantrums: How to Turn Meltdowns into Teachable Moments

Kicking. Crying. Screaming. Temper tantrums are an emotional experience for children and parents alike. While these outbursts feel frustrating at first, it’s important to meet them with patience and compassion. Remember, while we grown-ups may have mastered our emotions, our little ones are still learning every day! While it’s common for toddlers to test limits, it is important to acknowledge your child’s emotions without compromising your parental values.

Understanding Temper Tantrums

A temper tantrum is a sudden outburst of anger or frustration, often accompanied by crying, screaming, kicking and other physical displays of emotion. Tantrums are common in children ages 1-3 and are a normal part of their development. Temper tantrum triggers can include:

Tantrums can be a form of communication for young children who do not have the language skills to express their needs or emotions. They may not know how to communicate their feelings, so tantrums can be an instinctive reaction to feeling overwhelmed or upset.

Tips for Managing Tantrums

While every child and tantrum is unique, there are common parenting practices that can help you navigate these challenging situations. Try these tips during your child’s next outburst to turn a meltdown into a teachable moment.

1. Stay Calm

The first step in managing a tantrum is to remain calm yourself. Children can pick up on your emotions, and if you become angry or frustrated, it can unnecessarily escalate the situation. Take a deep breath! Try to remain calm and patient, choosing to uncover the cause of the problem instead of an emotional reaction you will regret.

2. Be Empathetic

Try to understand your child’s perspective and acknowledge their emotions. Show empathy, and let your child know that you understand how they feel. For example, you might say, “I can see you’re feeling upset right now. It’s okay to feel that way, and I’m here to help you.” This gesture can create trust between you and your little one and encourage them to share future frustrations with you before acting out.

3. Provide a Safe Space

When your child is having a tantrum, it’s important to provide them with a safe space. This can look different for each family. Consider moving them away from any potential hazards, such as sharp objects or hot surfaces. If the tantrum takes place in public, it may help to remove them from the area to speak somewhere with fewer distractions/stimulants.

4. Use a Soothing Voice

How you say something matters just as much as the words you say. Speak to your child in a soothing voice and use calming words. Let them know that you are there for them and that everything is going to be okay.

5. Offer a Distraction

According to child development experts, a child’s average attention span is generally two to three minutes times their age. So, given their brain is still early in its development, it may not be a surprise to learn that sometimes a simple distraction can help to calm your child. This means sometimes the solution is as simple as offering a favorite book or activity to take their mind off their troubles.

6. Validate Their Feelings

As humans, we all seek to feel understood, and our children are the same. Let your child know that their feelings are valid. While they may not have the language skills to express their emotions,  it is important to acknowledge their feelings and that it’s okay to feel that way.

7. Provide Choices

Offering choices can help your child feel more in control of the situation. For example, you might offer a choice between two snacks or two activities. This can help to distract them from their emotions and give them a sense of control.

8. Use Positive Reinforcement

When your child calms down after a tantrum, offer positive reinforcement. Express that you are proud of them for calming down and appreciate their efforts to control their emotions.

9. Seek Help if Needed

If your child’s tantrums are becoming more frequent or severe, it may be helpful to seek aid from a professional. A pediatrician or child psychologist can provide guidance on how to manage tantrums and offer support for your child’s emotional development.

Children’s Discovery Center Is Here For Parents

For more than 40 years, Children’s Discovery Center has helped guide Toledo children and their families toward brighter futures. Our skilled early childhood educators are proud to support young discoverers by creating supportive and nurturing environments built upon Christian values. Contact us today to learn more about our Reggio Emilia model and childcare programs, and schedule a visit to our state-of-the-art discovery centers