How to Calm a Tantrum with Just One Simple Question

· December 2, 2017

Did you know it’s possible to neutralize your child’s tantrum with just one question? No, you don’t need to be a magician. You just need to use a little applied psychology with your little ones.

This idea goes against what many people think and, even more so, what many practice in their homes. Many believe that it’s impossible to interrupt in the middle of a tantrum or episode of frustration.

Some specialists recommend respecting the moment in which a child explodes because they feel overwhelmed by their emotions. Recently, however, some specialists are talking about an effective method for calming tantrums.

This strategy is associated with the child’s cognitive capacity. It depends on the willingness of the parents or educators to teach children to manage their emotions efficiently.

The factors that can bring children to the point of tantrums are practically infinite. Maybe your daughter left her security blanket at home. Or your son doesn’t want to go to bed. Perhaps your little one wants to keep playing in the bathtub. Maybe it’s because your toddler wants a piece of candy. Perhaps it’s about a broken toy.

Many times, our kids are just plain tired. Naming each and every possibility would take an eternity, and there’s no point to making such list. We already know the things that send our children over the edge.

But what we should focus on is how to calm our children down. It’s important to know that this doesn’t require special therapy or a visit to the psychologist. We simply need to help our children to take on a new perspective regarding the problem that brought on the negative reaction.

What to do in the face of a tantrum

calming your child's tantrum

Just thinking about the word tantrum makes our patience levels go down. Unfortunately, parents of children under the age of 5 tend to fall into ineffective habits when faced with tantrums.

When we find ourselves confronted by a kicking and screaming child, we focus only on scolding, punishing, and prohibiting.

Let’s not forget that we are dealing with tiny human beings that don’t know how to manage their emotions. We can’t ignore the enormous responsibility that we have to help them evolve emotionally and intellectually.

Include yourself in this process. Accompany your child when she makes mistakes. Look for solutions. Move on.

At this point, many may ask what tantrums have to do with the intellectual development of a child. And in order to answer that question, we will cite the definition given by the Royal Spanish Academy: Intellect is “understanding the cognitive rational potential of the human soul.”

When referring to the “human soul”, the definition does not refer specifically to adults or to people above a certain age. So then, if intellect is something inherent in us, why not help our children rationally analyze the situations that cause them frustration?

Learning to manage emotions is part of a child’s development. So it is in our hands to help them grow and achieve the emotional stability that will allow them to mature according to their age.

The big question

girl suffering from a tantrum

Based on this assumption, we want to invite you to approach your child’s next tantrum with a question. Ask your child, “Is this a little problem, a medium-sized problem, or a big problem?”

It’s likely that your little one, in the midst of her innocence, will respond that it is a big problem. If that’s the case, don’t say that it really isn’t a big problem. If you do, you will be underestimating your child’s frustration and minimizing the importance of their emotions.

The best option is to accompany your child in the process of identifying the problem. If your child says it’s a big problem, then it must be. At least from the perspective of his small world it is. So our task is to help our children find a solution to this problem.

Once you’ve identified the dimension of the problem, invite your child to look for a solution for the situation. Teach through your own example that the quickest way to overcome a conflict is through finding solutions.

Once you’ve gotten past the tantrum trance and your child is in a more stable emotional state, ask him if solving the big problem was difficult. When he tells you it was easy, close the conversation highlighting the idea that if the solution was small, then the problem probably wasn’t as bad as you both thought.

Yes, as you both thought. Include yourself in the process. Accompany your child when he makes mistakes, find solutions and move on. Don’t be part of the majority of parents that only judge the tantrum. That doesn’t help at all.

Children don’t need to be judged. They only expect to count on the help of adults in order to grow with confidence, in the happiest way possible. This is our marvelous task.