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How to Stop a Tantrum

Tantrums are not fun. Every parent has a couple of stories to tell… of being out in public and suddenly finding yourself doing battle with a toddler or preschooler who just totally loses it. Within minutes they may be screaming, flailing limbs, refusing any type of effort to calm down and be reasonable. When this happens, the parent doesn’t have many options, other than to wait it out, threaten, plead. Once you’ve experienced a full-blown tantrum, you don’t want to experience it ever again.

This happened to me, and I came up with a solution that worked. With just a little bit of effort the tantrum can be diffused. Here’s how:


Begin to tell your child a story about what he/she is experiencing. This technique is so easy to do. Here are the steps:

1. Begin with “Once upon a time…” This sentence alone will often grab his attention.

2. “…there was a little boy named _____…” Use your child’s name. This is very important. He needs to know your story is about him.

3. “…who was out shopping with his mommy…” Set the scene. Describe the situation. Describe the problem. Use details.

4. Mention your child’s feelings. Chances are he’s feeling anger, frustration, sadness, fear, or hurt. Make a guess. If you get it wrong, he’ll let you know. You can include your feelings as well, but describe his first.

5. Soon, he begins to participate in the story. He may ask a question, or clarify something you said. Repeat back what he says and include it in the story.

6. You’ll know when the crisis is over. He begins to breathe normally. His attention has shifted and he begins to take an interest in other things. Allow the conversation to move on. You can give him a hug if it feels appropriate.


Children love stories. And they especially like to hear about themselves.

But, most important, we all need to have our feelings heard and validated. Repeating back to our child what just happened and how they feel about it is a validation. Nothing is more comforting than to know you are heard and your feelings are understood.

For further reading: I’d like to recommend one of my favorite parenting/communication books. This book is awesome and has valuable advice for communicating and improving all your relationships:


How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

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