Build your Parenting Toolkit
Tracy Gale, PsyD, HSPP, and Emmaleigh Badeaux, BS
Children’s tantrums can be challenging for parents. Tantrums can be triggered by the desire to obtain access to a favorite item, to escape a situation, to get attention or to meet a sensory need. Luckily, there are strategies for making such outbursts less frequent while also teaching our children better ways to communicate their needs.
Here are some time-tested techniques:
Tell your child what to do, instead of what not to do.
When directions are stated in a positive manner, they quickly inform a child of your expectations. Instead of telling your child to “stop running,” say “please walk” to clearly and positively state your expectation for behavior.
Praise your child specifically.
When praising your child, be specific about what they did to earn it. Instead of saying, “Good job” try “Good job walking down the hall!” Again, this is an effort to identify expectations plainly. When a child knows how to earn praise, they are more likely to engage in appropriate behaviors.
When you give a command, try to phrase it as a choice. That way, the choice is not whether to complete the task, but instead how to complete it. Aim to provide two choices within the command, such as, “Would you like to sit in the red or blue chair at the table?” Identify your goal, as well as possible choices.
Keep in mind that as children attempt to balance their desire for independence with their current skills, tantrums are bound to occur. Children often become frustrated with the discrepancies between what they want to do and what they can do. If we increase their skills by clearly stating expectations, acknowledging their strengths, and providing opportunities for decision-making, their frustration and tantrums will decrease, and everyone will feel better-equipped.