How to cope with tantrums

Take 5: get tips and advice to help you manage temper tantrums and bad behaviour.

What are tantrums?

As babies develop into toddlers, they find new ways to test boundaries and express themselves. So when your toddler gets upset, they might scream, cry or even kick, hit or bite.

The first time this happens can be upsetting and if it happens in public it can be embarrassing.

All children misbehave at times. It's a normal part of learning the rules. And sometimes they simply don't know what's good or bad behaviour.

How to respond to tantrums

If you're feeling at the end of your tether, Take 5 and follow these simple steps:

    • Stop.
    • Breathe.
    • React calmly.

When they start screaming in the supermarket or having a meltdown at meal times, it's normal to feel frustrated. But reacting angrily could lead to emotional and physical harm. And this is never OK.

Children respond to how we react, which can affect their behaviour in the future. So try to react calmly.

If you can't find an immediate reason for the tantrum (maybe they're hungry, tired or need a little tender loving care), there are things you can try to calm them down.

  • Create a distraction using something like a book.
  • Draw their attention to something else happening nearby.
  • If they're angry, tell them you know how they feel.

 

  • If they're asking for something and you've said no, don't give in.
  • Don't bribe them with sweets.

How to cope with bad behaviour

Your child's behaviour will improve when they know what the rules are, so they can stick to them. So try to respond in the same way every time. Say what you want your child to do, clearly and in a way they'll understand. Repeat it if necessary. And if your child doesn't do as you wish give them an appropriate consequence – so they'll know not to do it again.

Choose a consequence that fits the situation, for example, if your children are arguing over a toy, take away the toy. Explain why you are taking the toy away. Stick to what you said, and when 5 minutes has passed give them back the toy so they can show you they can behave in the way you want.

When they misbehave take a deep breath and use a quiet and calm voice. Your child is far more likely to listen to you if you are in control - shouting will only make you angrier and upset your child.

Every child is different and it’s important not to compare your child to others. You know your child best and you can help them understand good behaviour by setting rules and creating boundaries.

Show affection. Whether it's a hug, a kiss or a wink; all forms of affection can help children feel cared for, loved and build their confidence. Enjoy being with your child. Spending time together and doing different activities like reading and playing will help you form a healthy relationship with your child.

And don't forget to praise good behaviour. If you praise the behaviour you want, your child is more likely to repeat this.

Being a parent can be draining, especially when you're juggling lots of things. Try to find time every week to let yourself unwind or do something that you enjoy. It's much easier to take care of your child, if you take care of yourself too.

It's difficult to be a calm and relaxed parent if you're stressed, tired or anxious. So make sure to give yourself some quality time, even if it's only a couple of hours.

Advice from other parents

Being a parent can be wonderful and rewarding. But it can also be exhausting and challenging, especially when your child's bad behaviour is getting on top of you.

So it's important to remember to stop, breathe, react calmly.

In this video, other parents talk about what they do to keep calm and Take 5:

"It’s important to Take 5 because if you lose your cool and start shouting it’s going to make the situation worse"
Kelly / Mum of two

Download our Positive Parenting guide

We know how challenging it can be to balance all the demands that parents have to cope with. So we've put together some tips to help.

Download the guide (PDF)

Mindfulness guide for families

Tantrums can be difficult to deal with at the best of times. Knowing how to remain calm in yourself, and having strategies to-hand to distract and calm your child can make all the difference. Our best-selling mindfulness guide is filled with exercises and activities to help your family manage how you're feeling in the here and now.

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