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Temper Tantrum 101: Defusing the Ticking Time Bomb

If you’re a parent, then this situation is cringe-worthy and all too familiar. You’re in the grocery store checkout line trying to unload the food basket when your toddler reaches for candy. You gently pry the chocolate bar from his fingers, speaking soft words. Within moments he’s sprawled at your feet, purple-faced, screaming in a pitch that makes wolves in distant mountains howl in communal distress.

It’s a rare and lucky parent who hasn’t witnessed an uncontrollable outburst from their one-to-four-year-old child and struggled to calm a meltdown. Often no more than an extreme expression of a child’s frustration at his or her limited communication skills, temper tantrums can sometimes be mitigated or even avoided. Here are three ways to defuse the outbursts before they begin.

Feed The Beast

Ever get “hangry?” Even the best-behaved adults can become cranky when they’re hungry and sleep deprived. Young children haven’t developed the self-awareness to identify the cues that indicate they need a nap and a snack. That hangry feeling combined with the simplest of triggers, like Mommy saying “no” to more TV, is a recipe for disaster. Keeping some healthy snacks always at hand, along with a regular sleep and feeding schedule, can go a long way to limiting frustration.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

You know your child. She just loves those crunchy snacks she gobbled at her best friend’s birthday party, even though she vomited neon orange later that night. It might not be the best idea to wheel her through the soda-and-snack aisle at the grocery store, even if you do have to buy pretzels for your next backyard bash. Sometimes hiring a neighborhood babysitter for an hour of peaceful shopping can save your whole day.

Look, Over There!

If you see a tantrum looming, there are still ways to cut an outburst off at the pass. Distraction is a powerful tool. Has another child in the sandbox snatched the communal shovel? Get your toddler’s attention and hand him a plastic rake instead. Is your four-year-old becoming anxious at the doctor’s office? Acting the clown by making a quick joke, pulling a face, or pretending to keel over can work miracles.

Life is wonderfully messy, and even the best preparations can’t prevent unexpected outbursts. If all else fails, check out these tips on smart, loving ways to deal with tantrums once they happen.

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