10 simple tricks for managing tantrums
For early childhood educators, dealing with tantrums is a fact of life. Tantrums are unavoidable in daycare settings. Some children are high-spirited. Mix that in with various developmental stages and, at some point, I guarantee you will need to manage tantrums. Let’s be honest. Tantrums are never fun. At times, they can be quite aggravating, mostly because we are at our wits end and don’t know what more we can do to put an end to the tantrum. As I often say, it is best to be prepared. Having a few tricks up your sleeve will help you “act” instead of “react”.
Tantrum management is twofold, both the child and the parent are involved. Discussing tantrums with parents is extremely important. It will help you understand how tantrums are dealt with at home. After all, how parents manage their child’s tantrums will have an impact on the tantrums their child experiences at daycare. The frequency, duration, and disciplinary climate are all influenced by the adult’s interventions. An adult who gets angry or tired whenever he or she must deal with a tantrum will be of no help to the child.
So, how can you help a child who is experiencing a tantrum? How must you intervene so that you clearly express a sense of control that will help calm an upset child? Here are a few tricks that you can easily implement.
Watch for warning signs
Before a tantrum, you may observe certain warning signs indicating that a tantrum is imminent: a raised voice, agitation, conflict, etc. Spotting these signs very early is important. As soon as you notice them, intervene to defuse the “bomb of anger” that is about to go off.
During a tantrum, screaming is common. Both the child and the adult can raise their voice. Instead, try to whisper. If you are lucky, doing so may encourage the child to whisper too. At the very least, the child will be discouraged from screaming and speaking very loudly. If whispering has no impact on an upset child, it may help you feel calmer. A sense of calm is necessary to efficiently manage a tantrum.
Use signs instead of words
Use your hand to tell a child to “STOP”, press a finger against your lips to inform a child that he must be quiet, touch a child’s shoulder gently to help ease the tension he is feeling… All these signs can play an important role during a tantrum. They may not put an end to it, but they should help you dial down the volume.
If a tantrum is really upsetting you, bring the child to a safe area and remove yourself from the situation. Breathe deeply and calm yourself. An upset adult will only add to the child’s anger.
Change up the energy present in the room
After a tantrum, we can often literally feel the tension in the air. When this occurs, it is quite possible that another tantrum will erupt. To avoid this, try to change the atmosphere. Present a new activity, encourage children to be active so they can expend their anger or their energy. You can also dim the lights and organize a calm game.
Teach children how to calm down
Often, children have no clue how to manage their tantrums. They are therefore faced with many different emotions and don’t really know what to do with them. Teach them methods they can use to calm down: visiting a calm corner, hugging cushions, listening to soft music, breathing techniques, stress balls, etc. All these methods can greatly help children (and adults) calm down.
Hug it out
Hugs are always comforting. Sometimes, this simple gesture is enough to considerably reduce the length and importance of a tantrum. If an upset child accepts, simply hold him in your arms and rock him gently. For many children, hugs have the power to calm emotions.
Get moving to release tension
Physical activity is an efficient way to eliminate tension and negative emotions. Whenever you feel children are tense, encourage them to be active. There is no need to plan complicated activities and games. Simply invite children to jump up and down, dance, run in place, etc. All these actions will greatly help children feel much calmer.
Have a plan
You must have a clear plan that you can follow during a tantrum. You must “act” not “react” to a child’s behavior. Grab a pencil and paper and write down a few steps that you must follow. Illustrate each step and explain it to your group.
Battle negative thoughts
Negative thoughts can have a considerable impact on your body and on your emotions. Work on these thoughts and transform them into positive ones. Breathe. You will feel more in control…and therefore be able to have control over the situation.
Of course, we all wish we didn’t have to face tantrums, but since they can’t be avoided, keep these tricks in mind so you can efficiently handle the next big wave of emotions.
Maude Dubé, Specialized educator