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Ten Ways to Tame a Temper Tantrum

(and live to fight another day)


All kids have temper tantrums. But when your child has special needs, those behavioral storms can be more confounding, more damaging, and more difficult to interpret. They're also more likely to be a result of sensory issues, disrupted routine, inflexibility, inability to communicate, or motor planning problems than good old-fashioned bad behavior. Here are ten ways to tame a challenging child's tantrum -- they may not be pretty, or conform to the way you thought you'd parent, but they'll get the job done and buy you some time.

1. Ignore it.

Fires need fuel. If your attention is the kindling that keeps your kid combusting, withdraw it. Even if you can't safely walk away, you can refuse to engage

2. Amuse it.

If your child has a silly streak, sometimes you can use that to bop a tantrum on the nose. A nonsense word, a silly song, a funny face, or doing something really goofy to yourself may get your child laughing instead of squalling.

3. Surprise it.

While ice cold water in the face may be a bit much, something shocking can sometimes jolt a child's train of attention off an unproductive track. Try a clap, a whistle, or a short, unemotional command in a loud voice that's serious but not emotional, like you might use to direct a dog. 

4. Distract it.

Surprise and silliness are good distractors, but you may have more in your bag of tricks, like a toy, game, or foodstuff. If you're really stuck, these 101 diversions require no advance planning.

5. Relocate it.

If there's nothing you can do to calm a public tantrum, a quick escape may be best for all concerned. Then do some behavior analysis to prevent a next time.

6. Confine it.

Some kids benefit from working out their misbehavior in a time-out chair or a bedroom break. Your child may also be calmed by a hard hug or a press down on the shoulders.

7. Analyze it.

When your child has sensory issues or other special needs, tantrums may be harder to read than you think. Look at the big picture, the whole day, the entire environment. You'll need solve the mystery before you can provide the proper assistance.

8. Sympathize with it.

Just because a situation is unavoidable and must be put up with doesn't mean it doesn't stink. Acknowledging your child's point of view may take some of the wind out of the tantrum's sails.

9. Give in to it.

That's parenting anathema, giving into a tantrum. But sometimes, there's more to lose from letting a child melt down than in making a mutually agreeable compromise. Special kids require special handling.

10. Accept it.

For some kids, meltdowns are going to be a fact of life, at least for the developmental moment. Making sure your child is safe and supported rather than fussed and fumed over may cut the duration and intensity of the tantrums. Keep telling yourself, with time and age and therapy, things will get better.
Related Video
How to Avoid Temper Tantrums
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