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3 Ways to Stop a Tantrum in Its Tracks

3 Ways to Stop a Tantrum in Its Tracks

It's not always easy to know what to do when your child throws a tantrum. When even tried and true techniques fail, try something new! Here are three approaches that have worked for other Circle of Moms members.

1. Distract

Circle of Moms member Becky J.'s four-year-old daughter is frequently defiant, and her mom has tried everything she can think of: time outs, taking away toys, even, as a last resort, spanking. All of these techniques are in direct respomnse to the "bad" behavior itself. Why not try a completely different tack? Change the subject! 

As Avon V. points out, a tantrumming child is simply testing boundaries, so it doesn't really matter what the content of the tantrum is. Changing the subject can be a distraction -- when really you think you should focus on changing the behavior -- but if the specifics are irrelevant, then a distraction might be warranted. I've used this with good results. When my three-year-old son gets upset that he has to stop playing rush to get dressed for school, I might ask him if he's heard the new CD we just got. If his attention is successfully re-directed, I continue on, telling him it's good dancing music and that I think when he has friends over they might enjoy it too. And so on.


If your child has a good sense of humor, a joke or funny idea can sometimes jolt him out of a tantrum. Once, when my son's security blanket was inadvertently left at home (and we were too far away to go back and get it), I took the risky tack of blaming the blanket: "Bad blankie," I said. "Why did you stay at home when we need you here right now?" My son thought that was hilarious and said, "Maybe blankie was hiding from us." Indeed.


2. Show Empathy

It's hard to empathize with your child when she's screaming her lungs out, but Michelle A. suggests a quiet tone in response to a tantrum. Along those lines, holding back your own anger and instead commiserating with your child can go a long way toward calming him or her down. I often say to my son, "Honey, I know you're really upset right now, and it's okay to cry and to feel bad. Everybody feels sad or angry sometimes, and it's okay to tell me." Just knowing that his mom understands that he's unhappy can be a comfort to your child, even if you can't do anything to immediately change the situation.

Sometimes, a tantrum is a child's way of letting you know he or she feels excluded. Sarah B. uses a positive-discipline approach that involves charts of behaviors and rewards. For the less organized parent, asking your child for help is a worthy alternative. If you are cutting something with a sharp knife, your child obviously can't help you with this. But there are many things even young kids can help with that make them feel a part of the larger whole of the family. Soliciting your child's help can be a way of communicating that you know this, and that you appreciate his or her skills. For example, when my son melts down because I have poured his milk for him, instead of letting him help, I can often turn his mood by offering to let him do something else that demonstrates his competence and independence, or "big boy" status, such as feeding the cat or getting the laundry out of the dryer. Your task might take a little longer to complete this way, but the time spent will be worth it!

3. Give Your Child Space

It's tempting to want to "fix" a tantrum and a natural desire to want your child to stop crying or tantrumming. But sometimes, a child simply needs space to re-group alone. If talking doesn't work, try telling your child that you love him and that you're there if he needs you, but that you're going to give him some space now. When I've done this with my son, he always calms himself (a useful skill) within a few minutes and comes to me. I like to close the circle and then talk about his feelings but only if he's willing.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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