Temper Tantrums: How to Deal With a Meltdown
Why do temper tantrums happen at these ages?
Do older kids ever have tantrums?
What can parents do in the middle of a meltdown?
- Stay cool. Acknowledge the child's emotions (frustrated, bored, tired) without a long discussion and say something like "Tell me in your own words what's bothering you, and let's try to work it out" or "I know you're frustrated and want to leave, but I would like for you to wait a few more minutes." This sounds overly simple, but it's important to let the child know you're willing to work this out reasonably, what your expectation is, and you want them to do. For young kids, always have some form of distraction available to get them off the tantrum track. If the child calms down when you request it, provide the child a treat that may be a surprise, like a toy in your pocket or purse that he didn't know you brought along.
- Step two is hard, but don't reward the tantrum with a lot of attention beyond the matter-of-fact approach in step one. Obviously, you don't want the child to learn that this is a good way to impress you. Scolding or shouting back simply won't work, although you may feel like having a tantrum yourself. Remember, parents are models of appropriate behavior.
- Third, sometimes you simply have to leave. If the mayhem started because she wants something in a store and you've said "no," ignore the tantrum completely. Prepare to be embarrassed; it's worth it—giving in validates the behavior. Realize that you can't always persevere, and that's OK.
Reprinted with the permission of the NYU Child Study Center. © NYU Child Study Center.