Parenting With Psychology

Helping you build a set of parenting tools so you feel like an amazing parent ready to overcome your daily challenges.

Subscribe to my Newsletter

Parent's Guide to Conquering Tantrums & Meltdowns

5 c’s ages 5 years - 11 years ages 6 months - 5 years discipline milestones tantrum Jul 04, 2024

Hey, parents, did you know that tantrums and meltdowns are a normal part of a child’s development?  Today, I’m going to share some valuable tips on how to manage these challenging behaviors, including one I bet you didn’t know about how your behavior might make your child’s tantrums and meltdowns even worse.  

Parenting can be a rollercoaster ride, especially when it comes to dealing with tantrums and meltdowns in children.  Understanding and effectively managing these outbursts is crucial for creating a harmonious family environment.  So, how can we navigate through these challenging moments?  Join me as I take on the challenge of sharing the best parenting tips for managing tantrums and meltdowns!  We’re going to break this down into 5 categories today in line with my 5 C’s parenting framework: Communication, Consistency, Choices & Checkpoints, Consequences, and Check Yourself (click here to learn more about The 5 C’s).


  1. Communication

When our kids are throwing tantrums and having meltdowns, it can feel overwhelming, and our behavior tends to change in response.  However, what they need at that moment is for their primary attachment figure (i.e., you, their loving parent) to help ground them and help them regulate their out-of-control emotions.

If you want your child to return to calmness, you need to model that for them.  I like to teach parents to think about three words to use in these moments: Calm, Clear, and Caring.  First, keep your voice and your body language as calm as possible.  You may be feeling overwhelmed on the inside, but try to show your child that you can stay calm and in control of your feelings to help them decrease their own feelings of overwhelm.  Second, use short, clear statements.  When we are in distress, our brains cannot process complex speech as well.  And third, remember, this is your beloved child (though they may seem to be possessed by a monster at the moment) and you want to treat them in a caring manner.

During the tantrum, you may want to acknowledge your child’s feelings and validate their emotions.  Different children benefit from different parental responses during tantrums, so you may need to try a few options to find what works best for your child.  It may be something like, “Let it all out, sweetie; it’s ok to cry,” or “I’m sorry you’re upset; is there anything I can do to help you?” or “There, there, sweetie.  I’ve got you.  We’ll get through this together.”


  1. Consistency

Tantrums and meltdowns can be triggered by various factors, such as hunger, fatigue, frustration, or a need for attention.  The good news is that means some tantrums can be avoided, and I’ll have another post focusing on preventing outbursts. 

For now, let’s talk about how your own consistent behavior can be used to turn a tantrum into a bonding experience.  If you’ve been following me for a while now, you know that psychologist Carl Rogers’ concept of unconditional positive regard is integral to my own parenting philosophy.  While Rogers applied this concept to therapy, I encourage all parents to apply it to their own parenting practice.   

Unconditional positive regard means interacting with your child in a nonjudgmental way so that your unwavering love for them always shines through.  That can be challenging when their behavior is at its worst, but imagine the boost to your child’s self-concept and their relationship with you when they see how you love and support them despite their bad behavior.  You may not approve of their specific behavior, but you always value them.  That is what you want to consistently show your child during their good moments and their tough ones.


  1. Choices and Checkpoints

As much as we would love to never experience a tantrum with our child, it’s a very normal part of development.  Kids have big emotions, just like we do, but their brains are not yet developed enough to help them regulate those big emotions.  Over time, their emotion regulation skills will develop as they learn to name emotions, identify when they have that emotion, and learn coping skills to help them manage negative emotions. 

Coping skills you might encourage your child to try during a heated moment are taking slow, deep breaths, doing something physical like jumping or hitting a pillow, or clenching their fists tightly, then releasing the tension by opening their hands. 

In the heat of a tantrum, your child may not be able to process choices, but as they begin to return to their steady state, offering choices and distractions can redirect their focus and diffuse the situation.  For example, you might say, “I’ll sit here with you as long as you need, or let me know when you feel calm and composed enough to return to playing with our friends.”


  1. Consequences

Consequences are not harsh punishments; they’re merely the response to any action your child takes.  What they learn from the current situation will guide their behavior in the future.  For tantrums, that means if they learn that throwing a tantrum gets them extra attention and they like attention, they may choose to throw more tantrums in the future. 

Now, this doesn’t mean you should ignore your child when they are upset, but you do want to be mindful of not showering them with extra attention.  Instead, offer support while maintaining reasonable boundaries, especially around safety.  For example, you might say, “I see you’re very upset, but you may not hit me,” as you put your hand up to block your child from hitting you.  Or, “I’m here for you and will help you through these big emotions you’re having, but I need you to stop yelling.  It’s scaring the people around us.”

Be sure you give your child lots of attention and praise for good behavior following a tantrum to reinforce their kind words, gentle touch, and caring moments.  Using these tips, you’ll be careful not to unintentionally reinforce the tantrum behavior and instead, be sure to increase the likelihood of more positive behavior in the future.


  1. Check Yourself

As parents, it can be overwhelming to handle these intense emotions in our children, leading to our own feelings of helplessness and frustration.  The most important thing to remember in dealing with tantrums and meltdowns is that our children are having a difficult time, and we have the opportunity to support and help them by regulating our own emotions.

If you’ve ever lost your cool with your kids (which, face it, almost every parent has - multiple times), then you know that only makes the situation worse.  Not only does their tantrum last longer, but you also feel terrible and end up needing to apologize to your child rather than feeling good about guiding them through their tough moment.

Perhaps you practice deep breathing, repeat the mantra, “Respond rather than react,” to yourself, or perhaps you step away for a moment to help you maintain your composure.  These coping skills, paired with the reminder that losing your cool always ends poorly, can help you through the trying times of tantrums.


Take-Home Message

Dealing with tantrums and meltdowns requires patience, understanding, and consistent parenting strategies.  By staying calm, setting boundaries, and teaching coping mechanisms, you can help your child navigate through difficult emotions in a healthy way.  Remember, you’re not alone in this journey of raising resilient and emotionally intelligent children.

Today’s tips cover all 5 categories in my 5 C’s parenting framework (click here to learn more about The 5 C’s).  To view more posts about the 5 C’s, use the category search menu on the right of your screen.  Thanks for joining me to fill your parenting toolbox with psychology-based tools to feel more confident and capable in your parenting.  Keep up the good work on your amazing parenting journey!

P.S.  Grab your copy of my free resource, 5 Must-Have Tips for Better Behavior Today for more actionable strategies you can start using today!


Listen on Spotify Podcast

Watch on YouTube


Amazing parenting is not about always saying
and doing the right thing and raising perfect children.  It’s about becoming intentional in your parenting and proactive in learning skills to help you parent more effectively in a way that fits best for your unique parent-child dynamics.

Weekly tips delivered straight to your inbox can help you become an amazing parent today!

You're safe with me. I'll never spam you or sell your contact info.