How to calm temper tantrums using a Time In

Everything seemed fine. You’re going about your morning as usual. Breakfast went smoothly. Everyone is dressed and ready, and then BOOM! Out of nowhere, your little one storms into a temper tantrum. Tears, screaming, headbutting–the works! It’s impossible to calm your little one down.

Or is it?

There are several reasons that young children throw tantrums. First, it could be physiological, like hunger or exhaustion. Typically, though, it’s because they want something or feel something and lack the vocabulary to express it. Sometimes it’s not immediately about the behavior itself, but about the emotions inside.

Temper Tantrums often signal a need for connection.

Many parents opt for a time out when children meltdown, but they are frustrated to find that it doesn’t work. Let’s break this down a bit. First of all, temper tantrums often signal that a child needs connection. They want to feel understood, and they want to be soothed. Soothing their feelings helps them to calm down and regulate (since they typically aren’t developed enough to regulate themselves). And after you’ve soothed the feelings, you’re able to move forward in a calm, teaching role.

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Instead of Time Out, try the Time In to calm Temper Tantrums

With the Time In, you still direct your child to a quiet place, but you help guide him or her through the process. Leaving your child alone on a step or chair can be confusing to a child and can even increase feelings of distress. In contrast, you can use this time to help your child calm down, figure out the emotions they’re having, and then they’ll be in a place where they can listen to you. Plus, this type of connection helps to build a child’s brain and makes your relationship stronger.

You also model a calm presence for your child during a Time In

After your child has calmed down, ask yourself a few questions: First, why is my child having a tantrum? Second, what do I want to teach my child right now? Third, how can I help my child identify their emotions (Hint: a feelings chart works well for this. Email me, if you need suggestions for one).

Finally, remember that Time Ins also work for you. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with parenting, or if all the demands of work and home life have you a little dizzy, take a few moments to sit in a quiet place and reflect on your own emotions. Soothe yourself with self-compassion, and take a few deep breaths. You’ll parent better for it.

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