top of page

DE-ESCALATION STRATEGIES/IDEAS FOR TEMPER TANTRUMS/MELTDOWNS

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

Because we all need a little bit of help!


Here are different things that you could try to do to manage your child’s meltdowns and temper tantrums in your house.


1. DON’T YELL TO BE HEARD: If your child is screaming, don’t try to scream over them, it only escalates the situation.


Take a big deep breath in ___ count 1-5 ___ hold it for 5___ and let it out for 8 ____


Breathing is a great tool to regulate YOURSELF. Take as many breaths in and out as YOU need. If you are calm, you will be modeling the behavior that you expect.


Let's focus on BREATHING! --- You got this!


A picture with the word "breathe" written in cursive


2. DON’T TRY TO REASON (RIGHT AWAY): Although it’s tempting, you will honestly get nowhere with a child who is mid-temper tantrum, so discuss it when they are calm.


Children's brains develop from "primitive" to "logical" --- It requires time (YEARS) and plenty of models (and mistakes) to move from "tornado" to "peaceful wind".


Your child doesn't understand the reason at this point - especially if they are upset because dinner is taking 3 seconds more or they want to play in the middle of the street... I know! What a monster you are for not allowing that!


It is better if you try to give CHOICES! Which brings me to:


3. Little humans crave POWER!:


Do you want to eat in the blue bowl or the red one? Do you want to wear your yellow jacket or your blue coat? Do you want to jump on the trampoline outside or on the floor ? Do you want to walk holding hands or do you want me to carry you?


I think you know where I am going with this...

a person's shoes are seeing while the word "NO" in uppercase is in from if they

4. AVOID THE WORD “NO” WHEN THEY ARE AMIDST A MELTDOWN. It only increases the tension, so try to tell them what they can actually do instead of what they are not allowed to do.


Examples:


  • Instead of saying: - “NO! you can’t eat candy for breakfast”, you can try to say: - “ you can have apple sticks with peanut butter”

  • or instead of saying: “NO! Stop jumping on the sofa, you are going to hurt yourself” you can try to say “you can jump on the trampoline or let’s go to the playground to get that energy out”


Little humans are wired to "go nuts" when the word "NO" is thrown into the mix. Also, something fun about the brain is that it understands "positive/affirmative statements" better than "negative/negation statements".


5. USE CALMING AUDITORY INPUT such as relaxing music – nature sounds, waves etc. It is a way to redirect their attention and for you to modify the environment to make it more relaxing and less chaotic. I like asking Alexa or Google to play bird sounds or classical music for children.


6. USE A DISTRACTION: Yep, easier said than done! I know!!! But just a change in demands, expectations or environment might help bring peace to your little dictator. Do something funny or silly, pick them up and squeeze them (bear hug), wash your hands together, eat a snack, or have sensory toys available that might help your child to release some angry/upsetting energy.




7. SILENCE: Now is not the time for a life lesson, trust me! Just stay calm and try not to do too much talking when they are having a meltdown. Do not confuse it with ignoring it, you will be modeling how to be calm, relaxed and quiet.


Silence is a very powerful tool that you can use to regulate yourself and your little one. Remember our children learn better through models. They do what they see. Let's sink on that thought for a moment.


8. VALIDATE THEIR FEELINGS BUT NOT THEIR ACTIONS: You don’t need to be okay with your child screaming and throwing things to recognize that it’s okay for them to be stressed out or anxious. It’s a good opportunity to model communication about feelings.


Examples:


  • " I can see that you are upset",

  • "I know that (X situation) makes you feel angry",

  • "I am here for you, we can feel these feelings together, we will be okay"

  • "I bet your stomach is hungry and that's why you are so upset"

  • "I get upset too when things don't go my way"

  • "It's okay, let's hug - I will always love you"


9. GET DOWN TO THEIR LEVEL. It might help if you sit on the floor with them and just be there. For your child, you are a giant! So join them on their physical/proximal space - AKA the floor! By getting on their level, you are changing your own perspective and can develop more compassion and responsiveness.




10. DON’T BE TOO EMOTIONAL; REMAIN VERY CALM AND LEVEL: Easier said than done, but presenting yourself as frustrated will only make your child feel worse. Your child is not there to validate your emotions, they are not in charge of your feelings. As an adult, you get the opportunity to "pick your battles", you can control or modify your responses as you wish.Your child doesn't have many options yet, so focus on their needs.


11. REMAIN NON-JUDGMENTAL.: Your child needs to know that you are there for them, even if you don’t condone the way they react to their big feelings.


12. BE AWARE OF YOUR BODY LANGUAGE: You may be inclined to bring them into a safer room with less breakable items or sharp edges (which is fine) but remember to be mindful of coming off threatening. Besides, your child is not a piece of furniture that you can move as you wish.Your little one is having a hard time right now but it doesn't mean it is forever.


13. RESPECT THEIR SPACE: Once again, it’s okay to gently guide them into a safer room if the room they are in is not super-ideal but be respectful of their personal space.


14. MODELING COPING SKILLS: Examples of coping skills are drinking water, closing their eyes, taking a walk, hugging a stuffed animal, drawing, scribbling, screaming into a pillow, chewing gum, etc.




15. AVOID MAKING DEMANDS WHEN THEY’RE IN THE MIDDLE OF A TEMPER TANTRUM. – It’s like hitting a wall. Wait a bit until they are calm to work again on the initial demand. The task is going to get done at some point. Think about what is more important at the moment; protecting your connection with your child or having a clean room with all toys picked up?


Connection over compliance. Repeat after me: "connection over compliance"


16. REFLECTIVE LISTENING: Listening intently and reflecting on what your child has to say, without thinking about what you are going to say next or being distracted, is so important. Children can really reveal some surprising, insightful, and helpful information if you truly take the time to listen to them.


And remember, BEHAVIOR IS COMMUNICATION. A tantrum or a meltdown is only the tip of the iceberg; you are the expert on your child and no one else knows them like you do.



a mom and her son are looking at each other, the child has a hearing aid



These are ideas that might work for you. Explore them and see what helps. Depending on the situation, you might need to combine a few of these strategies. The goal is for you to have a “toolbox” so you can use different things in different situations.


Do you want to know more about how "behavior is communication" or what is "connection over compliance"? Do you think your child needs a comprehensive speech-language evaluation?



Click the link here to schedule your 15 min free consultation: "Let's talk, together we will find the solution"



Until next time!, your friendly local speech therapist


Irene Gutiérrez

Bilingual Speech and Language Pathologist

Founder Brainstorm Speech Therapy


Edited by the wonderful L.K.



Comments


bottom of page