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How to stop a child tantrum FAST in its tracks!

Every parent will agree that there is nothing worse than a child tantrum especially out in public view such as at the supermarket or in the street among shoppers and pedestrians. Children having tantrums or hissy fits is part and parcel of growing up and there’s not much that can be done about the initial moment when a child has an outburst but there are ways to reduce its content and its duration or frequency and change the outcome.

One of the worst things you can do as a parent is to become stressed out and tense as this is what the child expects especially if you have already reacted this way in the past.

Understanding your child’s tantrum, that moment when it occurs and its triggers and becoming familiar with why it happened and what led up to it is a MUST.

Becoming familiar with this and changing the surrounding circumstances whenever possible is Key to reducing the outburst.

It’s all very well being told to keep your cool when your blood is boiling and you feel an overwhelming sense of a loss of control or frustration especially when onlookers are making judgments on you, which you know they do which may also be the result of their frustration in having to listen to the tantrum especially in close proximity to them.

It is crucial that you identify all the moments that lead up to the tantrum and simply change them moments or the things within those moments, that being causes, triggers or reasons.

Young children are very manipulative and highly perceptive towards reactions. Of course they are not truly aware of what’s taking place and they’re not plotting and planning it in their mind as such, it’s more a case of naturally acting upon their frustrations and their unmet expectations and needs and through habit and repetition they will behave a certain way specially to press your buttons for a response and they know that response will get the desired result.

They are more perceptive and understanding on the effect they are having on you as a parent than you probably know.

It is also essential that you change your reactions or your responses to the tantrum. Trying to stay cool and not react is possible at times but other times it is impossible otherwise you will implode or go nuts or worse. Understanding is the key word. So now let’s take a look at that.

Ten Techniques that work


Firstly let’s recognise that the child’s tantrum is a result of their needs, whatever they may be and that may be coupled up with their frustration, boredom or tension or that they just need stimulation and are not receiving it and then their needs or expectations are not being met further hence the outbursts.

Children have who have been ignored especially when they feel an unmet expectation or need, then that leads to total frustration or even anger. They don’t have the understanding or intelligence to rationalise it, all they can do is act upon the feelings that drives them to send the energy outward towards you . . . here, you own it!

Recognising that they have needs as opposed to they’re just being a spoilt brat is important.


It is important that you keep a level head and address the tantrum as slowly and as calmly as possible without reacting. Being upset will get the desired result in the child’s mind anyway and you will in effect be feeding their need for more of your responses and reactions which probably ultimately usually ends in you giving into them which comes back to repetition and habit and familiarity for them.


Pre-plan and pre-prepare your responses according to the situation especially when you’re in public. Prepare and visualise how you’re going to respond there and then when it happens and deliver your statements firmly with authority but in a controlled manner and remember the child is aware or is feeding off your lack of control and the more upset or angry you become the more this becomes negative attention or a confirmation that they are getting what they want in some form from you.

Make your verbal statements clear and straight to the point.


Never, ever start arguing or debating with your child. Never argue or engage in a fiery confrontation because you will never win in it. Use your loaf; you know you will never win the same as you will with the rational adult. Arguing or debating the issue with the child’s logic versus illogical or rational versus irrational will fail.


Avoid eye contact as this will minimize the confirmation that they have got your attention or he/she is make you mad, angry or even just outright objectionable, either way it’s a reaction so don’t make eye contact.


Talk in a calm rational manner, straight to the point with authority and control and don’t raise your voice.

Offer kind physical contact if possible such as holding their hand, stroking their hand or arm and asking them if they would like a big loving hug which will probably be rejected but nevertheless they will know you care and show also you’re in control and that you didn’t lose control because of their behaviour. They need to see that as it will leave their behaviour de-powered and ineffective.


Don’t try rationalising things or try to find a reasonable balance point with the child in the middle of a tantrum, it won’t work. Try to ignore the tantrum until it lowers itself and then when it is sufficiently quietened reward them with praise and appreciation for how they went quiet and calm all on their own. Obviously this is not to be mistaken for rewarding the tantrum but actually rewarding and complimenting them for settling down.

This moment will appear quicker the next time you have a tantrum because they’ll get your attention and praise and appreciation when they stop the scene.


Never ever try to bribe your child such as buying some sweets or getting that present, as this would just reinforce their behaviour the next time they have an unmet need or expectation. In effect you will make it worse if you use bribes to get them to stop!


What easily catches their attention? What distracts them? What are they most likely to switch their attention onto? Pre-prepare a list of distraction tactics that you know may work such as laughter, fun or games.


Never threaten, warn or punish their tantrum behaviour.

Remember most children can enter and leave a tantrum very quickly as though it was never there. Evidence suggests that children are far cuter than adults think they are and that they know exactly what they’re doing.

Therefore don’t feed their reactions or behaviours. Wait for it to calm down and then reward them in the form of compliments, appreciation and thank you for how clever and good they are for calming down all on their own and that maybe you will now get them a little treat.

It is important to identify what you’re buying them a treat for and you must make this clear that the rewards, whatever they may be are simply because they stopped screaming, crying, yelling, shouting and order demanding.

The next time they have a tantrum, they will recognise that there is now a point where they can get what they want if they stop the tantrum.

Very clever on your part, because you are now reversing it but they won’t know this. You are actually making this moment happen where they will decide to stop all on their own but it will only work if you set it up correctly.

It is at this point you must complement and reward them and they will be so chuffed with how they manipulated you when in fact it’s the other way around.

Think carefully about this in advance and understand it, it is quite simple. You’re actually giving a child what they want but in a different way now at a different moment and once they latch onto it, it will reduce the tantrum fast because they will get what they want if they stop the tantrum and they will stop it, if you have the patience to set this up in the first place.

This is not going to work for everybody simply because some parents haven’t got the cool head to do it in the first place. You may have to sacrifice some nerves and a few attempts to make it happen.

Just finding that moment where they burn out and the tantrum dies down like a fire going out because you never gave into them, you never reacted or fed their angry needs. You just simply waited with patience for them to go quiet and then you stepped in with the rewards.

Conditioned behavioural responses

Setting up a situation with child tantrums takes effort and fore thought on your part but you will have excellent results if you can break the cycle of the child tantrum/needs/demands/angry/want it now/ignoring them and not feeding it etc.

Wait for it stop all on its own (you must ignore them and allow them to feel powerless in their efforts, you must allow them to exhaust all their attempts and they will give up. THEN when they stop, give them praise, rewards and loving attention and tell them how wonderful they are for stopping and doing what mummy wanted. This will empower them to manipulate you to get it again the next time.

They may stop the tantrum quicker than you expected!

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