top of page
  • Writer's pictureP.E.T. South Africa

Calming chaos - 3 Communication tips to tame tantrums

Updated: Nov 3, 2020

Many parents are unaware of the vital role they play in the emotional development of their child. You've come a long way from throwing tantrums every time you felt overwhelmed by the injustices of the world. You've been there, and you know that kicking and screaming won't get you your way. Your child doesn't.

Yes, a child having a full-blown meltdown, whether in public or in private, can be overwhelming and at times downright scary! Your child's tantrum is in no way evidence that you are a bad parent and their intention is not to cause you any harm but rather a cry for help on how to regulate. The critical part is to remember who the expert is in this situation. So, you can either join the chaos or help them understand emotions and how to express them healthily. Here are three communication techniques to get you started.

Validate the emotion

The quickest way to calm your child is by Active Listening. By listening attentively to what your child is crying about, does not mean that the child gets their way. Active Listening acknowledges the child's big emotions and lets them know that feeling disappointed, frustrated, or angry is okay.

Be supportive, caring and nurturing. The way you physically interact with your child is crucial, as in most cases, they have yet to learn how to talk about the emotion they are experiencing. Pick your child up, bend down, and look your child in the eye. Describe the behaviour to the child - what you are seeing and what you are hearing. By doing this, you are teaching a child to identify an emotion which is the first step to effective regulation.

Address the behaviour

When your child is in the middle of a meltdown, they won't listen to you. It takes a lot from any parent to not try and fix, discipline, or preach to the child during a tantrum. It's challenging, but you will have to wait for the child to regain emotional balance before you can address the way your child expresses their emotions.

It's important to teach your child that while having strong feelings about something is acceptable; kicking, screaming, whining, are actions that won't get you very far in life. Your child's ability to express emotions healthily is still developing, and this capability will only reach full development in early adulthood.

Set the example and change the environment

When a child experiences a strong emotion for the first or perhaps the umpteenth time, it is a parent's responsibility to teach the child practical ways to deal with that feeling. Practical courses in dealing with intense emotions can include breathing exercises or changing/removing yourself from the environment/situation, causing the problem.

At times, the emotions might be too intense for a simple "let's breathe". Instead, then teach your child to remove themselves from the situation physically or to move on to another non-aggressive activity.

Remember that you are teaching your child to regulate their emotions and the example you set when angry, frustrated, or disappointed has a significant impact. Mature adults also experience "grown-up tantrums"; but it's the example we set on how we handle these outbursts that will have a lasting effect.

Healthy emotional development involves learning, understanding, recognising, and dealing with one's own emotions and those of others. Children who are taught to identify, express, and handle their feelings from a young age develop rewarding life skills. Frequent aggressive, self-harming, or uncontrollable meltdowns could be a sign of another problem; perhaps psychological, sensory or even nutritional? It never hurts getting professional advice.

Learn more about our parenting course:


Disclaimer: The information contained in this communication is not to be construed as medical advice. Consult a professional on any medical or psychological concerns. The articles and blogs are posted only as opinion or ideas, and are general in nature. The administrator takes no responsibility for any action or outcome a reader may make as a result of reading a post.


bottom of page