Posted in Anger Management, Behavior, Emotions, Positive Parenting, Therapy

9 Parenting Tips for Temper Tantrums (printable)

Try these tips the next time your child has a nuclear meltdown over ____________ (fill in the blank!).


1. Avoid the Hungry Child!

This one’s easy. Bring snacks with you everywhere you go, and be mindful of your kid’s nap time. When kids are hungry and/or tired, they have zero tolerance for any little disappointment that crops up. And in the case of toddlers, their language skills aren’t developed enough to politely ask for a snack and a nap.

“Imagine you have listened to one audio lesson in Swahili. Overnight you find yourself in Africa. You’re hungry, tired and grumpy. You do not like the situation one bit. How do you get your point across? ‘You don’t have the language,’ said Susan Epperly, an Atlanta-based parent coach and writer on early childhood. ‘Your brain is going crazy with all this new stuff, and you have no words.’”

Just think about it – As parents we are not exactly a peach when we are hungry and tired. And we have had lots of practice at functioning in society. Solution: Stick a raisin box in junior’s hand when you get to the grocery store. And don’t push it trying to get stuff done when you know it’s past their nap or bed time.

2. Observe and Learn

Does your kid freak out when she sees all the candy in the checkout lane? Do your attempts to get your little guy dressed before you leave in the morning end in screaming and tears? Research shows that events leading up to a tantrum are critical to whether the tantrum actually takes place. Pay attention to the situations where your child tends to lose his cool. When you see a trend, brainstorm ways to avoid the breakdown.

  • In the checkout lane at the grocery store, ask your little one to be your helper and count the grocery items as you take them out of the basket.
  • If your mini-me begs you to buy every piece of candy or toy that comes in their line of sight, try this magic trick for getting out of the store tantrum-less. Create a “Wish List” for your child (use the application EverNote). Anytime they ask for something in the store, say: “We can’t get that today, but I can add it to your wish list.” Then pull up the note on your phone, type the name of the item, and show them their list. This may work most of the time but not ALL the time – After you park the car/before getting out- try making this statement to your kids: “Okay, now let’s remember before we go in. _____ (fill in with the name of the store ex. Target) has a magic spell over us.Every time we go in there, we see all this stuff we want. And it’s like we can’t control ourselves, we just want, want, want! We need to be strong and not let the magic spell be the boss of us.” At the first request, try this response: “Oh man! Their magic spell is already getting us!” At the next request if your child grabs something and states how much they wish they could have something, try this response: “I know! It’s like magic, right? We can hardly control ourselves.”
  • If you tend to do battle over getting dressed in the morning, try giving him a choice between two items: “It’s time to get dressed now. Do you want to wear your red shirt or your blue shirt?”
  • When your kid gets wiped out from running errands, try these stress busters: plan a quick break where she can run around or do something to make her laugh, meditation, eat something, label their feeling, etc.

3. Pick Your Battles

So what if your kid leaves the house wearing polka dots and plaid? A toddler’s crazy style doesn’t lock him into a lifetime of no fashion sense. You’ll have plenty of time to teach him what matches when he’s older. And if other people judge you for letting your kid dress himself, who cares? That is there problem not yours – so do not waste any time worrying about that! If your little one eats 2 peas instead of 10 or won’t give grandmother a kiss, it may not be worth it to turn it into a fight. Save your energy for the stuff that matters, and don’t make a big deal out of the small stuff.

4. Stay in Control of Yourself

Let’s say you’ve done everything you can to ward off a tantrum, but you start to see the warning signs of impending doom. The worst thing you can do is to Lose your own cool.

“My friend Mana Heydarpour of New York City learned this lesson the hard way: When she told her strong-willed 3-year-old, Ella, that she couldn’t watch her favorite TV show, she screamed, ‘I don’t like you! I’m so disappointed with you!’ ‘It made my blood boil so much that I couldn’t help yelling back at her,’ Heydarpour says. As a result, Ella’s fit lasted for half an hour. [Michael Potegal, Ph.D., a pediatric neuropsychologist,] calls this the Anger Trap. ‘If you get just as mad and irrational as your child, it’s like throwing gas on a fire,’ he says.”

