Sign In
Get Started
Get the App
Parenting Hacks

How to Deal With Tantrums (Without Losing Your Cool)

By Tiffany NaemuraMar 8, 2018

Public tantrums are every parent's headache. (As a former nanny, I can tell you they’re not easy for childcare providers, either.) Instead of fuming, making a hasty exit or attempting to wheedle your child into a better mood, however, you can use those moments to foster acceptance and communication skills.

Below, you’ll find five of the very best positive discipline techniques derived from psychologist Marshall Rosenberg’s rules for nonviolent communication to help you diffuse tense moments, keep your cool and make sure both your needs and your child’s needs are being met when those dreaded public outbursts strike.

1. Identify unmet needs and name feelings.

Plying your kids with gifts isn't the answer. Instead, cultivate a vocabulary for needs and feelings so that you can be empathetic. If you have a child that is pre-words or just learning to talk, verbalize for them what need you think they might be having.

For example: “I hear you being loud and yelling ‘no, no, no!’ I think you are feeling upset because you need me to give you some attention.” Or, “It looks to me like you really wanted that toy and you are feeling frustrated when you hear me say not today. Do you need me to listen to you?”

Show warmth while communicating, asking questions and listening to the answers.

2. Don’t make behavior the focus.

It is very, very tempting to try to curb sobbing, kicking, or screaming first. Instead, let your child know you take them seriously and are going to work to hear them and help them.

They may need to be held and soothed for a while, or even closely monitored in a place where they cannot hurt themselves if they are not wanting to be touched. (There’s no shame in using a store aisle or your car to do this.)

If you can’t go anywhere else, remember that the quickest way to deescalate a situation is to listen to the person with strong feelings, repeating back to them (or for them) the feelings you hear them expressing.

Judgment over the feelings will only create more bad feelings.

Sometimes the only thing we can do is simply accept that our child is unhappy at the moment.

3. Use protective force if necessary.

Marshall Rosenberg describes -- and I have put this to use as a nanny -- the “protective use of force” for situations where the child is hurting someone else or you or even themselves. He makes clear that this is not touch that is angry, judgmental or retributive. Protective force is only ever for preventing harm, not for causing it or for use as punishment.

Small children may need to be carried away from a situation where they are hurting another child. Even larger children might need to have arms wrapped firmly around them in order to prevent harm to themselves or others. Protective force should be followed by engaged conversation regarding needs and feelings.

4. Quickly negotiate a solution that works for everyone, if possible.

For an older child you might say something like, “You need attention, and I need relaxation. Let’s make a deal: I’ll play this game with you for 15 minutes and then I will read my book for 15 minutes, how does that sound?”

Be willing to bargain a little, and most importantly, keep your word.

For a younger child, you might tell them, “It’s so hard when we can’t bring home the toy you want. I will help you find some ways to have choice at home.”

Kids can start to see that sometimes parents meet their needs, and that they can learn to meet their own, too.

5. Don't forget to share your needs, also.

Connection is a two-way street. Remember that kids are savvy when it comes to equity. "Acting out" is often simply an unskillful plea for connection.

It's important that you model the naming of and meeting of your own needs for peace or cooperation or respect, for example, using age-appropriate terms. This will reassure your child and help them understand what non-judgmental connection is supposed to look like.

Start wherever you are at; don't fret over situations that have already transpired. Model self-acceptance.

There is no perfect resolution to times of tension or outburst, but there can be forward motion as we teach our children that being upset is not the end of the world and that strong feelings pass when we identify what we're needing.

Does your family rely on your income? Fabric makes it easy to apply for a term life insurance policy in minutes.

Fabric Insurance Agency, LLC offers a mobile experience for people on the go who want an easy and fast way to purchase life insurance.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Written by

Tiffany Naemura

Related Posts

Parenting Hacks

How to Make Mundane Moments With Your Kids Feel Actually Special

We asked experts for ways to savor even the mundane time with family—whether or not we’re in the middle of a pandemic.

By Sarah Li Cain
Parenting Hacks

5 Common Kid Behavior Issues During (and After) Coronavirus Lockdown

Coronavirus quarantine is a struggle, and the routines that worked for two weeks may be fraying now. Here’s how to help kids deal.

By Jessica Sillers
Parenting Hacks

How Becoming the Breadwinner Changed My Perspective on Money

This new reality forced me to think about what would happen if I were gone. Could my husband afford the mortgage without my income?

By Sarah Li Cain

Fabric Picks

Parenting Hacks

How Spending 13 Minutes a Day on Self-Care Changed My Life

I created the Mental Health and Wealth Challenge to engage in self-care that was meaningful, simple, and free -- and only takes 13 minutes a day.

By Melanie Lockert
Finance for Parents

Who Needs a $1 Million Life Insurance Policy?

A $1 million life insurance policy sounded excessive... until my partner and I considered everything we wanted to provide for our family. Is it right for you?

By Jessica Sillers
Finance for Parents

5 Questions to Ask About 10-Year Term Life Insurance

Wondering if a 10-year term policy might be right for you? Ask yourself these questions about your family's financial situation.

By Ashley Abramson

About Fabric




Subscribe to our newsletter

© 2021 Fabric Insurance Agency, LLC

Fabric Instant is an Accidental Death Insurance Policy (Form VL-ADH1 with state variations where applicable) and Fabric Premium is a Term Life Insurance Policy (Form ICC16-VLT, ICC16-VLT19, and CMP 0501 with state variations where applicable). Policies are issued by Vantis Life Insurance Company (Vantis Life), Windsor, CT (all states except NY), and by Vantis Life Insurance Company of New York, Brewster, NY (NY only). Coverage may not be available in all states. Issuance of coverage for Fabric Premium is subject to underwriting review and approval. Please see a copy of the policy for the full terms, conditions and exclusions. Policy obligations are the sole responsibility of Vantis Life.

Fabric Insurance Agency, LLC (FIA) is an insurance agency licensed to sell life, accident, and health insurance products. FIA will receive compensation from Vantis Life for such sales. The NAIC Company Code for Vantis Life is 68632. See the Terms of Use for additional information regarding FIA.

Plan like a parent. is a trademark of Fabric Technologies, Inc.