An amateur's guide to surviving a tantrum

Published on: December 30, 2013

So your five-year-old has gone and thrown a tantrum of monstrous proportions and you’re so rattled you’re shaking and just barely, by the thinnest thread, resisting reaching to the backseat of the car and pinching his thigh. (Not that this happened to me, this week. Not at all. My kids rarely throw tantrums. And when they do, I calmly pull over to the side of the road, turn around, look them in the eye and inform them that their behavior is unacceptable. Furthermore, I would never consider any thigh pinching.)

How do you get through it?

1. Open your heart. Try, though it may be as difficult as sprinting through neck-high salt water, to be compassionate and find out what, if anything, led to such an outburst. My son tends to fall apart on the way home from school. I figure it’s a cross between something gone bad socially and hunger. If I can keep this in mind, it is easier to maintain my cool. And I am cool. Oh yes.

2. Do not, as I did, make overreaching threats you have no intention of keeping. Hissing that you’re going to take away every single toy in the house is unrealistic and probably out of proportion to the crime. But just barely.

3. Let them know that disrespect is not acceptable. Do give them consequences and follow through. (For me that entailed waiting until we were safely inside our house before mandating a highly unpopular sit-and-your-room-and-don’t-come-out-until-you-eat-this-lovely-sandwich-I-just-made-you time out. In retrospect, this probably wasn't enough.)

4. Take deep breaths. Eat a chunk of Cadbury Carmello. Stay calm and remember that you’re the parent.

5. If you’re lucky enough to have a spouse who comes home from work at a reasonable time, hand off the kids and go wander around Costco until you’re sure they’re in bed asleep.

The end.

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