It’s natural to have tantrums; adults have them all the time. We can lose our temper when someone cuts us off in traffic or when our kids don’t listen. Maturing is all about managing our emotions more effectively, and it’s a lifetime project. Tantrums can’t be completely avoided, but we can impact how often and how long they go on by the way we respond to our children’s outbursts.

When we yell or give in, we’re relieving our own distress rather than helping our children develop self-control and will only make things worse.

What to do:

Get yourself to a calm and assertive state: The first order of business is to get yourself under control; get calm, rather than trying to get your child under control. Put the effort there. Take a walk around the house, count to 100, and take your own timeout. Call a friend. Do whatever you can do to get yourself under control, but again, try not to lose your temper. Remember, you’re just trying to be the anchor in the storm that’s calming the system down. If one person in a system can stay relatively calm, that’s the best way to quiet any kind of upset or tantrum.

Your child needs to learn how to control emotions, we can’t control them: Remember, you are not responsible for the choices your child makes. Rather, you are responsible for how you choose to handle those choices. Try not to get engaged by your kids’ angry outbursts.  If it doesn’t capture you, it won’t capture them. Stay focused on staying calm. Do not react by yelling, worrying, hovering or giving in—all typical things that we do as parents.   Remember, anxiety is contagious, and so is calm.

Do not give into your child’s request: If you give in to your child’s requests when he has an outburst, it will set up a pattern where you create more tantrums. In effect, you’ve taught your child that the best way to get what he wants is to scream, yell and be out of control.

If you’re in public place, you can simply explain that your child is having a hard time, excuse yourself and move out of the situation. Leave the room, go to the car, or go home.  Remember, you don’t want to give the tantrum attention, either positively or negatively.

Isolate your child: Put your younger child in his room or in some spot where he can have a timeout or cooling off period and learn how to soothe himself. Make sure you’re not continually engaging him in his tantrum.  When the child is calm is when you can discuss what is upsetting them.

Teach your child: Parents are the teachers. Your children can’t handle these strong emotions yet and it’s our job to help them learn how to do that. Remember, they are testing you—and believe it or not, they truly want you to win this particular test. On the surface, your child really wants you to give in, but on another level, he wants to see that there are strong parents in the room. Kids want to know that their parents are sturdy, strong and reliable and are people who mean what they say. They don’t want parents who are going to fall apart. They need us to stay anchored and be the disciplinarian.  That is what the NEED.

Dealing with Child Temper Tantrums from Toddler to Pre-teen is reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents.