What to do during tantrums

Every parent has dealt with their child's tantrum. It's never easy to deal with - most times, you're not sure how. We talked to Thomas Hobson, director of the Child Life Department at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital. Here's what he had to say.

"It doesn't matter where it happens or whether there's build up to it or not, a child's temper tantrum is a thing of parents' nightmares. They can be embarrassing. They can be frustrating. They can (and will) test your patience.

During the big blow out temper tantrums, it is tough to keep your composure and not get sucked into your child's whirlwind of emotion. You find yourself being pulled in, and before long, the whole situation is a screaming match. Each side continues to escalate until it's nothing but chaos.

How do I know all of this? Well, my confession is that despite all of my "kid smarts", I've been pulled into these same situations. Then again, haven't we all been roped into our children's temper tantrums. Here are a few tips to help keep you cool when your child is losing it:

  • Watch with an outsider's eyes: When you are watching someone else's child throw a tantrum, do you get mad? No, you usually feel bad for the parent, and that's about it. Learn to give yourself the leeway and to remember that you're the one in charge.
  • Don't yell: It is a normal gut reaction to want to yell in these situations. However, think about what happens when someone yells at you. Typically, we go on the defensive and get ready to yell back. This will only cause your child to dig their heels in and fight harder.
  • Know when to walk away: After watching a tantrum, even if you're calm, there comes a point when you know you are going to lose it. Learn to watch for your own cues, and walk away until you cool down. Make sure your child is in a safe place, and simply step into the other room.
  • Don't use sarcasm: Young children simply don't understand sarcasm. It only serves to confuse them. However, they will figure out that you're making fun of them, and that will be hurtful.
  • Break the cycle: Sometimes, children get so wrapped up in their fit that even if they want to stop, they don't know how to do it. Instead, they just keep going on with it. Introduce something new that they'll be interested in. Then, when everyone is calm, you can go back and talk about everything. During a recent tantrum, I told my child that I wanted to show them a new game I had on my phone. The tantrum, which had been going on for 30 minutes, stopped immediately. After a few minutes, we came back and talked about it."

development, behavior