July 2015

  • Turn Tantrums into Tame Behavior


    It’s summer, and it’s no big
    surprise that tempers can rise just as easily as the temperature when children
    are hot, tired, and exhausted from the heat. Parents can find themselves in
    situations when they feel their blood boiling as well. So it helps to be
    mentally prepared for those special moments when your child tests your tolerance.
    As a therapist, I have worked with hundreds of children, and I have found that
    5 main strategies are most effective when I need to turn a tantrum moment into
    something more tolerable. Here are my suggestions:

    #1 Ignore it. It is
    often best to not draw attention to negative behaviors. For example, if a child
    throws a toy, continue the current task but also make sure that the child picks
    up the toy later. If the child is abusive, you may need to restrain them for a
    few seconds to prevent any harm, but resist lecturing in the moment.

    #2 Change the scene.
    Sometimes, drawing attention to something else will distract a child enough to
    create a shift in their emotional state. This can include changing locations,
    suggesting another option, or introducing something novel like a new phone app
    they haven’t seen. Keep in mind, using technology as a strategy is not advised for extended periods of time.

    #3 Keep calm. If you
    raise your voice and heighten your stress level, the child’s behavior may
    escalate to match yours. Remember to use a soft voice, breathe slowly, and if
    possible offer your child a firm hug to give them a sense of security.

    #4 Find the source…and
    remove it. Just like adults, children want to be understood. Try to get your
    child to communicate what is causing them stress. Removing the person or object
    temporarily can decrease the tension momentarily.

    #5 Provide incentives.
    Call it bribery or creative strategizing or motivation, but children will do
    amazing and challenging things for a “treat” they find valuable. The trick is
    to determine if it’s a sticker, free play, food, rest, toys, money, quality
    time, or something else. Figure out what motivates them, and follow through
    with the delivery of it but only if its not what has caused the tantrum.


    I hope you find these tips helpful. If your child consistently has tantrums you are unable to tame, consider consulting with your pediatrician about the possible need of occupational therapy services. Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist,
    award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more information
    about Playapy services and products, visit
    or email

    Continue reading
Signup for Our Free Newsletter
Get the latest content first.
We respect your privacy.