5 Tantrum Parenting Mistakes — and the Tamers That Work
By Nancy Mattia
No one wants to be the parent with the red-faced toddler screaming and crying at the grocery checkout because he can’t have Gummi Bears. But when parents attempt to calm kids down, they often get it wrong, according to experts. Here are the most common mistakes parents make — and what works instead.
Tantrum Mistake No. 1: You try reasoning with him.
Parents tend to keep talking and explaining to their overwrought child why he can’t have the thing he wants. “He’s emotionally wound up and incapable at that moment of being logical,” says Susan Stiffelman, a family therapist and author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected. “Trying to make him think rationally will actually make him feel more alone.”
Tantrum Tamer: Stop talking. After your initial explanation, don’t say another word to him, suggests Stiffelman. Once he realizes his tantrum isn’t getting him anywhere, he’ll calm down.
Tantrum Mistake No. 2: You’re unclear about the rule.
If you tell your child “No” but then start hedging as his tantrum escalates, he’ll sense your hesitation and keep at it until you give in, says Thomas W. Phelan, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12.