Parenting Puzzles by Marni Parsons

Angry boy 0003Every parent has questions. Trying to find that answers that create the best solutions for the whole family can be a challenge. If you have a question about raising children, this is the place to connect with an answer.

Q- My toddler is prone to tantrums. The big problem is that when I’m faced with a screaming three year old, I turn into a screaming thirty- three year old. How can I keep my cool during the meltdown?

Staying cool is the biggest challenge a parent has during a child’s temper tantrum, regardless of the child’s age. Tantrums are simply a part of the human condition we all have them. The only difference between the adult and childrens tantrums is the experience and knowledge each have about how to control or contain the tantrum to something manageable. One of the best ways to keep your cool is to take a big deep breath, and remember that the tantrum is not about you. It is, in fact, about the toddler and the lesson they need to learn. The child is learning to cope with all kinds of emotions, and doesn’t have the skills to handle the million frustrations they experience in a day.

Here is a step-by-step guide to help minimize the opportunity for a tantrum, and what to do that will help you when the tantrum just can’t be avoided…
• Prepare your child for what they can expect during their day, and always give them a five to ten minute warning before a transition. This gives them some power and control over the situation and they can mentally prepare for what lies ahead.
• Make sure that your young child is always fed, changed and well rested, and that you are too! This sounds simple, but in our busy lives we often forget to take care of the basics.
• When you anticipate that a tantrum might rear it’s ugly head try to distract your child with an activity they might enjoy. Make note that this will only work until about the age of three, after three you need to live through the tantrum by doing the following things.
• When it can’t be avoided, step back and take a deep breath, literally, and buy yourself a moment to think about what the teachable moment is for your child.
• Validate your child’s feelings while staying calm and neutral. “You are having some really big feelings about…” If you can emotionally detach a bit from the drama that is happening this will be much easier.
• Then wait it out quietly. Trying to “talk sense” into someone having a tantrum is not going to work, so save your energy for staying calm and neutral.
• When the dust has settled move onto what it was you were going to do in the first place.
• Try to talk about the tantrum after it has passed so that your child can process and problem-solve a better way to handle him/herself the next time. This is the most important step in giving your child the tools to work through frustrating situations.

To conclude I leave you with this…
Do not teach your children never to be angry; teach them how to be angry.  ~Lyman Abbott

_Marni Parsons

The Actors' Gang


  1. Thank you so much for those great insights!
    I find that even at 8 years old, these true and tried techniques you offer here still hold valid!
    And I agree.. the toughest challenge is to remain cool during the meltdowns. I try to remember that it works out best if only ONE of us is having the tantrum!
    Thanks again Marni!

    Sandra Huber-The Soulful Parent

  2. Wonderful article and I know some mom’s are sighing with relief – now a better plan the next time this occurs. Remaining calm is the toughest, but once the parent manages to keep their own reactive behavior in check then it is amazing the scene they create for their child. Thanks for your great ideas!

    Susan Heid – The Confident Mom

  3. I also thank you for this column, Marni & I am hereby submitting a question for a future column:

    How do you teach your child how to be angry? I fully agree with Lyman Abbott, but am stymied by this issue. Anger seems to beget more anger around our house, sadly.

    Thanks & hope to see this issue addressed sometime soon.

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