It’s a typical night. Laundry’s piled up in the corner, you’re scrambling to get dinner ready and the kids are arguing. You feel overwhelmed and on edge. You walk on eggshells in your own home, fearing you’ll set off another tantrum in your 4-year-old. It’s useless because your 7-year-old will come right behind you and purposely trigger the little one into a raging fit. You can’t talk to your husband about it without fighting. Things can’t continue like this but you aren’t sure what to do.
There are other options.
Temper tantrums are very common for children ages 2-6 and can be difficult to manage. Below are a few tips that can help tame tantrums and increase peace in the home.
1) Reflecting feelings– Instead of getting upset and snapping at your child reflect her feelings back to her. This shows empathy and that you hear your child. For instance, “Susan, you’re very angry that you can’t have a McDonald’s happy meal. You’re frustrated. I understand not having McDonald’s tonight is hard for you”.
2) Give choices- In the midst of the tantrum, try giving your child some choices. The great thing about this option is that they are choices you pick and are comfortable with. For instance, “Connor, I understand that you don’t want to eat your vegetables but throwing them on the floor is not an option. You have three choices- eat three spoons of your vegetables and you may have a scoop of ice cream for dessert; eat two spoons of your vegetables and you may have half a scoop of ice cream, finish all your vegetables and you may have two scoops of ice cream. You may also choose not to eat your vegetables; however, then you choose not to get ice cream. The great thing about this solution is that you are in the driver’s seat the entire time.
3) Provide a safe space- sometimes children get really overwhelmed with their emotions and just need a break (hey don’t we all). If your child frequently has temper tantrums, providing a small, safe space for them to escape to really helps. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just throwing a blanket over a chair will work. I recommend setting aside a designated place so it will be a consistent, safe spot. Throw in a few sensory appropriate materials in there as well – a fuzzy blanket, a sequin pillow, etc. It’s important to communicate that this isn’t a “time out” or a “punishment” but a cool off spot for them to calm down in. Allow your child to pick out the blanket or pillow that goes in there.
4) Physically work through it together- work through the tantrum with them. Many times children don’t necessarily throw tantrums to be mean or make your life miserable. They simply get too overwhelmed with their emotions and that is their way of coping with their big feelings. Wrap a blanket around them and hold them while they scream and cry. Rock them. Soothe them. Being physically held will help your child resolve their tantrum quickly.
As a registered play therapist, I help parents resolve difficult issues that are disrupting their family, such as tantrums. Play therapy is a well-researched modality that uses selected toys in which children express themselves with. I have never had a child come into my office, sit on my couch and say, “Well, school was terribly frightening today; we had another terrifying fire drill and Bobby and his friends bullied me on my way home; I do believe this explains the terrible nightmares I have been having in the past few weeks”. Instead, children play out what may have happened at school and thus work out their issues through play.
Play therapy is a very effective modality in treating social issues, ADHD, anger management, behavioral issues, sibling rivalry, school issues and defiance/control issues.
To learn more about Play Therapy and its benefits, plus information about having a free phone consult with me, visit me HERE.
Wishing you the best…
Crystal Lillard is a licensed professional counselor and Registered Play Therapist at Georgetown Child & Family Counseling. She specializes in working with children and parents in creative ways to help families get to a healthier, happier place.