The Science of Tantrums (page 2)

The Science of Tantrums

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Updated on Dec 15, 2011

2. Use simple, short commands. This is a good alternative if you cannot ignore your child for long, especially when you’re in public place. Stick to the simplest speech possible, for example, “Sit down” or “Please stop” or even something as simple as “No”. A tantrum is not a place for reasoning or clear communication, so get to the point quickly, or don’t say anything at all.

3. Avoid asking questions. It’s common for a parent to try empathizing by asking questions. But during an outburst, asking questions is an ineffective way to calm them down. “When children are at the peak of anger, asking questions might prolong the anger,” says Green, “It’s difficult for them to process information, and to respond to a question that the parent’s asking may be just adding more information into the system that they can really cope with.”

4. See the humor in it. This is a great coping mechanism to help you stay calm and relaxed. If you’re getting angry, your child may stay angry for longer too. Try to remember how comical the situation is—one example that Green and Potegal discussed was a girl who threw a fit, yelling nonsensical things like, “Take off my feet!” Or maybe your crying child puts his words into funny phrases, like: “Me no-likey shoes!” Keep yourself in a light-hearted mood, and the tantrum will seem to pass more quickly.

5. See it from a scientist’s perspective. After analyzing these awful screams and cries, Green and Potegal now see tantrums as interesting, rather than irritating. Plus, it may help if you find a unique pattern within your child’s tantrums. Remember: while tantrums can be traumatic, they’re normal behavior for a toddler.  

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