Cooperation Begins with Trust

Tag Archives: parenting solutions

What You Need To Know To Navigate Tantrums Beyond Toddlerhood

What You Need To Know To Navigate Tantrums Beyond Toddlerhood

People expect tantrums to disappear after the toddler years, but that’s just not how it works. Have you ever seen an adult screaming about something meaningless?!?!? Big kid tantrum! Tantrums for older kids are often wrapped up in unspoken fear, frustration, sadness, or anxiety explains Katie Hurley, child and adolescent psychotherapist and author of “The Happy Kid Handbook.”

Has your four, five, six or even ten year old ever melted down into a pile of tears or flung into a fit of rage? Do you occasionally have to deal with anger, fits of screaming, kicking or door slamming?

Ever wonder if Tantrums Past the Age of Three Normal?

Many parents worry about tantrums and big emotional outbursts past toddler-hood. You may have asked yourself if tantrums after the age of three are even normal. Or you may have felt at a lost as to how to help your child manage her anger and tears.  Many parents have shared with me that they didn’t even expect tantrums to show up beyond age three.

As children grow, they can learn to understand and manage outbursts, tantrums and intense emotions.  As parents, our help is very much needed in this process.  I chatted with several parenting experts about tantrums past toddler-hood and here is what they had to say:

Tantrums, from toddlers and beyond are simply the result of emotional overload. Frustration, anger, disappointment, sadness, even joy can lead to a tantrum.

No Bad Kids

After the toddler years, we seem to be surprised, sometimes even annoyed when our “big” kid has a tantrum.  Does your mind ever jump to negative labels like difficult, dramatic, bratty child when a tantrum shows up?

It’s easy to think a child may have “emotional problems” since they can’t keep it together when they discover a play date was cancelled or they lose at a game of connect four.

Andy Smithson, LCSW and Tru Parenting founder weighs in to say that parents are thrown off guard and a little bewildered at what to do with big kid tantrums partially because they are less common, but partially because it demands that they actually face the fact that control is a fallacy.

Kids, no matter their age, don’t have tantrums because they are bad!

tantrum help  positive parenting

Kids have tantrums because they don’t know what to do with their fear. The fear becomes anger and anger becomes hurting others, lashing out, isolating themselves or screaming.

As parents, it can feel difficult to face all that, and know that we can’t really control it for our children. Instead, we need to help them learn to control it themselves.

The Good News

The very good news is that research supports taking a positive approach to guiding children during tantrums. Helping children achieve self-regulation skills and reduce tantrums doesn’t happen through isolation, shame and punishment. Children that feel a positive connection to their parents, that are given loving yet clear guidance are much less likely to melt into tantrums and anger fits.

Let’s stress the less likely here, because no matter how much you may listen and support your child to learn how to calm down, overwhelm can happen.  A warm, supportive parenting style can help children have less inner turmoil and the tools to deal with overwhelm when it creeps up, but simply put, sometimes overwhelm wins!

Here are some Positive Ways for Supporting Your Child During a Tantrum and Other Strong Emotions

1. Change your Lens

Remember that children are not bad, they are simply lacking the words or skills to express their rage and frustration. Change your lens from seeing “manipulation, coercion and bratty-ness” to seeing unsolved problems and a request for guidance.

2. Respond with Respect and Kindness (To boys and girls alike)

Research has shown that a double standard exists when it comes to the expression of anger. Adults (parents, teachers and caregivers) tend to respond more negatively to boys that cry. When girls cry parents are usually kinder, warmer and calmer. Boys need compassion and loving, clear guidance just as much as girls.

3. Stay Present 

When Psychotherapist and Parent Coach Dr. Jessica Michaelson‘s son has a tantrum she finds it helpful to say “Thanks for letting me know you need help.” Then, she stays near by to offer support. Trying to reason during a tantrum usually doesn’t work, but Dr. Michaelson adds that saying something kind like “I’m right here, I hear you.” can help. If you know your child doesn’t want you to say anything, that’s fine too. Just being willing to be available when the storm cools down counts too.

4. Validate 

Positive Discipline Trainer Casey O’Roarty agrees with Dr. Michaelson and adds “When my boy was melting down big time I sat with him and tried to validate his emotions.” She added that using a validating, compassionate and present approach helped her stay calm too and not react badly.  She said “I ended up letting him know that I loved him and that I would be available to talk when he was ready. He came to find me, and apologized for gettting so worked up!”

