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Hot temper, cool parenting: How to handle temper tantrums

Shelly Barnes • Dec 15, 2015 at 2:44 PM

You are in a store when your child throws a temper tantrum. This often embarrassing moment is sure to come for parents, because all children experience temper tantrums. It is a normal part of growing up. For parents, there are no magic words to make tantrums disappear. However, you can respond in ways that can help.

1. Try to remain calm. Shaking, spanking, or screaming at your child tends to make the tantrum worse instead of better.

2. Pause before you act. Take at least 30 seconds to decide how you will handle the tantrum. Four possible ways to deal with a tantrum include:

• Distract -Try to get your child’s attention focused on something else. If your child screams when you take away something unsafe (like mommy’s purse) offer something else to play with.

• Remove - Take your child to a quiet, private place to calm down. Out in public it may mean sitting outside for a few minutes or in the car. Avoid trying to talk or reason with a screaming child. It doesn’t work! Stay nearby until your child calms down.

• Ignore - Older children will sometimes throw tantrums to get attention. Try ignoring the tantrum and go about your business as usual, while making sure the child is in a safe environment.

• Hold - Physically restrain children if they are “out of control” (may harm themselves and others). You also might say something like: “I can see you are angry right now and I am going to hold you until you calm down. Sometimes children are just scared with their own emotions.

3. Wait until your child calms down before talking about the situation. It’s difficult to reason with a screaming child. Later, use this opportunity to teach your child acceptable ways to handle anger and difficult situations. After the tantrum is over, think about what happened and what caused it.

4. Most tantrums occur when a child is hungry, tired, frustrated or overexcited. Tantrums are frustrating for both parent and child. However children still need to be reminded. So, cool down mom and dad the best is yet to come!

UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issues at the local, state and national levels.

For more information on this or other family and consumer sciences related topics, contact Shelly Barnes, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension agent for UT Extension in Wilson County.  Barnes can be reached at sbarnes@utk.edu or 615-444-9584. 

Sources: Iowa State University and eXtension.org

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