If you want the storm to pass quickly, take a few seconds to brace yourself. Some ideas:

  • Take several deep belly breaths. “Make your insides as calm as you would like the child’s to become,” says Becky Bailey, Ph.D., an expert in childhood education and developmental psychology.
  • Repeat a mantra. Come up with a simple statement to help you keep perspective, and think it or say it quietly to yourself. Becky Bailey recommends “You can handle this.” Your mantra could be “This too shall pass.”
  • Check the time. According to Potegal’s research, the average tantrum lasts about three minutes. So glance at a clock, and add 10 minutes. Remember that as long as you don’t fall into the Anger Trap, the worst part should be over by then.

5. Don’t Do These 3 Things

To keep temper tantrums as short as possible:

  1. Don’t give in. If junior is throwing a fit over a Snickers bar, don’t give him the damn Snickers bar. Sure, it may help you escape the situation this time. But giving in teaches him that all he has to do when he wants something is go berserk.
  2. Don’t ignore or punish. Research shows ignoring tantrums doesn’t help, nor does punishing them with time-outs. Think back to a time when you were really upset. Maybe your boyfriend had just dumped you and you had been SURE he was The One. Or that time you got a talking-to from your boss’s boss and nearly crapped your pants. You probably met your best friend and confided every tiny detail – twice – and sobbed into your wine glass. Now imagine if when your friend first got wind you were upset, she turned away and pretended not to hear you. Or worse, she got up from the table, left the room, and shut the door behind her. Would you magically snap out of your emotional upset and be happy as a clam? Your kid doesn’t work that way either.
  3. Don’t reason. You can’t reason with a child in the middle of a tantrum. Her brain just won’t compute what you’re trying to say. Don’t ask questions, don’t use logic, don’t tell her “That’s not important.” The maybe-I-can-talk-some-sense-into-her approach will probably intensify the tantrum and make it last even longer.

6. Validate Feelings

So what CAN you say? Acknowledge your child’s feelings. This simple step can shorten the tantrum dramatically. And it makes sense, when you think about it. Going back to our example of when you’ve been most upset: Imagine your friend looks you in the eye and says, “You’re upset. You were hoping that Billy was the person you were going to marry one day.” And then she gives you a hug. When we’re upset, we want to be heard. Labeling your emotion can help you calm down and move on. Your child is the same way. Here are a few examples of how to validate your child’s emotions without giving into his demands:

  • “You are so mad. You are showing me how much you wanted that candy.” (Source)
  • “I’m sorry you’re (state the emotion). When you calm down, I’ll give you a hug and we can talk about what happened.” (Source)
  • Use reflection. For example, if his arms are crossed: “Your arms are going like this (cross your arms). Your face looks like this (mirror his facial expression).” He will probably look at you, so take a deep breath. He might unconsciously take a deep breath with you. Then say: “You seem (state the emotion). You were wanting (state the desire).” (Source)
  • “I can see you’re really upset. I wish I could help you calm down right now. Here, why don’t you draw a picture that shows me how mad you are?” Replace drawing with any activity you think will be soothing to your kid or will help them redirect their energy to something positive. (Source)
  • “I love you no matter what you say, and you’re a good kid. But we need to take a break and then talk about this.” (Source)

If your child will let you, holding or hugging him can help calm him down, too. After six seconds, hugging releases happy hormones.

7. Role Model Calmness

As parents our job is to be a role model for the calm behavior you expect from your kids. PARENTING IS HARD. If you’re at home, try this advice to find a way to stay nearby your upset child and keep your cool:

“…stay within eyesight and direct your own attention to another activity until your child is calm. They will need you to role model how to calm down for them, so minimize your interaction until you’re both calm. If you can, try to role model calm activities by taking deep breaths, flipping through a magazine, or tidying up, for example.”

8. Make a Plan

Elementary-aged kids: With kids in this age range, it works well to come up with a “Calm-down Plan” ahead of time. Talk with your child and let him know it’s okay to be angry, but it’s important to deal with anger in a positive way, rather than screaming, throwing things, or name-calling. Keep the plan simple—one to two steps max—and role-play the plan to help your child practice. Some kids find it helpful to go to their room, listen to music, do something creative, punch a pillow, or do something active outside. The next time you notice your child is getting upset, remind him to do the activity you planned and then disengage by walking away. Take some time and space to yourself until he calms down. This might mean that you ride out the storm, so to speak, in a room with a locked door and ignore the screaming and pounding on the other side.  It might also be very helpful for you to set it up ahead of time so that your child can earn an incentive when he tries to calm himself down, which helps to motivate him to follow your instructions even in the heat of the moment.

