Sometimes, you can turn off the tears.

How to De-Escalate a Tantrum

by Candice Coleman

While temper tantrums are common among toddlers and young children, you still might feel uncomfortable and embarrassed if your little one starts kicking, crying and screaming in the grocery store when you tell him that the candy is off limits. While you may not be successful every time, there's are things you can do to avoid a temper tantrum -- or cut them short. You can also rest assured that you're not the only parent who has to deal with temper tantrums.

Offer a distraction. For example, if your toddler begins crying and fussing because he wants to go home with his cousins, suggest doing an activity together that your child enjoys. You might say, "I have a fun idea. Let's find that new coloring book and color some pictures together." This might be enough to distract him from his frustration and de-escalate the tantrum.

Consider a time-out from the situation that is causing the temper tantrum. If your child is taking on a task that's too difficult, or wants something that you don't want her to have, consider moving her to a quiet place for a short time where she can calm down and gain control, notes the Boston Children's Hospital website.

Keep calm yourself during the tantrum. Shouting, threatening or spanking your child will only make the tantrum worse, notes the AskDrSears website. Staying firm and not bribing your child can de-escalate the tantrum and possibly prevent others in the future.

Pretend not to notice the tantrum. Ignoring the outburst can show your toddler that the tantrum will not benefit him, notes the KidsHealth website. If your child is in a safe place where he cannot get hurt, it's OK to walk away and pretend that the tantrum isn't occurring.

Consider whether your child is hungry or tired -- and if these factors are contributing to his tantrum. If this is the case, offering food or encouraging your child to take a nap can de-escalate the tantrum.

Determine whether a power struggle is worth it. If you child is starting to go into tantrum mode because he wants a snack before dinner or wants more dessert, it might be worth it to let him have what he wants. Holding firm can create a temper tantrum when one need not occur, note the KidsHealth website. Letting some battles go can keep harmony between you and your tot.


  • If temper tantrums occur frequently, talk to your child's pediatrician about other methods that may help.

About the Author

Candice Coleman worked in the public school system as a middle school and high school substitute teacher. In addition to teaching, she is also a tutor for high school and college students.

Photo Credits

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