Tried and tested tactics to stop tantrums

Four mums share their techniques to deal with toddler meltdowns.

Tried and tested tactics to stop tantrums

Taming your tot can be a handful, but some mums calm the storm and handle tantrums with ease. To help you defuse your little whirlwind’s temper, we turned to the real experts - other mums like you - for their temper-taming techniques.

“I ignore tantrums”

Karen Tan, 37, mum to Grace, 9 weeks, Anna, 2, Emily, 4, and Luke, 7.

“I learnt by trial and error that if a tantrum can’t be diverted by distraction, then it’s best ignored. Reasoning with a tantruming child is pointless, because she gets your attention for behaving badly.

When one of my children has a tantrum, I turn my attention away from him or her and on to the others. Sometimes I’ll even leave the room. Then, once he or she has calmed down, I ask for an apology, we have a cuddle and talk about it.”

Why it works

Often, children have tantrums because they’ve learnt that it’s a good way to get attention. Ignoring your child is the best strategy because, rather than rewarding the behaviour with your attention, you’re teaching your child that she’s not going to get what she wants by shouting and screaming. Try to keep calm by getting on with a job, counting to 10 or singing to yourself. Think of it as an opportunity to teach your child appropriate ways of expressing herself, and remind yourself that you’re doing her a favour in the long run by teaching her how to behave nicely.

“Distraction defuses the situation”

Sarah Bosco, 29, mum to Ethan, 18 months.

“Ethan has started having tantrums if he sees something he wants and can’t have it. I find the best tactic is to distract him. I turn him away from the object, get right down to his eye level, calmly explain why he can’t have it, then point out something like an aeroplane in the sky, and he usually forgets what he was getting cross about.

So far, distraction is working well both at home and when we’re out and about. I’ve managed to defuse quite a few tantrums this way and I hope it’ll continue to work as he gets older.”

Why it works

Distraction is dependent on catching the tantrum at the right stage. Remember that you haven’t got a hope of distracting your toddler at the peak of his tantrum - he won’t even hear what you’re saying.

But distracting your tot at the beginning of the tantrum could avert a full-blown meltdown. Point out something exciting, or find something for him to play with. Also, try getting down to his level and playing with his toys yourself.”

“Talking helps my daughter control her emotions”

Arabella Greatorex, 35, mum to Ellie, now 4.

“I think tantrums can put a huge emotional strain on children, and if you ignore or punish them, it’s like walking out on your best friend if she’s crying because her relationship has broken down. By talking Ellie through her tantrums, I wanted to show her that there was nothing wrong with the emotions she was experiencing, and help her learn to control them.

I’d sit with her and reassure her that these feelings were normal, but also explain that she had to find a different way of expressing them. Then, when she’d started to calm down, we’d have a cuddle and talk about what had upset her.

I’m sure these techniques have helped Ellie learn to control her emotions and to let me know in other ways if something was bothering her.”

Why it works

Talking your toddler out of her tantrum can help her understand your reasoning when you say “no”, and also teaches her to describe her emotions, so she learns to express herself without resorting to screaming.

It works best if you can spot the warning signs of a tantrum, for example, if she’s started to whine. Tell her clearly why she can’t have whatever she’s demanding, but don’t go on about it. Explain the situation once, then leave it.

“Time out helps my children calm down”

Amanda Foo, 32, mum to Nate, 19 months, Zara, 4, and Ally, 6.

“When Ally was a toddler, I was heavily pregnant and she wanted to be carried a lot of the time. If I said no, it always resulted in a tantrum. I’d seen my friend handle her son’s tantrums by taking him out of the room, sitting him down, holding his hands to stop him thrashing and counting to 30. So one day, I tried her method and it worked. Then, as Ally and Zara got older, I used time out in a more conventional way, making them sit out for one minute for each year of their lives.

At 19 months, Nate already has quite a temper. He won’t let me hold him or talk to him, so putting him in a room by himself and allowing him to get it out of his system is the only way to calm him down.

I use time out when I’ve already tried to reason, but my children are too worked up to listen. It gives me time to calm down, too. Neither Ally nor Zara has had a tantrum in a very long time - I think it’s because they learnt at a young age that tantruming is futile.”

Why it works

Time out can work extremely well, but it should be a last resort. No one should use it every day - save it for totally unacceptable behaviour, like biting or throwing things in temper, rather than for tantrums over not being allowed a biscuit.

For time-out to work most effectively, put your child in the same boring place each time - such as his highchair - and leave him there for one minute per year of his life. Tell him he needs some time out to calm down. Then, once the time is up, give him a hug and get busy. If you’re consistent, he’ll learn that if he behaves badly, he’ll have time out, and will start to think before he acts.

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