Parenting Diaries - Handling the tantrums

Oh yes I am back with part 2 of Parenting Diaries. As all parents of toddlers know the tantrums are here and back again and we have by now learnt to live with them.

And each of us have perfected our style of handling the tantrums. But these tantrums show us something ugly sometimes. Like this kid who was having a tantrum at Nantu's school the other day. She told her teacher "I want to kill you". The teacher was shocked and so was I. When the initial shock and fear had passed out of my system, I grew rational. The kid probably did not even know what she was saying. She was just having a fit of anger and she probably said what she had heard someone else saying at that time. More reason to watch what they hear! (Pict Courtesy:

How I handle this personally is to invite open discussion. Every afternoon Nantu and I sprawl on the bed and talk. I prompt him to talk about school and friends and the shows he watches on TV. This way I understand how he perceives the world. I am forewarned on the language he picks up or the habits! And I gently correct him. And teach him good from bad!

I learnt this from my mother. She encouraged us to talk to her and the result, every time I learnt a bad word or even the time when I learnt about the truth of birds and bees; I talked to her about it! As time went by she turned out to be my best friend. And that is what I try to be to Nantu as well. His Best Friend! To this end, sometimes it is good to just listen and not be judgmental or adult about it!

Now about the tantrums. We all know that temper tantrums are unbelievably common and every child has these emotional outbursts. Temper tantrums need to be handled with a cool head. What has seemed to help in my household is calming down.

When Nantu was younger a distraction seemed to help. And I would remove him from the source of the tantrum. Or the location of the tantrum. For example if the tantrum happens at a mall, we drop everything and head for the car. Soon he learns that he stands to lose by the tantrum and stops!

At home, I have Nantu go to his room and finish crying. I never ask him to stop crying. I believe he needs to get him out of his system. I tell him "Go finish crying for as long as you want. When you are done come to me and we will talk". Once he has had time to calm down, invariably he is ready to listen to reason. At this point I usually have him tell me what the problem was, what he did wrong and what he should have done instead. Then I have him apologize and immediately after everything is forgotten and I give him a big hug and tell him how much I love him.

If the tantrum is triggered by hunger or sleep as they most likely are. I hold him till he is calm without saying a word, let him have a good cry. And then proceed to attack the root cause. After the food or a good night's sleep, reason prevails but not before!

But there are times when nothing works and he can't stop crying himself or he just can't calm down. After all he is a kid. Then I drop all reason and hug him and coddle him or tease him and tickle him till all is well again.

All children are unique. But my attempt here is to share some experiences and gain from your experiences. This way we can all be better parents! Please do share how you handle tantrums.

Writer's Island Poem available at Creative Outbursts - Dear Son - From a Mother's Heart
Sunday's scribblings inspired Post available at Confessions of a closet geek - My Experiments With Truth - MK Gandhi

And now a true vacation begins. I will be holding still for a while, I promise. I will keep you updated though.


K 3 said…
Very well said, Preethi. Right now, Kutie is at this age, where distraction is the only thing that works ... yes he understands most of our adult conversations - but reasoning is beyond is scope! If he does something, that I dont like, the only option is to let him cry for a sec and take him out of that situation. I am starting to try out, "Amma does not like this" talk with him and often he comes crying back into my arms - almost apologetic - but often he just doesnt know how to stop crying - then I have to hold him, and let him be.

The tough part is to let go, and calm myself. Like yesterday evening, when he just wouldn't eat ... I tried everything that normally works - music, toys - no nothing. Finally I had to stop feeding him, knowing very well, that he is not completely full just yet. But that was a better option than to make him cry forever and me getting upset/angry about it. I gave him some warm milk and let one day slide by. Today morning he was back to himself and had a full breakfast. :)

Ok ... long comment. Anyway, you have a great trip. Where in India are you going?
Swati said…
Nice ..well said..I am still learning ..this is the worst of temper phase ..:(

You have a great trip :)
Rambler said…
I liked the idea of talkign to the kids.. I think it gets a lot of information, more importantly it gives a sense of trust and understanding inturn increasing the bond
Totally loved your approach - both to the post and to your way of handling tantrums!
Like you've pointed out, when they are little, distraction works best whenever possible. Trust me, I know its easier said than done!
Another thing that worked wonders for me with T1 is "Smiley" and "Frowny" faces. She used to get so upset if she got a frowny face and started working real hard to get Smileys!! T2 is not ready for this yet!
With T2, I ask her if she wants to go to the garage, or I have to let her cry it out and then ask her to come get me when she's ready to talk, or of course - Distraction.
Again, all of these completely change as they get older. We have to start treating them like "people", not children.
Your way of talking and listening to them will make a huge impact.
Hopefully, having them listen to us early on and establishing "trust", will help us when they become teens (I hope) :)
Sometimes, nothing works. A raise in the tone is our ultimate resort!!
Again, sorry to use up so much space!!
Aryan said…
Ahhh...My husband came from did not open blog for three days..Ahh when I opened..Two post..Yipee.Thanks thanks.Will read with peace of mind and then comment..
Aryan said…
Good series..and I am in mood to discuss such issues. Yesterday we(me and aryan) went to a birthday party. Aryan was holding a ballon and playing. Then another kid around 2 and half year old snacthed his ballon.. Aryan cried. I told him to be clam for sometimes..again he cried..I told him to stop crying and go and ask the other kid. He went and asked the other kid..Extending his hands..Thaaa thaaa...The other kid snached his birthday cap. Now Aryan was totally shattered. First of all he cries when he sees any he got scared and took my hand went out of the house..showed Tatatata to everyone and urged me to go out.. We did not see the cake cutting..How do we handle such situations????

I am just wondering what was wrong with my parenting skills..I should have given another ballon to aryan and made him understand????

Ps said…
A tantrum is usually because of a a desperate inadequacy to communicate the urgency of the perceived need. i usually acknowledge the need and validate what they are saying.Then I hug them tight.It helps most of the time.(Mind you I dont always give in)
2bsmommy said…
sounds good - applied all of the above when the 2Bs were at that age ! When I see a child throwing tantrum at a public place, i sympathise with the parent though ;-)

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