9. Circle Back

When everyone is calm again, it’s tempting to sigh with relief and put the whole episode out of your mind. But if you want your child to learn how to self-regulate her emotions, it’s important to talk about what happened. This is a pain in the ass, and your child will pretty much hate it. But after you have talked, you will be glad you did. You do this in order to  reinforce why you said no, why their behavior was unacceptable, and most importantly – more positive ways for them to handle their emotions in the future. Your child’s favorite part of these talks should be: Role-playing. Pretend to get upset and stomp your feet or slam the door, then we’ll ask them, “Is that what we do when we’re upset?”  They will smile and say: “No!” Then the child will tell or show the more positive ways to handle feeling upset.

10. Make a Calm Down Basket


Inside the basket include a few short books, (No more than 5 minutes.)
some books about feelings, (including “Mad isn’t Bad” , “Hands are Not for Hitting” and “All Kinds of Feelings” )
a bell, A Mind Jar ,a mandala colouring book, a candle to light and a jar full of
calm down tasks.


When one of your kids gets angry they have to take a suggestion from the calm down jar.
On bits of paper write these suggestions to help your kids calm down and avoid an argument:

  • Take 10 Deep Breaths
  • Close your eyes and imagine your favorite color.
  • Think of a beautiful beach
  • Think of your favorite song
  • Shake the mind jar
  • Give mom a hug
  • Light a candle (with adult help)
  • Have a cup of tea
  • Drink some juice
  • Sit down & listen to some relaxing music
  • Read a story from the calm basket
  • Draw a picture of something calm
  • Time to play with the rice box
  • Do a puzzle
  • Draw a picture of your favorite ice cream
  • Color in a Mandala
  • Light an incense stick and sit calmly while it burns down.

Here are a few ways to reduce stress:

  • Take deep breaths – at least three.
  • Listen to music.
  • Hug or hold hands.img_7829
  • Chew Gum
  • Smell Lavender
  • Write or Art Project
  • Take a Walk or Hang out with your Pet
  • Laugh
  • Use a Mindful Jar (Calm Down Jar)

Tantrum Tamer: New Ways Parents Can Stop Bad Behavior

(article I found, from The Wallstreet Journal)

a set of techniques known as “parent management training” is proving so helpful to families struggling with a child’s unmanageable behavior that clinicians in the U.S. and the U.K. are starting to adopt them. Aimed at teaching parents to encourage sustained behavior change, it was developed in part at parenting research clinics at Yale University and King’s College London. Even violent tantrums, or clinging to the point of riding on a parent’s leg, can be curbed, researchers say. Instead, the training focuses on three components known as the ABCs: the Antecedent, or the environment and events that set the stage for a tantrum or other undesirable action. Then there is the Behavior itself, and how parents can help a child learn new behaviors, in some cases using pretend scenarios. The Consequences component involves reinforcing a positive behavior or discouraging a negative one.

These behaviors appear to be partly influenced by genetic factors, studies show, but parents can also inadvertently encourage them—for example, by paying attention only when the child screams or cries, but not when the child is playing quietly.

One major tenet is to reinforce desired behavior with praise and to ignore negative behavior. Using an enthusiastic tone of voice, parents should be specific about which behavior they are praising. Say, “I asked you to pick up that toy and you did it,” rather than, “You’re a good girl,” or “You make mommy happy.” Parents should also offer a touch, Dr. Kazdin says. It is useful to point out the desired behavior in other children“See how nicely that boy is playing with others”but parents should refrain from adding what he calls the “caboose”—a phrase like “Why can’t you do that?” Parents are the focus of the ABC techniques, but that doesn’t mean they are the cause of tantrums, Dr. Scott says. Parents, though, should model the behavior they want in their child, such as talking respectfully to each other if they want their child to talk nicely to friends.

How to Handle Temper Tantrums

Article I found by Becky A. Bailey, Ph.D.

A temper tantrum is an uncontrolled outburst of anger that usually arises from a child’s thwarted efforts to control a situation. The tantrum says, “I have tried desperately to make the world go my way. Now I’m frazzled. I feel terrified, helpless, and powerless.” Both children and adults have tantrums. Just watch the news, go to the mall, or take a trip in your car, and you’ll likely see at least one. Last week I caught myself having a fit because the elevator in a hotel was stopping at each floor to let people on and off, and I was late to a meeting. My behavior was ridiculous for two reasons:

  1. That’s what elevators do, they stop and let people on and off.
  2. I was somehow convinced that if I huffed, puffed, and looked at my watch enough, the elevator would get to the lobby quicker. I felt helpless and powerless to make the world go my way. I don’t always become so upset with elevators, but that day I was tired, hungry, and felt I was missing out on something that was important to me. From this inner state of fear, I acted out my emotions just like a child.

