• Parents dread the temper tantrums their children throw, but there are proactive steps they can take to prevent them from happening in the first place.
  • First, set expectations: make the rules and boundaries known. For example, before going into the grocery store, explain to your child that you’re only getting the items on your grocery list.
  • When your child does start to act up, speak calmly to them to try to deescalate the situation; explain that you understand they’re upset, but the way they’re expressing their feelings is unacceptable.
  • Also, avoid rewards—don’t bribe your child to behave in the grocery store or anywhere else for that matter. They should behave without the promise of a reward.
  • Additionally, don’t break your promises: enforce the rules you’ve put in place and follow through when you tell them you’ll do this or that for them.
  • Finally, spend quality time with your child. This will improve your trust and overall relationship, which will also help with those temper tantrums down the road.

Imagine you’re wandering the aisles of the grocery store, grabbing a few things for taco night. You’ve got the shredded chicken, the tomatoes, the lettuce, the salsa… all you need are the taco shells. You smile at your 5-year-old, who’s talking quietly to his stuffed animal, and forge ahead. You almost declare your shopping trip a success, when you make the mistake of cutting through the candy aisle. In an instant, your 5-year-old has abandoned his stuffed rabbit and started reaching for the sweets. And no more than five seconds later, he’s screaming and flaring his arms around because you denied him his favorite chocolates.

What happens next in this scene? You could give in and silence your son’s cries by saying, “Fine, you can have the candy.” Or, you could stand your ground and succumb to more screams and cries, as well as annoyed stares from other shoppers. The way the rest of the scene unfolds all depends on how you decide to handle your child’s temper tantrum… of which you might not feel confident about. If you need some help managing your child’s temper tantrums, consider Mabel Yiu’s take on the matter. Yiu—a marriage and family therapist, parenting instructor, and the founder of Women’s Therapy Institute—says we need to carefully consider our actions:

“As parents, we want to end the tantrums as swiftly and smoothly as possible, but we have to be careful of what we are doing and saying and what these things are teaching our children. Rather than trying to talk a child down by using special treats or privileges as a means of persuasion, and thus rewarding them for bad behavior, we need to take a different approach. After all, tantrums are a normal part of being a child. It is their way of expressing their emotions, and there are things we can do to help them process those emotions.” Now, here are a few things that can help you to build trust between you and your child and maintain healthy boundaries, which will help prevent or stop temper tantrums, according to Yiu:

1) Set expectations.

First, set expectations beforehand. “Before you go into the store, calmly explain to your child that you will be picking up a few things for dinner and that will be all. That way they are not going into the store expecting to leave with a treat.”

2) Speak calmly.

Now, do your best to speak calmly to your child when they enter the tantrum. “Look at your child and talk to them as calmly as you can (I know this can be very hard when you’re frustrated.) Explain to them that you understand they are upset, but this is not the way to get what they want. Offer to take a moment to sit down with them and calm down.”

3) Avoid rewards.

And don’t bribe your kid! Don’t offer them a reward for behaving… that’s something they should do automatically, not because they’re being rewarded to do it. “Rewarding your child for leaving the store or doing tasks they should be doing anyway is only encouraging more tantrums,” Yiu explains. “It seems like an easy fix, but they realize if they act this way, they might eventually get what they want. Let them know this is not acceptable. Set a healthy boundary.”

4) Keep your word.

Also, don’t risk ruining trust between you and your child by going back on your word. “Don’t promise things you can’t produce. You need to keep trust with your child in order to maintain a healthy relationship,” Yiu explains. “If you have no intention of getting them a toy next time, then don’t promise it. If you can’t stick to your wills about taking away screen time for a day, then don’t make it a punishment. They will learn to not trust what you say.”

5) Prioritize quality time.

Finally, make quality time with your child a priority. This will further improve your trust and overall relationship with your child, which will help with those temper tantrums when they strike. Yiu explains: “Kids need quality together time. They don’t need rooms of toys or plates full of candy. They need game night, or books before bed. They need time with you to get 100% of the attention. Quality over quantity. It only has to be a few minutes a day, but make it meaningful. Chances are, if your child has a mutual respect for you, they won’t feel the need for all the tantrums.”