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10 Tips to Help Calm a Tantrum

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Dear Tantrums,

I hate you. For real though, does anyone not despise the dreaded tantrum phase? The only people I can think of that enjoy them are actually my parents. I’m sure when they see my daughter scream “NO! I don’t wanna go to the park!” they laugh inside at the sweet revenge. What kid says no to going to a park anyways? I was THAT kid that threw herself on the floor when I didn’t get my way. I’ve seen kids as young as 8 months old giving looks that turn into a full blown throw-yourself-on-the-floor-fit. My 2.5 year has had her fair share of fits and until I figured out what to do, I would get so flustered and embarrassed.  While we can’t always avoid a public fit or tantrum, there are definitely ways to calm your child down.

We need to remember that there are usually reasons why a child is acting out or throwing a fit. Is it a communication issue? Are they just trying to get more attention? Are they hungry? Tired? Over-stimulated? I attended a Love & Logic seminar and because of that I feel like somewhat of an expert now. Hehe. Totally kidding…. With my background in Psychology and being a natural observer, I’ve learned a lot just by simply watching how parents interact with their children. I started taking notes (in my brain) on what seemed to work and what didn’t way before my husband and I even started entertaining the idea of having kids! Ever since my Child Psychology classes in college, I have found children’s personalities to be fascinating! The Love and Logic seminar just confirmed many of these things I’ve learned. I’m no expert when it comes to discipline and I am still learning patience, talking less as well when to just throw in the towel and choose my battles. Sometimes we just need to breathe and reboot!

When reading these tips, please remember that NONE of us are perfect. This post shares my opinions based on my personal experiences; not because I am an expert. Also, remind yourself that everyone is different, including every child. Just because something works for you doesn’t mean it will work for the next parent. Please share your tips in the comments as they might be beneficial to another reader!

Parenting is one of the hardest jobs on the planet. Raising a child might come easy to some, but raising a GOOD child is not. Hopefully my tips below will help you on those rough days…

  1. Problem Solve and Prevent – I said above that there are usually reasons why your kid is having a fit. Start keeping track of when these tantrums are happening. Are they always in the morning when you’re trying to get them dressed? Maybe adjust their bedtime; they could be tired. Is it happening after school when you’re trying to get them to do homework? Perhaps they have low blood sugar and are hungry. Try to find a pattern so you can pin point the reason for the tantrum.
  2. Remain Calm – When you see the tantrum starting, get down on your knees to your child’s eye level so that you are not the dominant one. Ask them in a calm voice what is going on and point to the things around them while asking questions. Sometimes just being empathetic and understanding can help calm your frustrated little one down. Kids need to be taught how to express their emotions and we are here to help them. Things such as “I know it’s hard right now that you can’t have that toy, but maybe another time” or “I know you’re very frustrated that you can’t explain to me what is going on, but lets try to figure it out” can work wonders. I find that talking to children in a calm, non-patronizing way can really help. There’s no need to frustrate them more. Remind yourself that your child is just as frustrated as you are.
  3. Consistent Phrases and “comebacks”  – No, I don’t mean be sarcastic with a comeback! In fact, you should never be sarcastic. Sarcasm is angers nasty cousin and our goal is to remain calm. Having a few key phrases in your back pocket will help you feel more confident in your decision to say no and not back down. Knowing what I’m going to say BEFORE the tantrum starts has been a lifesaver to me. I feel better knowing that I’m prepared when the monster starts to surface. You have to figure out which phrases sound the most natural to you. I find myself saying “What a bummer”, “How Sad”, and “I can’t understand whining. Come back to me when you can be sweet.” Love and Logic gives some simple phrase suggestions…
  • I love you too much to argue.
  • I understand.  I bet it feels that way.
  • What a bummer.
  • I’d be happy to talk with you when your voice sounds as calm as mine.
  • What do you think you are going to do about that problem?

4. Choices  A major Love and Logic technique is giving your child choices. Instead of fighting with your child and trying to win an argument, give them choices. It’s a bit of reverse psychology because you’re actually letting them THINK they won. Teaching your child how to make the right choice NOW is how they learn to make the right choice later in life. One of our goals as parents is to let our children choose affordable choices verses unaffordable choices. ie Affordable is choosing the wrong option at lunch vs Not buckling up in the car. If your little one doesn’t want to make a choice, they choose to go to their room until they are ready to be sweet and nice.

    • Would you like peanut butter and jelly or a quesadilla for lunch? You’re ok with either choice, but by letting the child think they’re making a choice, they will more than likely choose one of the 2 options and you end up eating a peaceful lunch.
    • Do you want to watch tv for another 15 minutes or do you want an extra book at bedtime?
    • Do you want to eat your dinner or go to your room?

5. Redirect – This still works from time to to time with my 2.5 year old, but I’d suggest this for the younger crowd. If your little one is having a fit, bring them to another room, give them a snack or a new toy. Their attention span is so short that they’re bound to get caught up in something else that’s more exciting!

