Herald Journal Columns
May 15, 2006, Herald Journal

Taming those tantrums


As parents, we have all been there –in situations, where are beloved little ones exert their independence at times when we need them to follow our directions–whether it’s in church, or when you have to leave from somewhere to get someplace else, at a specific time.

Temper tantrums–we have all seen, and experienced them first- hand. We have to grab in our “bag of tricks” to help alleviate the situation before it really festers into an all-out display of emotions, between parent and child.

The following are some distraction and diversion tools, that we can either add to our “bags,” or just reuse, as necessary, when the need arises.

Going for the giggles, is an effective tool to use that gets our little ones’ minds off of the task that needs to be completed. Tell a silly joke, say something silly, or make goofy faces; or one can just resort to good ol’ tickling, that will be sure to get everyone laughing.

I have also found, that accentuating the positive can work wonders to prevent a tantrum, or to try and get a little one to do something that they care not to do. Getting in the car seat has not always been my youngest daughter’s (now two years old), thing to do. While getting her into her seat, I often will tell her in a positive, energetic tone of voice, what a great job she does sitting in her seat, and I thank her for sitting so nicely. Before we both know it, she’s buckled in her seat, saying, “Mommy is driving.”

Most often, that technique works. Even toddlers love to be praised by their parents, and others, as we all do, and it sure beats yelling and arguing. The prevention of a behavior meltdown is always best for everyone.

Singing also is a great distraction tool. Sing a song while your child is getting ready for bed, and again, before you know it, their pajamas are on, their fingers and faces are washed, and everyone is ready for bed. Sing a song, and include your child’s name in it, or replace your child’s name with a word in the song. They love to hear their own name. For example, sing the song B-I-N-G-O and replace the letters with the letters in your child’s name, such as, D-A-V-I-D.

Make a race out of the task at hand. “Who can put their socks on first?” Or, “Who can get to the car the quickest?” etc, and the task is done.

Tell the child you have a secret to tell him/her, as you are trying to get the child into the car. As you are buckling him/her in the seat, whisper “a sweet something in the childs ear.”

And just plain use your imagination, and creativity, when trying to divert his or her attention, and avoid or divert a tantrum. Tell a well-known story such as “Three Little Pigs,” using different voices for the characters. My daughter loves this and she now tells most of the story, or fills in lines while we are telling the story.

Many of these “techniques” are suggestions from Parent magazine, December 2002, but they are also tried-and-true techniques. This article on temper tantrum tamers, also listed ideas to make Santa snapshots easier, and although we are certainly not in the “Ho Ho Ho” season, these suggestions could most certainly be used when your child is getting a portrait, or just a snapshot taken.

• Play the freeze frame game. The person who can stay completely still during picture time wins–well, except for the smile muscles, the article noted.

• Tell your child to bring along a friend–a stuffed animal, or doll (that you feel would be appropriate to include in the picture), that would also like to be in the portrait, and tell your son or daughter that his or her friend wants to get its picture taken with them.

A fun snack

An ad advertising Jell-o pudding, Dole bananas, and Cool Whip whipped topping, included a fun and delicious snack recipe idea using instant pudding, bananas, crushed cookies, or Teddy Grahams, whipped cream, and a cherry.

Make your favorite flavor of pudding, spoon it into a dish over banana halves, sprinkle with your favorite crushed cookie or grahams. Top with a dollop of whipped cream, and a cherry, and you and your child have a new version of a banana split. This sounds pretty good and simple to me.


“We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make.”

–Marian Wright Edelman

(1939- American Lobbyist on Behalf of Children)