Tips for Taming a Tantrum

Behavior and Discipline

Youve seen one in the grocery store, at the park or maybe in your own home. Its a childs tantrum, and it can make the calmest parents lose their cool.

Tantrums are completely normal and are part of growing up, says child development and behavior expert Betsy Brown Braun, of Pacific Palisades, Calif. They are a result of kids being frustrated when they cant express what they want, have what they want or do what they want. The frustration builds, until they explode.

So whats a parent to do?

Keep the child and others safe, Brown Braun says. Step away but stay close by; your presence is grounding.

When the tantrum is over, ask your child if he needs a hug.

Or ask something like, Shall we go outside and look for squirrels? she suggests. Often, an abrupt change in focus works.

Psychologist Robert Epstein, of San Diego, taught his 3-year-old stepdaughter, Amber, a calming technique normally used in childbirth.

We say, Blow my head off, and she does a big blow right in our faces, like the cleansing breath in Lamaze, Epstein says. Blowing interrupts the escalation and calms her down almost immediately.

Brown Braun advises against giving in to a childs demands. Children learn to use words and express frustration more appropriately if they arent rewarded for raging. She also tells parents not to take tantrums personally.

Its not about you! she says. Remember, its your childs job. Hes growing up and figuring out how to make things happen for him.

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