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October 30, 2013

Parenting: Dealing with Tantrums


Dealing with Tantrums

Do you have a child that is prone to screaming tantrums when he does not get his way?  How can you best deal with this without losing your mind?  Tantrums are one way that some children communicate their frustrations with their world, but parents are often at a loss at how to help their children calm down again and change back into the lovable little ones that they usually are!  Here is some advice for parents that find themselves in a situation where their child is screaming, kicking, hitting, etc., as hard as he or she can until the parent gives in.


My 3 1/2 year old has a short fuse! He screams and cries so loud when he doesn’t get his way that I think my neighbors might call the police on me for child abuse. This morning he wanted a cookie for breakfast and when he didn’t get it he had a full blown tantrum. I put him in his room and told him that he can come out once he calms down. I ignored the behavior that went on in his room but at the same time I’m concerned for my 13 month old. Can witnessing this type of behavior be damaging to my baby?

Tonight, another tantrum. It is a battle to get him to use the bathroom before bedtime. So I am guilty of bribing him with 1 m&m. This usually works but tonight he deliberately peed all over himself and then demanded his m&m. I refused to give it to him but Dad had enough of his behavior and just gave in to him to settle him. At the same time, my other baby is sleeping and I was worried that his tantrum would wake him. I know we shouldn’t have given in but he was tired and was making too much chaos. Are we sending him mixed messages?



You are absolutely right- those are mixed messages coming from both you and the dad.  Good for you for recognizing that!  A unified and consistent “front” is so important when disciplining children.  I don’t think that you need to be worried about your 13 month old witnessing it, though.  Both children just need and want to be loved.  Make sure that you are doing that, and gently explain that his brother is unhappy about the “no cookies for breakfast rule,” and he will be able to come out when he is done making so much noise and is ready to talk about it calmly.  Reassure your 13 month old that you still love his big brother, no matter what.

Children that use their lungs to scream their way into getting what they want are terribly hard to deal with!  That is the way they try to manipulate and take control of their world, since they very often don’t have the words to do it any other way.  The problem is that they get into the habit of doing that when they were too young to speak, and then keep doing it when they are old enough to “use their words.”
My best advice is to take some time for you and your husband together to talk about how you want to raise your children.  Do it when you are not under pressure to stop a tantrum, because you want to have a nice, calm conversation.  One thing that I learned from raising three daughters (they are now in their twenties!) is that our children are usually much smarter than their parents!  (I tell my daughters that I raised them to be smarter than me on purpose, so they don’t have any reason to be too proud or smug!)  If screaming as loud as he can gets your son what he wants, then he is sure to learn that VERY quickly.  In fact, he probably already will have that figured out even before you or your husband realize that he has you both “trained,” LOL!  (Some special needs children will be the exception to the rule, though, so if you are concerned, it’s always best to consult a pediatrician.)

Kids Only Scream If It Works


The good news, however, is that once he learns that screaming for what he wants doesn’t work, he will likely STOP.  But both of you will have to be very consistent once you have decided that this won’t work anymore, because each time you give in, you’ve just set yourself up for the same thing to happen many more times- only WORSE!

The old saying, “Parenting is not for cowards” holds true here:  If you give in to the screaming, this is what you are setting yourself up for:

– screaming tantrums when he doesn’t want to go to bed
– screaming tantrums in the grocery store when he wants a candy
– screaming tantrums when he doesn’t wish to be left with a babysitter
– screaming tantrums when he does not wish to go to school or do homework
– screaming tantrums when he doesn’t want to eat the dinner you prepared
etc., etc., etc.!

I think that since you asked this question, you probably already knew this, didn’t you?  But now your husband needs to learn it, and buy into it- or you will be dealing with this for a VERY long time.  And a tantrum from a very small boy is one thing, but a “tantrum” from a rebellious teenager is another thing entirely!  It’s best to settle on a way to get him under control that you can both agree on and feel good about before you have both of your children using this terrible tantrum tool against you and have full control over your lives!  Children have a way of playing one parent against another, so it’s best for your relationship if you get the issue solved quickly.

When you are in the midst of a screaming tantrum, here are a few things to remember, so give yourself this “pep talk:”

  • Your child is trying to communicate something.  Figure it out, and the problem may be solved.
  • If this seems to be a bid for “power,” remember that children are ultimately uncomfortable if they are the ones “in charge.”  They may think they want to be in charge, but children are usually happier if the adults are in charge, because they feel safer.
  • Stay calm.  Lower your voice.  If you get upset and lose control too, then your whole family is in trouble.  Children take their cue from their parents,  so don’t turn a small thing into a big thing due to a child that is screaming.
  • Remove the audience, if there is one. ( If your are in a store or restaurant, leave it.)  Let the child scream his head off outside until he is done (special needs children excepted.)  Then go back inside.  Repeat as often as necessary until you complete your shopping trip.  But if your child is likely to play the tantrum card while you are shopping, then give yourself lots of extra time to complete the task.
  • Acknowledge the child’s feelings, even if you do feel that they are “unjustified.”  Your child is very upset and frustrated about the situation, so it must matter a great deal to him or her.  Tell your child, “You’re upset about not getting that cookie right now, aren’t you?”  Have your child repeat back the appropriate words to express his or her feelings; children need to learn the words to express themselves in a constructive way rather than how to squash their feelings.
  • Remember:  If you give in to the screaming, you will get to do this again real soon!

Children Are Uncomfortable When They Are the Ones In Charge

I recently read a book by Ronald Mah called The One Minute Temper Tantrum Solution, and it had TONS of great suggestions for calming children down that are in the midst of tantrums such as this.  But the greatest thing I took away from the book is that there is always a REASON for the tantrum.  But the problem is that young children have a very hard time expressing their feelings in a socially acceptable way.  Find the real reason for the tantrum, and eliminate it or prevent it, and you will not have a tantrum anymore!

Here is another great blog post on how to deal with tantrums as well.  The techniques written about in this blog are wonderful!

Please leave any comments or questions that you may have just below. You can be sure that if one person has a question about it, there are probably 20 people that also do not know.

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