Read until the end for your sensory break freebie!
Loud, wildly unpredictable, comes at the absolute worst time and has the power to leave us panicked and embarrassed. No, not the time your stomach wrecked havoc on you at the height of your trip to Mexico- we’re talking all about tantrums.
It’s hard to keep up with all the trends when it comes to how to best run behavior management at home or in the classroom. And when you finally find a strategy that works?
Invite it over for drinks and then promptly show it the door, because it most likely won’t work as effectively for another child.
This is the uphill battle that I’ve faced as a teacher, and in speaking to dozens of parents, I’m seeing a pattern that many are feeling helpless, confused and at wit’s end when it comes to cracking the code on tantrums.
Before diving into de-escalation, it’s important to understand what a tantrum is. A tantrum is a form of communication and a need for connection. It's normal. It's likely developmentally appropriate for your child and it is a sign that they are ready for some more coping tools.
Rachel Samson, M. Psych says, “Tolerating and regulating emotions is a capacity that develops slowly across childhood, like talking, walking, reading and making friends. Children must be effectively soothed by a parent in order to eventually develop the capacity to regulate their own emotions.”.
It is challenging enough for children to navigate their own muddled puddle of feelings, without ours interfering (inevitably escalating theirs further as a result of them being overwhelmed). Transforming Toddlerhood has helped us to play the observer during tantrums so that we can step back and focus on their emotional and social needs vs. unproductive punishment.
Only you will know what works best for your child, but here are some strategies from teachers and mothers that you might find helpful:
- I name their feeling: “You must feel sad because you can’t get that toy.”. This helps emphasize what they are trying to express. -Susan B.
- I give clear timelines (in 5 minutes we will be doing…) to help prevent tantrums and limited choices that have the same outcome, “I see you are upset and don’t want to leave because you are having so much fun but you need to get some rest! Do you want to walk upstairs? Or do you want me to carry you?”. -Sarah P.
- I use when/ then sentence stems instead of giving too many options. “When you pick up these toys, then we can enjoy a snack of your choice.” -Anonymous
- We lay out expectations and give her space within the same room. If she continues to have a hard time regulating, then we sit her in her comfy chair and talk it out and make a plan and relax. It’s definitely not easy and my husband and I sometimes need to tag each other in to take a breather to remind ourselves that they don’t know how to express themselves or problem solve yet. -Katie M.
- We stop and jump! Holding both hands in mine, I help propel them upward and we jump, jump, jump! The physical motion helps get out the anger and recenter ourselves. -Jennifer (@brightmamalight)
Take-aways: In order for our children to be calm, we must first remain calm. Give yourself grace (you are killing it and we see you!). Whatever type of parenting you want to call it, choose to be assertive, but receptive to modeling, experimenting and active listening. Be a bridge that leads your children from feeling to safe choices.
When we are proactive instead of reactive, we will find that regulating our own emotions in the moment (e.g., take a sensory break by lighting a candle, a breath of fresh air, squeeze an emergency stress ball, visualize a happy moment or milestone in your child’s life, or listen to relaxing music or nature sounds) will help set us up for success so that our own fatigue/ frustrations are not projected onto the child who is desperately trying to communicate a need in the best way, in that moment, they know how.
Instead of panic & provoke, rest & I.N.V.E.S.T
Interrupt your own anger & embarrassment with a grounding strategy
Neutralize the situation by getting to their level to make eye contact
Validate their emotions: “I see that you are feeling…”
Suggest sensory activities to de-escalate (Grab your freebie below!)
Talk out a plan together
Our favorite, free sensory activity? The social-emotional learning dice! Includes breathing exercises, affirmations and stretches to use on the go when you need it the most. Click the picture to grab this freebie!