Handling Tantrums and Violent Outbursts

by Linda Michie, Executive Director and Founder at Wishing Well Adoption & Family Services

First let me say that if this is a simple “whaa” because a child did not get his way, ignore it. Step right on by and go in another room. Most of the time a tantrum with no audience loses its steam pretty quick.

If this is more than that, and your child is out of control, you need to get in there and get calm with him.

Please remember that when your child is in the midst of a tantrum they are not capable of reasoning. This is not a learning moment. Attempts at re-directing or teaching behavioral skills are futile in these moments. Your best bet is to learn to head the tantrum off and teach coping skills in quieter moments.

Here’s how:

  • Identify the tantrum specifically. What exactly is your child doing? Who is involved? Where are they? What time of day?
  • Learn what triggers the behavior. Does a person place or thing occur before the tantrum?
  • Identify the results of the tantrum. Does the child get something? Get out of something? Feel something? Access someone?

Once you’ve figured out exactly what’s going on, you can work toward a solution. Meanwhile, try to avoid the situations, places or people who precipitate the tantrums.

wishing-well-families-tantrums-2-adoption-Hampton-Roads-Virginia-BeachSafety is first in all tantrum and violent outburst situations. Make sure you are not in reach of sharp and breakable objects. If your child throws his head make sure there are cushions around him. Learn what promotes calm and what doesn’t. Soft music, a reassuring voice, controlled breathing…some children do not like to be touched or spoken to during a tantrum. You will have to be sensitive and learn. Once you’ve learned the best techniques, teach them to anyone who cares for your child.

Being aware of warning signs means you can avoid them or begin calming techniques before the tantrum sets into full swing.

Stay calm. Use a soothing voice. Be gentle and patient. Allow space. Allow venting.

Use clear simple instructions for what you need the child to do. (“please sit here now”)

Breathe together. Sing together. Find something else to focus on together.

Praise any attempt at self-regulation. (“nice breathing”, “good singing”….)

Then move on with your day without bringing it up again. Yup, like it never happened.

This is very difficult because you are likely upset yourself. But the more un-phased you can be by the event, the quicker your child will return to regulated.

Train new skills during times of peace and well-being.

If you need help call (757) 739-2118 to set up an appointment for parenting coaching.

Linda Michie

Linda Michie

Executive Director and Founder at Wishing Well Adoption & Family Services
Linda Michie holds a Master's degree in Urban Studies, and a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice from Old Dominion University.
Linda has worked in the child welfare field since 1999 and is a Licensed Child Placing Agent.
Wishing Well assists in domestic adoptions in the state of Virginia, and provides parenting coaching, and supervised visitation in Virginia Beach, VA.
Linda Michie

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