7 ways to stop a tantrum

What can you do to when your child has a tantrum? For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children follow this blog or get my book Homemade Kids, out of the library. This post is by Nicola Baird, also see www.nicolabaird.com

Reward good behaviour, ignore the bad. Here's the famous thumbs up in Trafalgar Square by David Shrigley to remind you of that maxim. (c) homemade kids

Reward good behaviour, ignore the bad. Here’s the famous thumbs up in Trafalgar Square by David Shrigley to remind you of that maxim. (c) homemade kids

My daughters are definitely too old to be having tantrums – they are 15 and 18. But recently I spent a couple of nights in a house with two primary school aged children and realised how much I’d forgotten about negotiating with little kids. How do you get them to go to bed? How do you get them to get up? How do you get them to get dressed? Or eat breakfast? And how do you do all that so you can arrive at their classroom without being late?

Anyone who manages this, regularly, even if not every day deserves a medal. Or should be volunteering to sort out Theresa May’s Brexit problems.

Tips and tricks
But when you are in the midst of dealing with little kids then there are some techniques that can help make life a little less tricky.

Your child has switched from super happy to impossible. They are lying on the pavement refusing to move… What next:

  1. Try asking them to get up… (only once. It might work)
  2. Avoid raising the stakes. Pinch yourself to prevent this happening. If you end up saying “if you don’t get up I’ll never buy you sweets again,” they’ll know there is NO way you are going to keep your threat. If you are like me you tend to use threats that were things you were actually looking forward to doing, like going to the park or feeding a friend’s pet rabbit.
  3. Never threaten because this is a toddler tantrum. You need to rethink fast…
  4. Try humour. I can’t carry you because “I’ve got a bone in my leg” is baffling and funny (for a young child). Will it work?
  5. Try distraction. Look there’s (name a friend) let’s go and see what’s in their lunch box/book bag/ whatever springs to mind.
  6. Try better distraction. “Oh my word, there goes a blue unicorn down the high street…”
  7. Deal with it. OK nothing has worked. Your tot is definitely embarassing you. Don’t worry, everyone who has a had a child has been in this situation. And so they should. Either wait until s/he’s bored or exhausted by this behaviour and then without making it into a big deal walk on. The school door is waiting.
Tantrums don't last - but reacting the wrong way to them can make managing small children much harder. (c) homemade kids

Tantrums don’t last – but reacting the wrong way to them can make managing small children much harder. (c) homemade kids

On reflection
Figure out what might be the problem. It won’t be obvious – maybe it’s just that your child is tired, hungry or doesn’t want to be parted from you. In our family we used this phrase “Are you struggling with your big girl self?” far too much (and just occasionally I even wheel it out now). The kids grew to hate it, but I think it helped them recognise when their emotions were taking over.

If it’s simply that your child has no power and wants attention then aim to do more rewarding good behaviour and ignoring bad. It may seem impossible, but every fight lost is going to make the next stress point slightly harder.

Good luck, do you have any tips or tantrum stories?

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One Comment on “7 ways to stop a tantrum”


  1. Very good tips Nicola. My favourite was always distraction. Sometimes there’s nothing to do but wait until it’s over though!


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