Seven Ways to Manage Tantrums

As an early-years educator I can subdue 30 children with a raised eyebrow.

At home those powers are somewhat diminished.

At work I have all day, every day to help develop the whole child, not just reading, writing and maths.

So I have the time and patience to support and pre-empt challenging behaviour.

At home I have shit to do.

So when tantrums and unwanted negative behaviour appear, one of the following happens. (Pay attention to No.7. It’s the good one. An educational psychologist taught it to me so, you know, it has weight behind it.)

1) The ‘trying not to laugh’. 

A classic. Generally if there is two of you there is only one person doing this whilst the other person tries something else and glares at the first person.

2) The ‘that makes me feel very sad’. 

Guilt. Good old guilt.

3) The ‘Daddy/Mummy will be very sad when they get home’.

A-ha, the threat of future retribution. Perfect for when they’ve stopped giving two shits about how you are feeling about the situation.

4) The ‘If you don’t do __ you won’t get/be able to__’.

Consequences. Usually sweets are involved. Rarely events. They know that you are still taking them to see Gran, or to the party.

5) The ‘How many times I’ve told you not to do what you’re doing’.

“I’ve told you three times not to do that!” All they think is: “Yup, and did I listen? You need to work on your communication skills, dearest guardian.”

6) The ‘go bananas yourself’ .

Always a winner. Yes they stop doing what they are doing but everyone feels rotten. I’m a big believer in making points/examples but when you are genuinely, emotionally angry nobody wins. I did this today. Still sad.

7) The ‘3-step rule’: Tell them why they are upset. Tell them the dream. Remind of the rule. 

Now this is where it gets interesting. As I mentioned, I was taught this to use with nursery-age children (3 to 4 years of age) but it works well with four-and five-year-old kids and I would imagine well beyond.

Picture the scene. Timmy is under the table screaming as he does not want to pick up his Lego.

What do you do?

Well, according to number 7 you would do this. (First of all, if Timmy was genuinely upset then there is evidence to show that he cannot hear what I am saying. Literally his brain cannot process the information.)

So first, wait until they aren’t screaming. Then:

Tell them why they are upset.

Sounds silly, but Timmy has no idea why he is under the table. “I know why you are upset; you want to keep playing with your Lego.”

I’ve done this a 1000 times and 867 times the child’s face lights up. Acceptance, understanding: it’s powerful stuff.

Tell them the dream. 

“It would be great if you could keep playing and didn’t have to pick them up.”

This gets them onside. It gives them a small feeling of joy in a painful situation.

Remind of the rule.

“But we have got to go and pick up your brother, and we can’t play with Lego later if it’s not tidy.”

Honest to goodness, nine times out of 10 this works like magic.

Age 3 and up. My daughter is 2-and-a-half. So I currently use 1-6.

Give it a try, try again, and again. They pick up on the pattern and respond really well.


Daddy McDadface is a UK-based blogger. This article was originally published on Two Kids a Dog and a Caravan, and has been republished with permission.

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