On children’s tantrums….. with love!

by 12.12.2022

There are a few families with children for whom the topic of tantrums is foreign. There are thousands of articles and advice on what to do before, during, and after an emotional crisis, and here I will try to go a little further than the standard approach in a few steps.

Tantrums are a behavior characteristic of every child in the period when they are already aware of themself as a separate person. 

If your child already refers to themself in the first person, rejects suggestions, purposefully does not follow instructions and the word NO is in their vocabulary, then very soon you can expect the first crisis

Throwing a tantrum is the most direct and easiest way to assert oneself, to state and show that one has an opinion, and importance, to feel equal, and to ask for something.  This can happen both at home and, in shock and horror! – in a public place. Ⓒ

The most important thing, in this case, is to know that this is a completely natural phenomenon and an important stage of growing up, and not a signal of a bad upbringing, a spoiled child, or failed parenting. When a crisis like this occurs, ask yourself at which times it is loudest – when you offer something, when you give instruction or when you set a boundary.

Observe and think about what such behavior might actually mean. This is half the solution to the situation. This way you will find out if the child needs to have rules explained in advance, give them the option to some limited choices over what is safe for his age, or be taught more skills to become more independent.

It is the independence that is the ultimate goal in a tantrum – “I want to decide for myself!”, that is, the child signals that they want to be able to. Use it.

Be understanding of the behavior and do not aim for the child to calm down immediately, at any cost. Give them time, and when they calm down, talk about the rules again and “make a deal” on how to handle the situations that bring them tension.

Here are some more effective practices:

  • Avoid excessive use of the expressions “want to” and “should”. Replace them with expressions such as “It’s time for”, “Which of the two blouses do you choose”, “How many minutes do you need for…” and similar.
  • When a child breaks a rule, try asking questions instead of giving a series of instructions – “Where are the shoes?’, instead of ‘Take your shoes down the hall’ said in a calm and confident voice would give the child a sense of competence and control over the situation. Also, determine and discuss the walk plan and site rules in advance. Inform kindly what the consequences are for certain violations – let them be feasible, never humiliating, and possible only for you as parents.
  • Sense of humor. Laugh at the situation (never the child) – make a joke, come up with your own secret joke in such situations, which becomes a kind of calming ritual for both of you, and give your child a warm, comforting, accepting hug :). This immensely strengthens and motivates cooperation in this young person.

Remember that first are all humans with feelings, thoughts, and very often – stress about everyday life. 

Do not hesitate to consult a professional when you’re struggling – parenting is a maze that should be navigated as a team. 

The outsider’s view is always a good opportunity to set new beginnings and opportunities! Ⓒ


Gergana Markova, PhD, Marina Titeva