As parents, we’ve all been through them: the crying, the screaming, the flailing, the complete loss of control (sometimes on our part, too!). Some of our children have mastered them, whereas others may be less experienced, but no matter the child or the parent, we’ve all dealt with the temper tantrum.
Often, parents’ early interventions to end the tantrum include calm comforting and/or reasoning, but as the tantrum persists and even intensifies, they may devolve into yelling, threatening, or punishing. As any parent can attest to, none of these work.
The reason behind it is really very simple (albeit maybe not very rational): current research has demonstrated that virtually ANY intervention only increases the magnitude of the tantrum. Both positive and negative efforts exacerbate a child’s behaviors. So instead, parents should work on remaining calm themselves, and say very little. Remain with the child, and offer maybe one comment, such as, “You are mad. I am here to help you feel better.” Then ignore everything that comes after that. When your child begins to take that shuddering breath, and he or she seems to be calming down, that is the point at which you can intervene and move forward.
At Georgetown Psychology Associates, we offer support services for families with common parenting concerns, as well as therapeutic services for children struggling with emotional regulation and behavior management. Contact us to set up an appointment or to learn more.