How do you respond when the world does not go your way? When it is 7:30 a.m. and the children should be dressed, should have eaten, and should be walking out the door? When someone cuts you off in traffic? Do you take a deep breath and calm yourself down, or do you rant and rave, blaming others for your tirade? Helping children handle their temper tantrums begins with adults learning how to regulate their own emotions.

Usually, when the world doesn’t seem go my way, I do the following: I take a deep breath and say to myself, “You’re safe, Becky. Keep breathing. You can handle this.” As you can imagine, this was not always my typical mantra. I have made a conscious effort to change my language, and accept life as it is instead of how I think it should be. Before, my inner speech would have been, “I can’t believe this is happening. It shouldn’t be this way. I don’t have to put up with this,” etc. By changing how I respond internally to my own fits, I have also been able to respond to children more productively.

How to Help Children Handle their Feelings and Control their Tempers

Tantrums are typical for children between fifteen months and three years of age. How we help them manage themselves during this period of life creates a blueprint for how they will self-regulate and handle stress for the rest of their lives. The fact that I am still having adult tantrums (fits of judgment and blame) at the age of 58 speaks volumes for the remedial work many of us need to do so we can help our children learn more effective coping skills. We must focus on helping children handle intense emotions instead of trying to stop, ignore, distract from, punish with time-outs, or just “get through” them. We must actively use times of upset to respond in ways that wire children’s brains for future self-regulation.

Our response to their intense upset is the key. We can respond in a way that encourages more tantrums by giving into their demands. We can also respond by doing nothing, allowing the tantrums to evolve as the child grows older. This evolution of tantrums might go as follows: Young children throw themselves on the floor, yell and shout. Older children scream back at you using hurtful words. Teenagers slam the bedroom door and yell curse words. And I huff and puff, internally ranting about incompetent elevator designers and people who shouldn’t be getting on and off my elevator! Alternately, we could lay the foundation for positive life skills by responding to children in a way that teaches them to self-regulate.

Redirecting a tantrum once it is set in action is impossible. At that time, our role as parents is to help coach our children through recovery. The following suggestions will get you started:

Always remember to discipline yourself first and your child second: Take several deep belly breaths before you begin to speak. Make your insides as calm as you would like the child’s to become. Any time your child is experiencing a difficult emotion, it is helpful to breathe deeply and say to him/her, “You’re safe. You can handle this. Breathe with me.”

Use empathy and reflection: This will help your child become conscious of himself or herself, and begin the process of moving from a very disorganized state to a more organized state.

Step 1: Say what you see. “Your arms are going like this (demonstrate). Your face looks like this (demonstrate).” At this point, your child is likely to look at you. Take another deep breath. Due to the mirror neuron system in the brain, your child is likely to unconsciously take a deep breath with you.

Step 2: Reflect back the emotion you hear. “You seem (state the emotion).” Then state the desired goal. “You were hoping (state the desire),” or, “You were wanting (state the desire).” If you are truly calm and offering this from your heart, the child will become organized enough to handle making a choice.

End by offering the child two choices that are both acceptable to you: “You may (positive choice #1) or (positive choice #2). Which is better for you?” This will shift the focus to what you want the child to do.
Let’s try it with a common example: You’re checking out at the grocery store. Your child asks for some candy. You say, “No.” Your child is obviously not pleased with your answer. Her face immediately contorts as she crosses her arms. Start the process quickly, as soon as you see the emotion begin to show in her body.

Say, “Your arms are crossed like this (demonstrate from a calm and loving state). Your face is going like this (demonstrate).”

As the child looks at you, take a deep breath. The child might now say, “I hate you, shut up!”

Your response is, “You seem angry. You were hoping to get some candy. It’s hard to wait.” Take another deep breath and say, “You’re safe. Breathe with me. You can handle this.”

Finally, offer two positive choices by saying, “You have a choice. You can have a snack in your car seat or have a snack when we get home. Which do you choose?”

Free Printable For Parents – How To Handle Tantrums in a Toddlerssbe_quick-guide-handling-tantrums


Original Sources:


Mother, Pediatric Nurse and a Trail Blazer for Positive Change.

2 thoughts on “9 Parenting Tips for Temper Tantrums (printable)

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