One of the biggest realities we face as parents are that our children might not always be the “angels” we see them as. Realistically, there will be times of pouting, crying, kicking, and screaming. When you’re faced with a child’s tantrum, it’s easy to feel at a loss or even let your own emotions get the best of you as their parent. 

The best way to handle a tantrum is to stop them before they start. While this could seem like an impossible feat, here are a few strategies to help you through it:

Fill Your Child’s Attention

While it may seem like there aren’t enough minutes in a day, it’s important to devote time and undivided attention to your child. Take 10 to 15 minutes a day to do exactly what your child wants to do. Spend time, just the two of you, to give your child attention and show them that you acknowledge what they want to do. Whether this is – playing marbles, catching balls, hitting tennis balls, shooting hoops, jumping on the trampoline, playing Connect 4 or other board games, baking cookies, etc––your undivided attention will do wonders. 

By filling up their need for attention with these 15 minutes of one on one time, you’re likely to see a decrease in the number of tantrums they throw. 

Cover the Basics

Throughout the day, especially when they are young, a child will have endless needs. Tantrums can start from the simplest mishaps or frustration. To stop a tantrum before it starts, cover all the basics of your child’s needs. Think about if they could be hungry, need a nap, could use some playtime, or even just a hug. Cover these basics by giving them snacks throughout the day, scheduling designated nap times, and some attention. This will make your child feel loved and comfortable, decreasing the likelihood of a tantrum.

Help Them Through Emotions

Just as you’ve taught your child to talk and walk, it is equally important to teach them to understand their emotions. Children are often buckets of unfiltered emotions. Helping them to understand and cope with their emotions is one of the best ways to prevent an outburst. It’s important to empathize with and validate your child when it comes to their feelings because in their early ages it’s the first time they are truly experiencing these strong emotions. It can be just as overwhelming and surprising for them as it is for you. 

To help them understand their emotions, react appropriately by using your words to explain. Address why they are feeling this way, how they can approach this emotion, and how to cope with it. Talking them through it can deescalate the situation and stop a tantrum in its tracks.

Set Expectations

Again. It is our job as parents to teach our children. Another lesson they must learn is to meet expectations. For your child to know something is wrong and that they are disobeying you, it’s imperative to set your expectations. Frustration (for adults and children) is often a result of unmet expectations. One of the reasons your child may have a tantrum is due to the fact they’re getting in trouble for something they didn’t know they couldn’t do.

For example, no matter how clear it is to us as adults, a toddler will not automatically know that painting on the walls is wrong. This is why parents must always set clear and concise expectations. These expectations do not have to be radical, but simple and easy to understand. When you put the paintbrush in their hand, tell them that you expect them to only paint on the paper you give them and nowhere else. Clear guidelines such as these may help prevent an outburst or tantrum later on.