8 parent-tested ways to tame your tot's tantrums
As a parent of a toddler, I’m guessing you probably carry around one of those pocket-sized antibacterial sprays for skinned knees and the like. Those things are brilliant.
Well, I have found a very lucrative niche market for some entrepreneurial soul to exploit (concept is open to any developers, provided I get free samples!). What parents of the world really need is a pocket spray that doesn’t counteract germs, but instead knocks out those other terrors of toddlerhood: tantrums.
Sigh. In the meantime, I’ve taken a poll among fantastic parents, experts, and know-it-alls with no children (okay, not them), and compiled a list of clever counter-attacks proven to stop tantrums in their tracks. Most of the time.
A few guidelines before I begin:
- Do NOT try to reason with a raging toddler. This is an exercise in frustration for everyone, mostly you. They have no sense of — or patience for — reason, and, frankly, why do you want to make your own headache worse?
- Don’t give in. It sets a precedent, and your child will just try it again next time (hey, it worked last time, right?).
- Master the art of distraction. This is the key to EVERYTHING. This, and one of those tiny desktop Zen gardens. (Wait. On second thought, don’t get the Zen garden. It looks like a fun, sandy toy and will probably provoke a hellish fit somewhere down the line. Just imagine the Zen garden.)
And now, you are ready to try any or all of these tantrum-taming techniques — one is bound to work on your kid!
- Just breathe. I have a friend who calms her little one down by breathing slowly. It takes a minute or two, but eventually, her tot starts breathing in rhythm with mama, and the tantrum passes.
I do a variation of this with my kids: I hold up a finger, and have them try to blow out the “candle” with a big, slow breath. Then they hold up a “candle,” and I blow it out. This almost always works with my daughter, and occasionally works with my son. He likes it when I blow out the “candle” very hard in his face — or when he huffs and puffs so strongly that it knocks me over. (He will probably grow up to love The Three Stooges.)
- Give up. This is NOT the same as giving in. One good friend tried hard-lining it with her kiddo for months, to no avail. Finally, one day, she sat down in defeat on the sidewalk (she didn’t give him whatever he was screaming for, mind you, she just stopped fighting). Guess who toddled quietly into her lap for a hug?
- Try a one-two punch approach (no ACTUAL punching involved). Left hook: Blow in his ear. This startles him out of his screaming rut just long enough for you to change the mood. Right jab: Immediately after puffing, do something completely silly (make a funny face, howl like a coyote, whatever). If it’s really bizarre, your little one will have to laugh, and voilà! Crisis averted!
- Whisper. Your kid will have to stop screaming in order to hear you. Whispering the lines of a favorite song or book (or just a repetitive phrase) might get him to listen harder, too.
- Feed ’em. Maybe he’s just hungry. You know the old adage, “Starve a cold, feed a tantrum.” Or something like that.
- Whip out your bag of tricks. The novelty of a sparkly new something is an excellent way to distract your little love from whatever frustration is causing him to go crazy. My husband calls this the “Ooh, look! Goldfish!” tactic. So keep a small, portable bag full of games, stickers, feathers (and anything else that is enticing at the dollar store) at the ready. Just think of it as an emergency go bag — without the dehydrated food rations and waterproof matches.
And if you don’t happen to have your bag handy, you can use other “toys,” such as your smartphone, which you can load up with a few easy, bright apps for kids.
No smartphone? Jingle your keys. Toddlers love keys. Also wallets and purses, and anything else they’re not allowed to explore. Oh, but if you’re in public, don’t offer the wallet or purse unless you want to chase the contents all over the floor in front of snickering passersby.
- Ignore it. (My personal favorite go-to tactic.) Just let the tantrum run its course and pretend it’s not happening. Anyone in the grocery store who might be casting angry glares, frankly, deserves to suffer through it. They were children once and will likely have children of their own, eventually. Anyone who HAS children is ignoring you with extreme sympathy. Look around. Most people are wearing commiserating smiles.
Note: If, while ignoring him, you walk away from your small banshee, just keep him in your line of sight, and make sure there’s nothing around (stacks of canned tomato sauce, barbeque skewers, etc.) that might actually hurt him.
- Invest in a package of industrial-strength earplugs. Just as an added measure of security. If you can’t hear it, it’s not really happening, right?
Huh? What did you say? I can’t hear you over the screaming.