Building Emotional Intelligence & Mastering Tantrum Taming: 6 Expert Tips for Parental Sanity

Sharing is caring!

emotional intelligence 2

Whatever your parenting style, it’s absolutely impossible to make it through the toddler years without at least a few temper tantrums. They are an inevitable part of parenting and – I know from personal experience – can be both worrying and exhausting.

There are many things that can make tantrums more likely to happen and this will be different for every child depending on their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Usually, they aren’t used to ‘ get what they want ‘ contrary to what some people might tell you. Tantrums usually start with an explosion of emotion that your child doesn’t yet have the coping skills to manage. It is important to keep your child safe and guide them in working through their feelings. 

I wish I had a magic solution that would eliminate tantrums altogether, but instead I can share with you a few tips that will you stay calm, reduce meltdowns and make managing them a little easier.

First of all – be kind to yourself!

Tantrums are exhausting. If you’re in public, they can feel embarrassing and even if you’re in the comfort of your own home, they can still leave you feeling frustrated and alone. It is important to stay away from thinking of tantrums in terms of ‘good behaviour’ or ‘bad behaviour’ and remember that every action has a reason behind it. Kids have tantrums as their brains are simply unable to cope with their strong emotions – in fact, a brain is now fully able to cope with emotion until we are in our late twenties!

So, my first tip is to remember that ALL parents go through tantrums. It is in no way a reflection on your parenting or your relationship with your child. Likewise, it doesn’t mean your child is ‘naughty’, ‘on a wrong path’ or any other nonsense I am sure you have heard from unhelpful friends and relatives over the years. Children don’t want to have tantrums, they want praise for ‘good behaviours’ instead of reprimands for ‘bad’ ones, but in the moment, a child’s brain is simply unable to articulate what the issue is and this is what leads to tantrums. 

Once you understand this, it is much easier to remain calm during an outburst. Remember to use a calm voice and take a deep breath. Simply knowing that it’s a completely normal and natural part of the journey and won’t last forever will help! You’ve got this!

The art of distraction!

I cannot tell you the amount of times I have made a complete fool of myself trying to bring a tantrum to a speedy conclusion. It isn’t my favourite pastime, but I can tell you that more often than not, it works to handle tantrums and meltdowns when they’re frustrated.  

For example – Is your child having a tantrum because their cornflakes were served in a green bowl this morning instead of their usual white one? Whatever the cause, try and find something SO interesting it will completely override those objections. They don’t even have to be real things. My favourites include: spotting a truck or lorry going past the house, popping outside to have a look at a cloud dinosaur I just spotted, suddenly getting a (very dramatic) leg cramp that will of course require treatment from the finest ‘doctor’ in all the land and even on occasion spotting our pesky neighbourhood fox dancing around the garden.

Of course, I try not to lie to Arlo as much as is physically possible (and I know many parents wouldn’t admit to ever lying to their child at all) but I think pretending to get a leg clamp to reduce a twenty-minute tantrum down to two is a pretty good trade-off for a tiny white lie! 

Often, what to us adults may seem like a ridiculously small issue, such as the colour of a bowl, can be a huge deal to a child. We shouldn’t try to reduce their feelings and should try to understand what’s going wrong for them, but when a child is in the eye of the tantrum storm, they are simply unable to process why they can’t have their white bowl today. The art of distraction, therefore removes your child from that tantrum phase and brings their mind onto another topic, therefore eventually allowing you to circle back and explain that unfortunately, the white bowl is in the dishwasher, but you will pop it on soon and the bowl will be all squeaky clean for lunch time. 

Let your child know you are there for them.

Untitled design (21)

An important part of big emotions is simply to let your little one know that you understand, you love them and you’ll still be there whenever they are ready. You can offer a hug, but if they say no you must be okay with that. Instead, give them the time to calm their emotions and offer again a few minutes later.

Sometimes, you might just need to sit down on the floor beside them and let the tantrum take full effect. The important thing is to simply help them understand you are there for them and that their big emotions do not scare you or make you angry. You are there to ride that wave with them!

Give control wherever possible.

Ideally, this is a tool which helps prevent tantrums, but it can be effective during, too. The key here is to give as much choice as possible to your little one. For example, allow them to choose their own clothes in the morning. Give them a few snack options and let them choose their own. Ask them if they want to play outside and – crucially – accept the answer they give. Never, ever ask when the outcome is already determined.

For example, if you have to go to the supermarket, don’t ever phrase your question as ‘Should we go to the supermarket then?’ because in doing so, you are allowing them to say no and since you have to go, you’re heading straight into tantrum town!

Now, let’s be honest here – I am sure you’ve seen people say “Give them a choice!” before and whenever you’ve given it a go “Would you like water or juice?” the only response you get has been “No!” or “Nothing!”

We’ve ALL been there!

In cases like these, you could opt to come back to the choice later ‘I can see you aren’t ready to choose yet, I will ask you again later’ or if you are in a rush ‘Hmm, you’re having trouble picking so I will help’. 

Again this is a strategy which aims to prevent tantrums before they even begin. It certainly does reduce the number of tantrums, especially if you get in early enough, because you are giving them a say on the child’s environment. Remember point one – sometimes tantrums are simply inevitable and that’s just part of the journey!

Untitled design (5)

Label those emotions!

In order to eventually leave the town of tantrums, we must give our children the skills to cope in different ways. Partly, this will come with age and life experience, but we can speed up the process by ensuring we give our children the vocabulary to talk about their feelings.

This might look like: “I can see you are feeling very frustrated that we can’t play outside right now. I understand it makes us feel sad when we can’t do what we want to. Would you like to play with your kitchen in the living room instead?”

Or

“I am very sorry your doll is broken. It makes us feel very sad when something we like is broken. Would you like a hug?” (If they say “No!” I would say “That’s okay. I will be right here if you change your mind.”)

Use mindfulness or calming activities regularly.

Untitled design (4)

A great way to prevent tantrums in the future is to spend some time on mindfulness activities. For example, placing chickpeas along a line or colouring in. Another option might be to trace circles on a teddy bears fur or have a small fidget toy. If you are a Little Learning Hub member, your mindfulness activity series in perfect for this (you can find it in the emotional development resources)!

These mindfulness activities provide important talking time, which will ultimately help you to uncover anything your child might be worrying about as they will share with you things that are on their mind. This, in turn, leads to fewer tantrums in the future. Again, this is not a cure all and will certainly not prevent all tantrums, but it can help to reduce your child’s anxiety and give them strategies for the future. For example, if they tell you about how frustrated they were trying to build a Lego house earlier, you can discuss what strategies you might use next time, such as taking a break or asking for help. 

So, there you have it, 6 helpful tips to guide you through Tantrum Town. Did you find any tips helpful? Let me know which one you used next time you find yourself in tantrum town!

Speak soon,

Kimberley

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *