5 Temper Tantrum Taming Tips

5 Temper Tantrum Taming Tips

In my practice I often see kids and teens who struggle to self-regulate their emotions.  This leads to kids who often experience tantrums, and meltdowns.  The following are 5 quick tips I provide to parents to help them manage and get through these explosive incidents:

  1.  Stay calm: Children who are emotionally dysregulated require a solid model of emotional regulation to calm and sooth themselves.  This means that they are going to fare better if you are able to remain calm to be an anchor for them.  Take some slow deep breaths.  Use inner dialogue (or “self-talk”) to coach yourself through it.  It may be helpful to remind yourself that losing your cool will likely only escalate and prolong the situation rather than calm and cease the situation.   Practice using your “wise mind” to recognize your emotional response to the situation while thinking of what would be most helpful to the situation.
  2. Name the emotion: Giving a name to the emotion your child is struggling with helps to teach the child how to more effectively communicate their feelings.  Try statements like “it seems like you are feeling angry right now”, or “you look disappointed about that”.  Try to stick with observation statements like “looks like”, “seems like” and “sounds like”.  Children will often provide you with some feedback in response to your observation, by either elaborating on their emotional state, or correcting your observation -i.e. “No, I’m sad”.
  3. Provide empathy and validation:  Often kids are struggling with intense emotions they themselves do not fully understand.  Providing empathetic responses and validating their concerns can go a long way to diffuse their emotional reaction.  Emotions are essentially communication tools, and when we validate that they are effectively communicating their need, we reduce the need for the emotion to intensify to “get it’s point across”.  We can demonstrate empathy and validation simply by the way we communicate – making eye contact, getting down to their level, using open body language, asking questions to better understand; or more intensively by conveying and demonstrating we understand their feelings and that their feelings make sense to us.  We can do this by paraphrasing “so, you really wanted the red cup and you are frustrated because you got the blue one”, joining them in their wishes “I wish you could have the red cup too”,  and validating their emotions “you were really looking forward to the red cup, I can understand why you are feeling frustrated about this”.
  4. Destimulate/Stimulate: Sensory stimulation can play a significant role in emotional regulation.  Dimming the lights, reducing/eliminating competing sounds, ensuring the space isn’t too hot or cold can reduce sensory stimulation can can aggravate emotional dysregulation; while providing bear hugs, weighted blankets, soothing music, and physical resistance activity (like wall push ups) can provide sensory input that may be calming.
  5. Problem Solve: The old adage, “my way or the highway” is likely to be ineffective for managing a child with dysregulated emotions.  While I encourage you to keep a consistent routine, and consistent rules and expectations, there is room for trying to come to a solution that works for you and your child.  You can even try to problem solve ahead of typically upsetting situations (i.e. “I’ve noticed that you often feel upset and angry at bedtime.  Help me understand what is going on?…..What can we do about that?”).  It may be helpful for you to identify your perspective of the problem to your child as well (“See the problem is, I need you to have a bath every night, because you get dirty throughout the day, but you don’t like taking a bath.  How do we solve this?”).  You may also find asking your child “what can I do to help you?”, or “what do you need right now to calm down?” may provide you with some insight into how to problem solve the situation.

If you are interested in learning more about tips for taming tantrums, or would like to work with a child behaviour expert, give Meghan Lederman a call to book your appointment today. 888-530-8682


Meghan Lederman, M.A., B.C.W. (Youth Work), C.Y.W.

Meghan is the director of Family Kinnections, and operates a private practice in Welland Ontario, and Oakville Ontario.  Meghan specializes in a number of areas including: child behaviour, child/adolescent mood disorders, child/adolescent anxiety disorders and trauma.