Oct. 17, 2018

Self-Regulation for Kids: Helping Them (And You) Deal With Tantrums

Tantrums seem to come out of nowhere. But getting curious about what lies beneath the meltdown in Aisle Six can go a long way towards taming our kids’ meltdowns in the future. Here’s how to help our kids self-regulate without losing our own cool.

When one of our kids is having a meltdown in Aisle Six of the supermarket, we will often remind ourselves: He’s not giving us a hard time. He’s having a hard time.

 And sometimes those words will seem zero percent helpful.

 But they’re true. As Dr. Ross Greene puts it, “Kids do well if they can.” Therefore, when they’re falling apart there’s a reason, as Dr. Vasco Lopes of the Child Mind Institute explains: “A majority of kids who have frequent meltdowns do it in very predictable situations.”

Parenting expert Dr. Stuart Shanker suggests we reframe our responses by getting curious about where the outburst is coming from, finding patterns that might provide clues– and then teach our children the skills to regulate their emotions themselves. We loved this infographic by Kristin Weins, reminding us that tantrums are kind of like icebergs: there’s much more beneath the surface than what we can see.

In this episode we discuss:

how to help children of all ages regulate their emotions so tantrums occur less frequently

why toddlers’ tantrums are a biological imperative (sorry)

the things to do during a tantrum vs. the things to definitely do later

* how to keep ourselves out of “red brain” even when our kids are there

what not to say once they finally calm down

why teenagers’ tantrums feel like they come out of nowhere

And here’s links to some of the research and resources discussed in this episode:

Dr. Stuart Shanker’s Self-Reg Knowledge Series

Kathleen Megan for The Hartford Courant: The Biology Behind Teens’ Temper Tantrums

understood.org: Why Does My Child Still Have Temper Tantrums?

childmind.org: How Can We Help Kids With Self-Regulation?

Dr. Harvey Karp’s “fast food rule” for talking to a toddler

the “chicken cheese bread” recipe Margaret mentioned:

If all else fails, and you need new inspiration to keep calm, try this advice from Dr. David Walsh:


If you feel your blood pressure rising, take a deep breath and remember this advice: ‘When you feel like taking the wind out of his sails, it is a better idea to take your sails out of his wind.’


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