We’ve all been there. Sometimes your child has been simmering, and sometimes it’s out of the blue – but suddenly, arms are flailing, legs are kicking, and your kid’s emitting a noise that rivals your smoke alarm. It’s a full-blown tantrum, and priority number one is finding a way to help your child calm down while avoiding eye contact with anyone who happens to be nearby.
Of course, telling your child to “just be quiet” or “calm down” doesn’t work, but let’s be honest: It doesn’t work on us parents, either.
For most of us, nothing’s more agitating than being told to relax. You know what doesn’t work, but you may be wondering what does, along with questions like:
Should I ignore my child while they’re having a tantrum?
How can I teach my child to control their emotions?
What can I do immediately after my child has a meltdown?
While there's no one right way to parent, there are some methods that work to deescalate tense emotional situations to get you and your children back on track. Just a couple of the techniques recommended by experts include:
Connect and Redirect
We can't stop all outbursts from happening (if only, right?), but there are ways you can help your kid calm down after a tantrum. In HelloJoey’s “Discipline Starts with Empathy” kit, we explore what’s happening in your child’s brain that causes them to throw tantrums in the first place along with expert strategies for helping your kids make their way from meltdown back to mellow.
Calming down through staylistening
When your child’s in the throes of a tantrum, it can be tempting to walk away and let them cry it out, but Patty Wipfler, founder of Hand-in-Hand Parenting, recommends another strategy that she calls Staylistening.
Staylistening involves being in the moment with your child and truly listening through your child's upset moments, lying down with them to witness all the tears and fears and hurt until the emotion has passed. It usually includes a lot of crying, very few words, and a pretty intense outpouring of emotions. When you practice Staylistening, you’re:
letting your child know they are not alone.
helping them move through their emotions with empathy, building bonds that will last.
showing your child that they are strong and can work on regulating their own emotions without you lecturing or telling them how to act.
Connect and Redirect
Staylistening can be a powerful tool, but it may not be right for all parents – and there are many other ways to help your kid calm down after a tantrum. Another approach, offered by psychiatrist Dr. Dan Siegel, is a method called Connect and Redirect, which incorporates a lot of science to give you quick, easy steps to reconnect with your child.
Step 1 – Connect: After a stressful situation, connect with your child and give them a hug if they're ready for it. Get down on their level, eye to eye if possible, and reestablish the connection that went a bit haywire during the meltdown.
Step 2 – Redirect: Talk with your child about what's happening. This process is crucial as you need to show them empathy – even if your child has done something wrong.
If it sounds simple, that’s because it is! When your child properly names the emotions that they are experiencing, soothing neurotransmitters are immediately sent to the areas of the brain that are stressed, and your child is physically calmed. Of course, the science is a little more complicated – and you can learn all about how it actually works in the “Discipline Starts with Empathy” kit.
These are just a few of the ways that you can help your kid calm down after a tantrum, and in HelloJoey’s “Discipline Starts with Empathy” kit, you’ll find additional strategies offered by the experts. These include techniques like:
Name It to Tame It – which involves helping your child identify their emotions.
Stop and Breathe – which relies on self-regulation and redirection.
Empathic understanding – which looks at how your child’s developing brain affects their behavior.
The choices we make during intense moments when our children most need our guidance provide the examples our kids will follow as they develop the ability to use self-discipline.
We can use these moments of frustration as opportunities to better understand and empathize with what our children need in that moment, which allows us to connect with them and then teach them. It takes practice and patience, but the rewards are well worth the effort.
Want to learn more about what you can do before, during, and after a tantrum?” Start your path to a solid parenting foundation in just 10 minutes a day. Check out the HelloJoey app.