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Posts Tagged ‘tantrums’

How to handle an energetic toddler

Friday, October 22nd, 2010 by:

Do you have a child who wakes up saying “no” and goes to bed saying “no” and says  “no” all day in between? I affectionately call these little ones “gladiators.” Gladiator kids are feisty and full of energy. They tend to be smart, inquisitive–and strong willed.

Gladiator kids can fill up a room with their personalities, but often have trouble settling and knowing when enough is enough. They’re amazing kids, but have to learn to control all the big feelings they have inside. Here’s how to avoid doing battle with your little gladiator.

Stay Neutral: getting angry and upset only fuels the fire, adding to the emotional mix (you won’t be able to do this all the time, but try–it really helps!)

Frontload: in each new situation, help your child understand what you expect and how you can help him make the right choices. Let him know what the consequences (natural) if possible will be ahead if time for negative behaviour.

Adrenaline Play: these kids have energy and running around outside is not enough. They will often tantrum or bug to release energy. Try wrestling and chasing games, or games like hide and seek to get their energy out in a positive way.

Name the Behaviour: give their behaviour a name, like the silly bug or the “no” monster. It can really help so that you can work on the behaviour together.

Be Consistent: Be loving, but firm and consistent. Don’t threaten with consequences you know you won’t follow through on. It is better to pick smaller consequences and stick to them then bigger ones that you take back or forget about.

Praise Them: catch them being good–it’s so important to let your child know you see the positive behaviours too. Children listen to the things we say to them and form a sense of themselves based on what we feed back to them.

Connect Through Play: different from adrenaline play, this should be a wonderful cuddle time where you really make them feel delicious and loved.

Use Empathy: I describe how to use it effectively with the CALM technique in my book. It really works to defuse tantrums, helps them understand their own feelings and increases compliance.

Jennifer Kolari is a child and parent therapist, and founder of Connected Parenting. For more information you can contact jennifer at or visit

Dealing with Public Temper Tantrums

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009 by:

Ah, the public tantrum–don’t you love those? It can be mortifying when your little one throws herself on the floor screaming and you feel like the whole world is judging your parenting skills.

Some kids know they can use these public fits to get what they want, others are just tired or over stimulated and don’t know what else to do. Either way, it is so important to handle the situation properly, to ensure that the moment becomes a thing of the past–and to make sure that, in the future, your child will be able to regulate her behaviour when you go out.

The first thing we all need to remember is that talking through your teeth and “whisper screaming” (as one child I worked with called it), is not an effective way to handle a tantrum. While we may think that this tactic is less obvious to those around us, it usually has the exact opposite effect. The key is to forget about what others think and react in public the same way you would at home. Just say to yourself “Ok , here we go, everyone enjoy the show.” The child will learn there is not a difference between outside and inside the home. My recommendation in either setting is to be neutral–yelling never works. Stay calm as you try to respond to the behaviour.

Before you even get into a tantrum situation, frontload your child so they know what will happen if they behave a certain way, help them to make a good choice and above all follow through–don’t make threats that you will not follow through on.

For example, on your way to the mall, empathize with them and say, “You’re going to see all kinds of awesome toys and things you really want, but we are buying a present for your cousins, okay?” They will likely agree until you are in the store and they see something they want. This is where you will get that feeling in your stomach where you think “oh no, here we go, I really don’t want to deal with this.” Breathe through this feeling and ready yourself. Never fear the tantrum, it always makes things worse.

As things escalate, make a couple of mirroring statements: “that is such a cool toy; that’s the one you saw on TV; I get why you want it because it’s so cool.” In my book Connected Parenting, I describe how to mirror using the CALM technique. Essentially, mirroring is a therapist’s technique that helps create a safe place for the child, builds resilience and increases compliance. It is also an effective tool to help children organize and regulate their emotions.

If she still escalates, just tell her you have tried to understand, but that she cannot have the toy. Tell her to go ahead and have a fit and you will wait for her to finish. I love this technique because they will often not meltdown because you have paradoxically allowed it.

The final thing to try is what I call an intervention. Go to the mall or restaurant–not for a nice meal or to do some shopping–but for the sole purpose of leaving if they meltdown. Follow the steps above and then leave if you have to. You won’t be upset because you were prepared to leave anyway and they will learn that you mean business. You will definitely enjoy a peaceful outing next time.

Jennifer Kolari is a child and parent therapist, and found of Connected Parenting. For more information you can contact Jennifer at or visit