Child Tantrums

Child Tantrums: Top Three Mistakes Parents Make

child tantrumsEver feel like you live with a volcano? And at the slightest misstep—for instance, serving a side of green beans for dinner instead of cheese puffs—the child tantrums begin as your child spews hot ash (or emit glass-breaking screams while kicking the wall hard enough to leave a mark) all over the house?

Whether you’re dealing with toddlers that refuse to wear clothes or teens that won’t do their homework, the emotion-filled explosion known as child tantrums are unmistakable—but it can be avoided. In this two-part series, we’ll take a look at the “why’s” of child tantrums, and give you some hope—through strategies you can put to use right away—that your child doesn’t always have to erupt into a meltdown every time you say the word, “no.”

First, let’s look at what parents do to make child tantrums worse. Remember, you can’t control another person—but you can control yourself. Avoid these three mistakes, and you’ll be well on your way to cooling the hot tempers in your own home.

  • Child Tantrum-Taming Mistake #1: Extinguishing the emotion. In the same way you can’t make Emily understand that no, she can never roller-skate through the house, you also won’t be able to get her to think rationally about whether or not she should be screaming until she turns purple. Your well-meant, “It’s okay, have a drink of water, want to do a puzzle?” and so forth will fall on deaf ears (or get drowned out). It’s because your child is in a state of high emotion, and can’t logically consider your words. What’s more, by providing feedback, you reinforce the bad behavior by letting her know that her tantrum is a great way to get your attention.
  • Child Tantrum-Taming Mistake #2: Putting out the fire. Why do little tykes always choose the line at the bank (or grocery store, or post office, etc) to pitch a fit? Because they know you’re more likely to cave if you have an audience. The truth is, you have to stand firm—even if that means exiting the line and heading to the car for a cool-down. Whenever you give in to a child tantrum of any kind after you’ve said no, you let your child know that throwing a fit, and sticking to it, will get him exactly what he wants.
  • Child Tantrum-Taming Mistake #3: Fueling the flames. If you’re like many parents, your child’s tantrums often make you want to join in. But next time you’re about to lose your temper and embark on a tantrum of your own, don’t. Shouting, spanking and other negative reactions, including punishment, only make a child tantrum worse. As a power-seeking behavior, a tantrum seeks to get a rise out of someone, and by showing your child how upset she made you, you provide a payoff. The child will keep “tantruming” because even negative power is still power. Keeping your cool will help your little one simmer down much faster.

In the next post, we’ll cover sure-fire ways to stop a child tantrum in its tracks, and cut down on the number of tantrums you face from your kids.

About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.