5. Stop behaviors not feelings

Psychologist Sara Dimerman suggests stepping in to stop negative behaviors. It’s important to “keep boundaries for acceptable behaviour in place.”  At the same time, Katie Hurley says “children need help unpacking their feelings and verbalizing their thoughts.”  It can feel like a tricky balancing act to stop behaviors but allow feelings. With my three children,we try to remember this principle by mad yes, mean no. So it’s alright to feel mad or anything really, but it’s not alright to hurt someone or destroy property.

6. Get Creative

Andy Smithson says “Big kid tantrums require parents to use their heads, be creative problem solvers and find ways to work with children instead of against them.”  I agree.  Sometimes children need help learning to express their anger and a reliable, personalized calm down plan. A glitter jar may work for one child, where the next may chuck that glitter jar on the wall.

In my book 12 Alternatives to Time Out I have a whole chapter on how to help parents and  children create their very own personalized calm down plan and routine.

When is too much anger or explosive behavior something to worry about?

Healthy children challenge parents, healthy children also have emotional overloads and frustrations. The key here is to make sure that your big kid’s tantrums are not interfering with every day life or becoming the center of your relationship.

If you are making an effort to teach self-regulation skills, modeling how to stay calm, problem solving and allowing your child to fully feel frustrated but sense tantrums are getting worse or aggression is escalating, it may be helpful to talk to a parent coach, counselor or pediatrician.

Peace & Be Well,


Positive Parenting: Better Behavior Without Punishment Is Possible

Positive Parenting: Better Behavior Without Punishment Is Possible

A few years ago, my 3 year old daughter ripped her brothers’ picture. She did it on purpose and with the intent to get back at her brother. Many parents believe that such “acting out”  needs to be managed with swift discipline. A punishment like time out or some kind of consequence to teach a lesson.… Continue Reading

Why Preschoolers Know Much Better Than They Behave

Why Preschoolers Know Much Better Than They Behave

Parents are routinely confused when their preschooler (aged 2 to 5) promises they won’t hit or scream only to turn around and hit or scream again. Part of the problem is young children don’t think twice nor contemplate the consequences of their actions in the heat of the moment. I can assure you this is… Continue Reading

Three Tips For Getting Kids Ready and Out the Door Struggle Free

Three Tips For Getting Kids Ready and Out the Door Struggle Free

Do mornings at your house look like a scene from a stressful Groundhog’s day video?  The same level of stress, the same rushing, and the same power struggles with your children day in and day out?  If it does, you are not alone!  One of the biggest challenges modern families seems to face is getting… Continue Reading

8 Proven Ways That Teach Children To Respect Safety Rules

8 Proven Ways That Teach Children To Respect Safety Rules

Have you ever told your children not to hide in a clothing store, not to touch dangerous things, or not to run in the parking lot? Have you had to say it more than once, only to find that they repeat the same behavior three minutes later? Why is this happening? Prohibition (like saying DON’T)… Continue Reading

10 Helpful Strategies for Parenting Super High Energy Kids

10 Helpful Strategies for Parenting Super High Energy Kids

So how to handle over-wound, exuberant, annoying behaviors in a positive way? Everyone has their own personality and style. Embrace your child for who they are, that kind of acceptance alone will help you see that their behaviors are often just an expression of who they are and how they approach the world, not things done to annoy you. Continue Reading

Why Positive Discipline is The Best Discipline for Your Baby

Why Positive Discipline is The Best Discipline for Your Baby

How To Discipline Your Baby In A Positive Way Responding positively to your baby teaches him to trust you and your guidance. While babies are growing they may do certain things, like spitting, hitting or kicking when upset, throwing food down from a high chair or taking a toy away from a playmate. These behaviors… Continue Reading

Positive Discipline for Disruptive Classroom Behavior

Positive Discipline for Disruptive Classroom Behavior

Positive Discipline at Home & School for Turning Disruptive Behavior Around Do you have any suggestions for a child who may be seeking the attention of his classmates? He is being disruptive in class trying to get other children to pay attention to him. He is an only child and due to work, we don’t get… Continue Reading

The Real Reason Kids Misbehave Again and Again – And How to Stop It

The Real Reason Kids Misbehave Again and Again – And How to Stop It

Why Children Misbehave And How To Help Them Do Better It was mid morning at playgroup and tension was rising between Theo, his mother and a phone. The phone was perfectly placed on the edge of a table. Peeking out just enough for tiny hands to want to reach up and touch. So Theo kept trying to do… Continue Reading

How I Helped My Son Understand His Misbehavior Without Relying on Punishments

How I Helped My Son Understand His Misbehavior Without Relying on Punishments

When my son was four,  I took him on a day trip to sled and play in the snow.  It was a beautiful cold yet sunny day.  Up on a mountain,  with the alps in the background we climbed up and sled down a hill some 25 times in a row. When I was a feeling… Continue Reading