6. Give your child some attention – More often than not I really do think that a temper tantrum is because someone needs a little love. Stop what you’re doing – the dishes, the texts and the adult conversations can wait. Sit on the floor and give your sweet little nugget some undivided attention.

7. Ignore it – These beautiful little beings that surround us everyday are human too and even they are allowed a bad day here and there. Don’t forget to make sure your child is in a safe place while throwing that needed tantrum. You’ll be there for them when they are done pouting, but you certainly don’t want them climbing on their dresser and having it come crashing down on them.

8. Take it away – My daughter would LOSE it when I would take my iPhone away from her because it was bedtime, dinner, bath time etc. I finally told her that toys that make you cry get taken away and put into timeout. You know what? It worked!

9. Setting a timer – Give your child warnings such as “in 5 minutes we need to pick up the toys”. Once the timer goes off, we all clean up. I give my daughter things to pick up. ie pick up all the blue toys or all the puzzle pieces. Don’t just give a demand such as “PICK UP ALL THE TOYS!” I’m a list maker – do laundry, write a blog post, go to the park. etc and I know if someone told me to get organized and get all the chores done, I’d be very overwhelmed.

10. Be Creative – Another strategy to prevent a tantrum when asking for something to get done  is to make clean up a game. ie lets see who can pick up the most toys the fastest!

My final thoughts are that remaining patient is so important. Keep your frustrations and anger in check and try to not flip out. What may seem trivial to us adults is a big deal to children because they dont understand otherwise. Tantrums typically end around 2 because they are starting to communicate their feelings more. Give your child a hug and try to get them to communicate. And then put your pajamas on as soon as the kids go to bed and treat yourself! You deserve it!

What are your tips for calming a temper tantrum?

Interested in reading Love and Logic? You can buy it here. The Love and Logic philosophy works and you can start the day your little one is born. It is not just a discipline book or a guide to raising a responsible kid, but one that talks about potty training, bedtime whining and more. There are some excellent principles that I think many of us can learn from! I also encourage you to search the website to see if there is a seminar in your area. They also have a Facebook page and post questions for followers. They always get me thinking about how I would handle a situation. I probably sound like a Love and Logic ad, but I’m not!

If you want a free Love and Logic catalogue of tips click here and look on the right sidebar.

Another great discipline book is 1, 2, 3, Magic. You can buy it here. This book really reinforces talking less which is great when you feel like all you do is say no all day long!

Click here to read our 10 Tips for Potty Training. Patience is a common theme!

10 Tips for Potty Training a Strong Willed Child by www.thepinningmama.comAnd Simple Tips to Empower Your Child if They Get Losttips-if-lost-300x300


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    • Ashley says

      I never imagined reading a parenting book and actually using their techniques and listening to their advice. These two books have proven to be helpful though!

  1. says

    Hug your child, talk in a low calm voice and give him a foot rub. Lavender essential oil is widely used for its calming effects. For young children I would recommend combining a drop with a carrier oil (fractionated coconut oil, sweet almond or olive oil) with a drop of lavender and massage it into the bottoms of each foot. Wish I had essential oils when my 3 stair-step boys were toddlers!

    Michelle @ On A Wing And A Prayer

    • Ashley says

      What an amazing tip! I used to put a little lavender in baby lotion before bedtime bc of its relaxing components. Thank you for sharing!!

    • Ashley says

      I gave my parents the book so they could be on the same page as me. :) It has helped so much when we are around them!

    • Ashley says

      I hope you get to use them someday too. :) I saw that you shared on twitter too. Thank you so much! Xx

  2. Mom in High Heels says

    Great post. My older son was a fairly easy toddler, and my current toddler is easy by other people’s standards, but to me (compared to my older son), he’s a whirlwind. He’s mostly easy going, but when he’s mad and doesn’t get his way, he can go insane. Okay, not insane, but can pitch quite the fit. I generally ignore it until he calms down or try to redirect (that usually doesn’t work, but I try). I found ignoring it to be more effective with him. Once he calms down, I give him attention, and all is well.
    I’ve tried offering him a choice, and he’ll just look at me and say “okay.” Me: Do you want kiwi or grapes with lunch. Him: Okay! He loves fruit and would eat nothing but if I let him. I’ve also tried the whole 1,2,3 thing, but he just picks up at 4 and counts to 12 (not bad for a 2 year old!). One day he just clapped and said “Yay! Mommy can count!” *Sigh*
    If he’s having a fit, I generally know that it’s because he’s tired, hungry, confused, scared or a combination of any of those. When it gets to me, I just remind myself that one day it will end, and part of me will miss the toddler days.

    • says

      Thanks for the comment! You have some great insights! Isn’t it crazy how different each kid can be? And then just when you think you have it figured out it changes! Different things work better at different ages. Hang in there mama! It sounds like you are doing a great job!

  3. says

    It is important to remember that there is always a reason behind a tantrum. It may not seem important to us, but not getting that lollipop seems like the end of the world for a toddler. My preschooler still has tantrums sometimes and we just let her be upset; I’ll ask if she wants me to sit with her and she almost always says yes. That way she just knows I’m there.

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