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Talking Down Tantrums

Dan Saelinger

HE SAYS “You're a poopyhead!”


YOU SAY “Wait until I tell your father.”

YOU SHOULD HAVE SAID “I'm really frustrated, too, but we're going to figure this out.”

We often deflect authority to our partner when we're feeling helpless. But surrendering it suggests to your child that you're not in control, and that's scary for a toddler. If you need a minute or two after your kid calls you a name, take it. It's better to pause than to say something that will only make your kid panic more. “Every child needs to know when he's having a tantrum that it's a safe space,” says Maureen Healy, author of Growing Happy Kids. “The most important thing is that he knows you love him no matter what and that you are there to help him.”

If you do feel like you need backup, don't invoke almighty Dad in a menacing way. Instead, Dr. Gold suggests saying something like “We're having a tough time now, but maybe when Daddy gets home, we'll calm down and be able to think better about this.” This way, you're not creating an us-versus-you dynamic but using your spouse in a positive way as reinforcement.

SHE SAYS “No! No! No!”

YOU SAY “I'll do anything if you just…”


No, really. Don't say a word. “There is a time for speaking, and there is a time for action,” says Griffin. If the tantrum has reached the point where you're willing to do anything, it's time to take the reins and get things under control. If that means picking up your child and her shoes and putting them on yourself, do it. If that means leaving your shopping cart in the middle of the dairy aisle, then sayonara, Go-Gurt. “In the moments when your child is most emotional and overwhelmed, you really should stop talking and start doing because she isn't capable of doing much for herself,” says Griffin.